March 30, 2014
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LEXINGTON, Ky. – After falling 6-4 in the first game of the day to drop its first Southeastern Conference series of the season, the No. 10 University of Kentucky softball team answered the bell in the day’s second game, getting seven brilliant innings from sophomore pitcher Kelsey Nunley to defeat No. 21 Auburn, 2-1, in the series finale on Sunday at John Cropp Stadium.
Highly ranked Auburn (31-6-1, 6-3 SEC) won the first game of the series Friday night in a come-from-behind effort before a full day of rain Saturday moved Sunday’s scheduled to a doubleheader. The Tigers claimed the series in Sunday’s first game, handing Kentucky (28-7, 5-4 SEC) a 6-4 loss. UK salvaged a game in the series finale, plating two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to claim a 2-1 victory.
The Wildcats’ win Sunday continues its best 35-game start in program history. The victory over Auburn was Kentucky’s sixth of the season against a top-25 team at the time the game was played. The Wildcats started the season with a win over then-No. 2 and defending national champion Oklahoma, before two wins over then-No. 15 Texas, who made the 2013 Women’s College World Series. The Wildcats also defeated top-20 ranked Missouri, twice, in their second SEC series of the season.
Nunley was the star for Kentucky in the Wildcats’ win, throwing seven strong innings, allowing only one earned run on five hits with a career-high-tying 11 strikeouts. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., who received the loss Friday night after posting six strikeouts in the first three innings before Auburn’s offense scored seven runs in the next two innings to claim the victory, faced the bases loaded with two outs in the seventh inning before getting a pop up to seal the victory. The win moves Nunley to 12-3 on the season.
Offensively, Kentucky posted all the runs Nunley needed in the bottom of the sixth inning. After the Tigers grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth on an infield single, UK rallied by getting a leadoff bunt single from sophomore Sylver Samuel and a walk to senior Emily Gaines. Sophomore Nikki Sagermann flied out to right field for the first out of the inning before junior catcher Griffin Joiner singled up the middle to load the bases for sophomore Maisie Steed, who singled over the second baseman’s head to tie the game, 1-1. Auburn pitcher Marcy Harper, who picked up her first loss of the season in the game after six strong innings, walked pinch-hitter Ansley Smith with the bases loaded to give the Wildcats its 2-1 lead before a strikeout and fly out ended the rally.
The Tigers mounted a rally in the top of the seventh getting a one-out double from Emily Carosone, who went 3-for-4 in the game. Nunley got the second out on a Morgan Estell groundout to shortstop before back-to-back walks – including an intentional walk to Branndi Melero – loaded the bases for Jade Rhodes, who popped out to shortstop to end the threat.
Kentucky’s rally fell short in the day’s first game as the Wildcats feel behind 6-0 before a four-run rally in the bottom of the sixth inning closed the lead to 6-4. UK started senior pitcher Lauren Cumbess in the circle with the senior throwing an impressive first inning with two strikeouts before hitting a single to right field in the bottom of the first inning and getting tangled up with the Auburn first baseman, sustaining an injury that would sideline her the remainder of the day.
Freshman pitcher Meagan Prince came out of the bullpen to start the second inning and threw six innings, allowing six runs – all earned – on eight hits with five strikeouts. Prince picked up the loss, moving to 6-3 on the season. Offensively, Kentucky was paced by Gaines, who went 1-for-2 with two RBI, while Sagermann went 1-for-3 with a two-run homer – her fifth of the season.
Auburn started Lexi Davis in the circle with the sophomore throwing seven innings, allowing four runs – all earned – on six hits with six strikeouts. Offensively, the Tigers got a 2-for-4 game from Jade Rhodes, who hit a grand slam in the third inning. Kasey Cooper and Ann Gibbs each had RBI in the game, while Emily Carosone went 2-for-3.
UK is in the midst of a 15-game home stretch, posting a 6-3 record in the first nine games of the home stand. The stretch will continue Wednesday as UK plays host to in-state foe Louisville before at three-game series with highly ranked Texas A&M next weekend at John Cropp Stadium. UK’s midweek battle with Louisville is set for a 6 p.m. ET first pitch on Wednesday, while the game will also be televised on the UK/IMG Sports Network (Fox Sports South).
Single-game tickets into John Cropp Stadium are $5 for adults, $2 for seniors (65+) and youth (6-18). Children ages 5 and under and UK students with a valid student ID are admitted free of charge. Tickets are all general admission, and can be purchased by calling the ticket office at 1-800-928-2287. Tickets are also sold at John Cropp Stadium prior to each game, and all sales are cash only. Gates open one hour prior to first pitch. The entire UK team will sign autographs following Sunday’s second game.
The first 100 fans into John Cropp Stadium on Wednesday will receive a set of 2014 Kentucky Softball Trading Cards, while the entire UK team will sign autographs following the game.
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