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SAN DIEGO - University of Kentucky junior pitcher Lauren Cumbess and freshman hurler Kelsey Nunley continued their strong starts to the 2013 season, throwing complete game wins to defeat Cal Poly and San Diego State University in No. 22/24 Kentucky's first day of play in the 23rd Campbell/Cartier Classic in San Diego, Calif., on Thursday.
Cumbess set the table for the two-win day for Kentucky (6-2), going seven strong innings against Cal Poly. The native of Normal, Ill., got a do-it-all effort from Cumbess, who went the distance in game one, allowing no runs on four hits with seven strikeouts. At the plate, Cumbess scored the only run of the game in the win, blasting her first homer of the season well over the wall in left field. It was Cumbess' seventh homer of her career.
Cumbess is now 2-1 on the season with a 1.67 ERA, throwing 21.0 innings, allowing five runs while striking out 16. Offensively, Cumbess is hitting .385 (10-for-26) with two doubles, a homer and six RBI.
Nunley was equally as impressive in the circle in UK's second game, throwing her third complete game of the season to earn her fourth win. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., silenced San Diego State's bats in the win, throwing seven scoreless innings, allowing only three hits, while striking out seven and only walking two.
For the season, Nunley is 4-0 with a 2.01 ERA, throwing 24.1 innings with seven runs allowed and 26 strikeouts. Nunley has gone the distance in all three of her starts, allowing only two earned runs with 24 strikeouts. In all, Cumbess and Nunley threw 14 innings combined Friday, allowing no runs and only seven hits with 14 strikeouts and only three walks.
Offensively, sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner and freshman infielder Christian Stokes led UK. Both stars went 2-for-4 on the day with Joiner hitting a double and scoring a run, while Stokes posted two RBI. Cumbess and senior Alice O'Brien each launched doubles on the day with O'Brien collecting two RBI. .
The Wildcats scored a run in each of the first two innings against San Diego State. Joiner started the rally for UK in the first innings, ripping a double down the right-field line. The sophomore then came home to score when O'Brien doubled to left field, giving UK a 1-0 lead.
UK got its second run in the second inning after junior Emily Gaines started things off with a single, getting pinch-ran for by freshman Darington Richardson. After Krystal Smith laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance Richardson to second, Stokes would earn a two-out single to score Richardson and give UK the 2-0 advantage.
Junior outfielder Kara Howard may have saved the game for Kentucky in the bottom of the sixth inning. The defensive star came on as a defensive replacement to start the inning and with runners on first and second and one out, Lorena Bauer ripped a line drive to left field, backing Howard to the warning track where she would make an impressive running catch for the second out. Nunley then get a pop up to end the inning.
Kentucky put an exclamation point on the win with two runs in the top of the seventh inning. One run scored on a single by Stokes - her second RBI of the game - while UK's fourth run came on a RBI single by O'Brien.
Before Cumbess' homer against Cal Poly in the fourth inning, UK outfielder Sylver Samuel provided UK with one of the best defensive plays of the season in the fourth inning. After an error to start the inning and a sacrifice bunt moved the runner to second with two outs, Cal Poly's Breana West hit a single to center field that Samuel fielded and threw home to Joiner, who blocked the plate and applied a great tag to keep the game scoreless.
Cumbess worked out of trouble in the seventh inning to get the win, her second of the season. After hitting the leadoff batter, Cumbess got the next batter to ground into a fielder's choice, leaving a runner at first with one out. Cumbess then gave up a single to put runners on first and second, but fielded her position well on the next play, throwing to third to get the lead runner and give UK two outs. Cumbess then got a strikeout to end the game and preserve the UK win.
The Wildcats will continue play in the event with one game Friday, squaring off against No. 16/18 Washington (4-2) at 2:15 p.m. ET. UK's play out west will conclude Saturday with a doubleheader, starting with UC-Riverside (2-3) at Noon ET and ending with No. 1/2 Oklahoma (5-0) at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Kentucky will play host to the SEC Tournament this season for the first time in school history. The event, which is considered one of the most prestigious softball tournaments in the nation, will be May 8-11 in Lexington. The championship game will be featured on ESPN2, while all other games will be shown on ESPNU. Ticket information for the tournament will be released soon on UKathletics.com.
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