LEXINGTON, Ky. – True freshman second baseman Christian Stokes collected her second multi-hit game of the weekend, including two runs batted in, while junior pitcher Lauren Cumbess and freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley combined to hold Ole Miss to just two runs on four hits as the No. 15 University of Kentucky softball team clinched the series against the Rebels with a 5-2 win on Sunday. The game was played at the brand new UK Softball Complex in Lexington, Ky.
The series-win for Kentucky (18-4, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) is the sixth consecutive for UK over Ole Miss (17-11, 1-2 SEC). UK won the series against the Rebels in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012, while the Rebels took the series in 2006. Ole Miss still leads the all-time series 27-18, including a 12-10 mark in Lexington, while UK is 10-4 against the Rebels under sixth-year head coach Rachel Lawson.
The 2-1 conference start marks the second time in the last three seasons that UK has won its opening series of conference play. The Wildcats took two of three from Tennessee to start league play in 2011 before dropping its first three SEC games last season to Alabama, the eventual 2012 national champions. UK currently sits tied for first atop the SEC Eastern Division standings with No. 4/4 Florida, who took two out of three at Auburn, and No. 8/10 Tennessee, who took two of three from No. 1/2 Alabama in Knoxville, Tenn.
The UK offense led the way for the second straight game, scoring five runs on 10 hits, including multi-hit games from Stokes, Cumbess and freshman infielder Nikki Sagermann. Stokes was the star with her fourth multi-RBI game of the season, finishing 2-for-2 with two singles and two RBI. Cumbess went 2-for-4 in the game with a double, while Sagermann was 2-for-2 with two singles to rightfield.
Four other Wildcats collected hits in the game. Freshman leadoff hitter Maisie Steed went 1-for-2 with an RBI, while senior infielder Kara Dill collected a hit and a run scored. Outfielders Alice O’Brien and Sylver Samuel also earned hits in the game, while Samuel scored a run.
Stokes had a great weekend at the dish for Kentucky, hitting .833 (5-for-6) with her first collegiate homer and three RBI. Stokes also scored two runs and walked three times. Steed blasted her fourth homer of the year in the series, while Cumbess went 3-for-9 with a double and junior outfielder Emily Gaines was 2-for-6 with two RBI.
Cumbess still leads the Wildcats overall in hitting this season with a .368 (25-for-68) average behind five doubles, two homers and 18 RBI. Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner also has 18 RBI on the year, including a team-high tying four homers. Sagermann is hitting .361 (13-for-36), while Dill still leads the team in hits with 27 and runs scored with 23.
Nunley was again the winner for UK in the circle as the rookie hurler earned a decision in all three games over the weekend. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., suffered the loss Friday night in a 3-1 battle before getting the wins Saturday and Sunday in relief efforts. Nunley is now 12-1 on the year with a 2.02 earned-run average in 83.1 innings pitched.
Cumbess started the game for the second consecutive day, going 2.2 innings, allowing one hit and one earned run with four strikeouts. Nunley came on in the third inning with a runner at second and a 3-0 count on Ole Miss first baseman Londen Ladner. After a first-pitch ball put Ladner at first, Nunley got a strikeout to end the frame. The freshman threw the final 4.1 innings of the game, allowing three hits and one unearned run with three strikeouts. For the weekend, Nunley was 2-1 with a 1.37 ERA, striking out 12 in 15.1 innings pitched.
Ole Miss started Carly Hummel in the circle after the junior shut down the Wildcat offense in a winning effort Friday night. UK would find its swing against Hummel on Sunday, posting nine hits and five runs against the hurler. Freshman Madi Osias came on in relief, throwing the final 1.2 innings of the game, allowing only one hit.
Offensively, the Rebels got another strong performance from Ladner, who went 2-for-3 with a walk. Second basemen Melina Preciado went 1-for-3 with a run scored, while Haley Culley also collected a hit.
The Rebels got a run in the top of the second inning to take an early lead. Ladner started the inning with a double to the wall in leftfield and was pinch ran for by Natalie Martinez, who moved to third on an illegal pitch call and later scored on an illegal pitch call. Cumbess then got two strikeouts and a pop up to end the frame.
UK took the lead in the bottom of the second on two hits, three walks and one batter hit by a pitch. The inning started with a single by Cumbess to rightfield, who was pinch ran for by Darington Richardson. Richardson advanced to second on the sacrifice bunt by Sagermann and after Emily Jolly got hit by a pitch and Stokes walked, Steed drew an RBI walk to score Richardson and tie the game 1-1. Jolly scored the second run of the inning on a passed ball, giving UK the 2-1 lead.
The Wildcats would score a run in each of the next three innings to increase their lead to 5-1. Stokes started her stellar game in the third inning with an infield RBI single. After a strikeout to start the inning, Cumbess hammered a double to rightfield, moving to third on the soft fly to rightfield by Sagermann. Gaines then struck out before Jolly walked to load the bases. Stokes then hit a sharp grounder deep into the hold between second and third base, allowing Cumbess to score and give UK a 3-1 lead.
Dill got the rally started in the bottom of the fourth inning, moving to second on a wild pitch. After O’Brien’s groundout moved Dill to third base, Joiner put down a perfect squeeze bunt to score Dill and increase UK’s lead to 4-1.
UK’s final run off the game came in the fifth inning when Stokes picked up her second RBI of the day. Samuel started the inning with a single to centerfield, moving to second on a stolen base. After Jolly struck out, Stokes hit a hard-hit ball just past the Ole Miss shortstop, scoring Samuel and giving UK the 5-1 advantage.
Ole Miss closed the gap to 5-2 in the top of the sixth after loading the bases on two singles and a fielding error. With one out and the bases loaded, Cantillo hit a soft grounder to the left of the pitching circle that Dill fielded cleanly but couldn’t throw home for the out due to Steed running into her, allowing Preciado to score on the play.
Kentucky will be back in action with midweek home non-conference games on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Wildcats will face No. 25 North Carolina on Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET before battling Southern Illinois on Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET. Both games will be played at the UK Softball Complex. Admission to both games will be free of charge. Live stats and live video (subscription required) will be available on UKathletics.com.
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Records: Kentucky 18-4, 2-1 SEC Ole Miss 17-11, 1-2 SEC
Schedule: Friday, March 8 – Ole Miss def. Kentucky 3-1 Saturday, March 9 – Kentucky def. Ole Miss 5-2 Sunday, March 10 – Kentucky def. Ole Miss 5-2
Upcoming Schedule: Tuesday, March 12 – No. 25 North Carolina at No. 15 Kentucky – 5 p.m. ET Wednesday, March 13 – Southern Illinois at No. 15 Kentucky – 3 p.m. ET Friday, March 15 – Sunday, March 17 – Kentucky at LSU