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No. 10 Softball Hosts SEC Home Opener vs. No. 21 Auburn

Sophomore outfielder Sylver Samuel has started 27 games this season.

Sophomore outfielder Sylver Samuel has started 27 games this season.

March 27, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. - After winning its first two Southeastern Conference series of the season on the road, the No. 10 University of Kentucky softball team looks to continue its strong start to conference play this weekend as it plays host to No. 21 Auburn for a three-game series starting Friday at 6 p.m. ET at John Cropp Stadium.

The series will serve as the SEC home opener for Kentucky, which is in the midst of a 15-game home stretch, including 21 of 25 games at John Cropp Stadium. The series begins Friday with a 6 p.m. ET first pitch before a 3 p.m. ET start time on Saturday and 1 p.m. ET series final on Sunday. Live stats and live video (subscription required) will be available online for all three games, while free live radio for every game will also be available at UKathletics.com.

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 first 100 fans into John Cropp Stadium on Friday night will receive a set of 2014 Kentucky Softball Trading Cards, while the entire UK team will sign autographs following the games on Saturday and Sunday.

Kentucky (27-5, 4-2 SEC) is coming off a 6-1 week, including a 5-1 mark in its second home tournament of the season last weekend. UK started the week with a 5-0 win over Indiana in Bloomington, Ind., before claiming wins over Kent State, Saint Francis, Fairfield and Kansas to start the three-day Kentucky Tournament last weekend. UK dropped its lone game of the week Sunday to Kansas before a win over Kent State to conclude the weekend. UK is 8-1 at John Cropp Stadium this season, tying the best home start in program history.

Senior Emily Gaines paced UK offensively last week, hitting .529 (9-for-17) with three doubles, a grand slam and seven RBI. Sophomore Sylver Samuel was second with a .478 (11-for-23) average, adding two doubles and the first four RBI of her career, while junior Griffin Joiner and sophomore Maisie Steed each hit two home runs. Senior Lauren Cumbess and sophomores Nikki Sagermann and Ansley Smith each hit home runs as well. In the circle, sophomore pitcher Kelsey Nunley went 3-0 with a 1.65 ERA, striking out 17 in 17 innings pitched, while Cumbess was 2-0 with a 1.72 ERA in 20.1 innings pitched.

The Wildcats moved down two spots in the NFCA/USA Today Top 25 earlier this week to No. 10, while staying put at No. 10 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25. The top-10 rankings mark the sixth week UK has been ranked in the top 10 of both listings. UK has been ranked inside the top 25 of both polls for a school-record 23 consecutive weeks.

Gaines is leading UK in batting average this season at .404 (21-for-52) with five doubles, two homers and 15 RBI, while Samuel is second at .375 (24-for-64) with a .403 on-base percentage and Joiner is third at .367 (33-for-90) with eight homers and 25 RBI. Senior outfielder Emily Jolly is second on the team with five homers, while Cumbess, Sagermann and Steed are tied for third on the squad with four homers.

Nunley paces the UK pitching staff with an 11-2 record and 1.85 ERA in 94.2 innings pitched with 72 strikeouts, while Cumbess is 8-0 with a 1.62 ERA in 69.0 innings pitched. Freshman Meagan Prince is 6-2 with a 2.56 ERA in 38.1 innings pitched, while Shannon Smith is 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA in 22.2 innings of work.

Auburn (29-5-1, 4-2 SEC) enters the weekend with a No. 21 ranking in both the NFCA/USA Today Top 25 and ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25. The Tigers are 29-5-1 this season, which ranks as the best start in program history. Auburn has won 12 of its last 13 games under new head coach Clint Myers, who joined the Tigers this season after a successful stint with Arizona State.

Three Auburn players are hitting over .400 this season with freshman pitcher/utility player Kasey Cooper leading the way at .454 (44-for-97) with five doubles, 11 homers and 54 RBI. Junior outfielder Branndi Melero is hitting .451 (41-for-91) with eight doubles, eight homers and 53 RBI, while sophomore infielder Emily Carosone is hitting .402 (33-for-82) with six doubles, four homers and 51 RBI. Seven AU players have four or more homers this season, including sophomore infielder/outfielder Jade Rhodes and junior catcher McKenzie Kilpatrick, which sit third on the team with five each. The Tigers lead the SEC in runs scored, RBI and home runs this season.

In the circle, sophomore pitcher Lexi Davis paces the Tigers with a 14-5 record and a 1.96 ERA. Davis has thrown 118 innings this season with 98 strikeouts with opponents hitting just .206 against her. Sophomore pitcher Marcy Harper is 14-0 with a 2.90 ERA this year, striking out 95 in 82 innings pitched. Freshman Jenna Abbott and senior Hilary Mavromat have seen limited time in the circle with Abbott throwing four innings and Mavromat 11 innings.

Auburn leads the all-time series against Kentucky 29-16 with the two teams last meeting in 2012 with the Wildcats winning two of three games in Auburn. In head coach Rachel Lawson's tenure at UK, the two teams have met 15 times with Auburn leading the series 8-7. Kentucky is 4-2 against Auburn in Lexington under Lawson. The two schools first met in UK's inaugural season in 1997 and played every year thereafter before not squaring off last season.

For the latest on UK softball, follow "@UKSoftball" on Twitter and Instagram or like Kentucky Softball on Facebook.

Records
Kentucky 27-5, 4-2 SEC
Auburn 29-5-1, 4-2 SEC

Rankings
Kentucky - No. 10 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25; No. 10 in NFCA/USA Today Top 25
Auburn - No. 21 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25; No. 21 in NFCA/USA Today Top 25

Schedule/Results
Friday, March 21
Kentucky vs. Auburn - 6 p.m. ET - Live Stats - Live Video (subscription required) - Free Radio

Saturday, March 22
Kentucky vs. Auburn - 3 p.m. ET - Live Stats - Live Video (subscription required) - Free Radio

Sunday, March 23
Kentucky vs. Auburn - 1 p.m. ET - Live Stats - Live Video (subscription required) - Free Radio

Ticket Information:
Single game tickets for the series 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.

Promotions:
First 100 fans into John Cropp Stadium on Friday will receive a pack of 2014 Kentucky Softball Trading Cards. The entire UK team will sign autographs following the games on Saturday and Sunday. 


 

 

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