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No. 17 Softball Begins Five-Game Road Trip at Middle Tennessee

Freshman Sylver Samuel talks with associate head coach Kristine Himes.

Freshman Sylver Samuel talks with associate head coach Kristine Himes.

April 16, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. - On the heels of winning seven of its last nine games, including a victory over top-five ranked Florida, the No. 17 University of Kentucky softball team is set to begin a five-game road trip this week, starting with a non-conference doubleheader at Middle Tennessee State University on Wednesday. Game one is scheduled for a 4 p.m. ET first pitch at Blue Raider Softball Stadium in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

After the doubleheader, Kentucky (31-12, 9-6 Southeastern Conference) will continue the road trip west as it heads to Fayetteville, Ark., for a three-game set with Arkansas, who is receiving votes in both collegiate softball polls after winning its series against top-10 ranked Missouri last weekend. Game one Friday is set for a 7 p.m. ET first pitch, followed by a 1 p.m. ET start on Saturday and 2 p.m. ET start on Sunday. Live stats from all three games will be available on UKathletics.com.

The Wildcats are coming off a 4-2 week that saw several historic accomplishments, including sixth-year head coach Rachel Lawson becoming the winningest head coach in school history. Freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley also earned her 20th win of the season to become the first player in school history to accomplish that feat in a single season. UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart also announced Saturday during a dedication ceremony the naming of UK's new $9.5 million facility as John Cropp Stadium after longtime administrator John Cropp, who started the softball program at UK.

Kentucky moved it up to No. 17 in both the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25 and ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25. Last week, the Wildcats were 18th in the USA Today/NFCA poll and 19th in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. Kentucky currently sits seventh in the NCAA.com RPI listings, which is its highest mark in school history. UK has posted seven wins against teams currently ranked or receiving votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, while it has 11 wins against teams ranked or receiving votes in the USA Today/NFCA poll.

Lawson and Co. have played one of the toughest schedules in the country, having played 33 games against top 100 teams in the NCAA RPI rankings. The Wildcats have played 21 games against teams currently ranked or receiving votes in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 and 17 games against teams in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25. UK has 10 games left with teams in those rankings, including one against No. 8/8 Louisville, and three-game sets against No. 11/12 Missouri, No. 4/6 Alabama and Arkansas, who is receiving votes in both.

Nunley paced the Wildcats last week, going 3-0 in the circle with a 1.64 ERA, earning her SEC Pitcher of the Week honors. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., is the first freshman in school history to earn such honors. Junior pitcher/infielder Lauren Cumbess also earned a win in the circle last week, while her best contributions came at the plate where she went 10-for-22 with four doubles, three homers and seven RBI. Cumbess is riding a nine-game hitting streak - a career long - posting an extra-base hit in eight of those nine games. Senior Alice O'Brien went 8-for-19 on the week with a double, home run and four RBI, while freshmen Maisie Steed and Nikki Sagermann also had home runs.

Cumbess leads Kentucky in hitting heading into the midweek action with a .365 (50-for-137) average with a team-best nine home runs and 33 RBI. Sagermann is third on the team in hitting at .348 (31-for-89) with four home runs and 18 RBI, while sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner is fourth at .314 (38-for-121) with 11 doubles, one triple, eight home runs and 33 RBI. O'Brien has added some pop to the lineup with seven doubles, five homers and 26 RBI, while Steed has seven homers and Stokes has two.

Nunley and Cumbess have been the leaders in the circle this season. Nunley is 20-4 with a 2.02 ERA, striking out 132 in 173.0 innings pitched, while Cumbess is 8-5 with a 3.45 ERA in 87.1 innings pitched. Junior Ellen Weaver has thrown 26 innings with a 3.77 ERA, while freshman Katie Henderson is 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA in 14 innings pitched.

Middle Tennessee State enters the midweek action with a 5-37 record, including a 4-10 mark at home. The Blue Raiders are led offensively by sophomore Samantha Nieves, who is hitting .284 (33-for-116) with seven doubles, four home runs and 14 RBI. Sophomore Laura Dukes is hitting .275 (28-for-102) with four doubles, seven home runs and 16 RBI. In the circle, junior Jordyn Fisherback leads the team with a 3-17 record and a 5.30 ERA, while sophomore Caitlin McClure is 2-12 with a 5.80 ERA.

This is the third meeting between Kentucky and MTSU with the Blue Raiders holding a 2-1 all-time record against the Wildcats. The first meeting between the two schools was a doubleheader in Lexington in 1997 with MTSU taking both games. UK then defeated MTSU in a neutral site game in 1999. This is the first-ever meeting between the two teams in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

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

Records:
Kentucky: 31-12, 9-6 SEC
Middle Tennessee State: 5-37, 1-16 Sun Belt

Rankings:
Kentucky: No. 17 USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association; No. 17 ESPN.com/USA Softball
Middle Tennessee State: Not ranked

Schedule:
Kentucky at Middle Tennessee State - DH - 4 p.m. ET
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