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No. 12 Softball Ready for Super Regional at Arizona State

Freshman Kelsey Nunley (left) and junior Lauren Cumbess (right) will be key this weekend for UK in Tempe.

Freshman Kelsey Nunley (left) and junior Lauren Cumbess (right) will be key this weekend for UK in Tempe.

May 22, 2013

Friday's Practice Photo Gallery

LEXINGTON, Ky. - After hosting the school's first NCAA Regional last weekend at John Cropp Stadium where it defeated Virginia Tech and Marshall to claim the regional title, the No. 12 University of Kentucky softball team is ready to hit the road to Tempe, Ariz., this weekend to play in the school's second-ever NCAA Super Regional against No. 5 national seed Arizona State at Farrington Stadium.

Kentucky (41-19) and Arizona State (48-10) will start the best-of-three series Saturday at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2, with game two of the series coming Sunday at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN. If necessary, game three of the series will be played at 8 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2. All three games will also be available on WatchESPN.

Fans can also hear every game of the Tempe Super Regional on the UK/IMG Sports Radio Network with Dick Gabriel calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game on 630AM WLAP while it will also be available online at UKathletics.com.

ASU will be the home team Saturday night, while UK will be the home team in game two on Sunday. The higher seeded team has the choice of home/away in game three, if necessary. A full schedule and ticket information is listed below.

Kentucky advanced out of the Lexington Regional behind strong pitching as freshman hurler Kelsey Nunley went 3-1 with a 0.83 ERA, striking out 15 batters in 25.1 innings pitched. Junior pitcher/infielder Lauren Cumbess also pitched well, going 3.2 innings in the clinching game, allowing no runs on two hits with one strikeout. Combined, opponents only hit just .184 against UK in the regional round, collecting a combined 18 hits and only three earned runs.

Offensively, UK was paced by freshman slapper Sylver Samuel, who hit .556 (5-for-9) with three runs scored, three stolen bases and a .556 on-base percentage. Junior outfielder Ginny Carroll hit .429 in the regional, while sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner hit .417 with a double. Cumbess collected three hits over the weekend with a home run and three RBI, while junior infielder Krystal Smith had a home run and two RBI.

Arizona State enters the Tempe Super Regional with a 48-10 overall record after finishing Pac-12 play at 16-8. ASU is an impressive 38-3 at home this season, while it won 21 straight games to open the season. Arizona State has been led offensively this season by Amber Freeman, who has started all 58 games with a .382 batting average, including 18 home runs and 61 RBI. Cheyenne Coyle leads the team with 19 homers and 61 RBI, while Bailey Wigness is hitting .379 with 14 stolen bases. Five ASU players have 10 or more home runs this season, while four players have 40 or more RBI. As a team, ASU is hitting .334 with 92 homers and 403 runs scored.

The Sun Devils have been just as good in the circle, posting a team ERA of 2.07 with 418 strikeouts as a staff. Dallas Escobedo paces the team with a 28-4 record and 2.10 ERA after dominating regional action with a 3-0 record and no runs scored on just five hits in three games. Escobedo hasn't allowed an earned run in 31 consecutive innings. Mackenzie Popescue is 19-6 this season with a 2.03 ERA in 134.1 innings pitched, while Alexis Cooper and Jenna Makis are a combined 1-0 in limited action.

Kentucky squared off against the Sun Devils once this season back in February in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. UK fell behind early to Arizona State in the game, dropping an 8-1 decision. Escobedo got the start for ASU, throwing a complete game, allowing one earned run on five hits with eight strikeouts. The lone run was scored on a solo home run in the fifth inning by Joiner. UK also had hits from Kara Dill, Alice O'Brien and Cumbess in the game.

Cumbess started in the circle for UK, going three innings, allowing three earned runs on three hits with one strikeout. Nunley came on in relief in the fourth inning, allowing five earned runs on seven hits. Elizabeth Caporuscio was the offensive star for ASU, hitting a double and triple with two RBI, while Freedman and Sam Parlich also had home runs.

Although UK only played Arizona State once this season, the Wildcats have played three games this year at Farrington Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. UK actually started its season with a win over highly ranked Cal at Farrington Stadium before defeating Oregon State the next day at the park as part of the 2013 Kajikawa Classic.

Saturday's Super Regional game marks just the third all-time meeting between Kentucky and Pac-12 power Arizona State with the series tied a 1-1. The two teams first met in the Kajikawa Classic in 2010 in Tempe with the Wildcats posting a 5-2 victory over ASU. The second meeting was UK's 8-1 loss earlier this season. Both games were played at Farrington Stadium.

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

NCAA Tempe Super Regional
Kentucky - 41-19
Arizona State - 48-10

Schedule
Game One: Saturday, May 25 - Kentucky vs. Arizona State - 10 p.m. ET - ESPN2
Game Two: Sunday, May 26 - Arizona State vs. Kentucky - 5 p.m. ET - ESPN
Game Three: Sunday, May 26 - Kentucky vs. Arizona State - 8 p.m. ET - ESPN2*
* If necessary

Ticket Information
General public all-session passes will go on sale Monday at 4 p.m. ET. Wednesday at Noon ET single-game tickets will go on sale. Fans can order over phone by calling 480-727-0000 or online by clicking here.

All-Session Passes
Field Level $30 | Reserved Level $25
GA Adult $22 | GA Jr./Sr./Groups $18
ASU Students $18

Single Game Prices
Field Level $16 | Reserved Level $14
GA Adult $12 | GA Jr./Sr./Groups $10
ASU Students $10

Groups are 15 or more.

Kentucky Softball Super Regional Quotes
May 22, 2013 - John Cropp Stadium - Lexington, Ky.

Head Coach Rachel Lawson
Opening statement ...

"We're really excited. First of all, to win region on our own field was really cool and to head out to Tempe to be in the Super Regionals (is fun). Every team at Kentucky, our goal is to win the national championship. To be in Supers is special in the sport of softball and our ultimate goal is to go to the World Series. So this is a good week in Kentucky softball."

On Arizona State ...
"They're a very tough challenge. They have an outstanding pitcher, they're one of the best offenses in the country and they play solid defense. So any team that comes out of this is going to be a very good team. It's going to be a challenge, but this is why we play this. It's going to be a lot of fun."

On how Arizona State is different from the teams UK faced last weekend ...
"I think they're going to be dramatically better. I think that they do everything so well. I think Dallas Escobedo's one of the best pitchers in the country. She throws hard but it has tremendous spin, so that's going to be a little bit different. And then offensively they hit a ton of home runs and I don't think very many home runs were hit this past weekend. I think it's going to be completely different. You're taking that next step up, but that's what you expect when you go to Supers."

On how advancing helped the confidence of the freshmen ...
"I think it was huge. I still think we were a little bit tight in regionals and I think every step that we're taking is really helping. The experience that we're gaining is really helping them understand what they need to do to go to the World Series. So I think regionals were a big step for us because I think we were pretty tight on Saturday."

On whether the earlier loss to Arizona State matters ...
"No, I don't think it's a factor. First of all, everyone knows that kids in today's day and age have a very short memory. So that's going to play in our favor and also we're a completely different team now than we were then and we've played a number of top-25, top-10 teams. I think we won't be as star-struck as we were in the beginning of February."

On how UK is a better team ...
"First of all, we're starting five freshmen and that was their first weekend out. So they've not only had 56 games under their belt, but they've also had them in the SEC and against a lot of Pac-12 teams. Arizona State was one of the first teams that we played, so they didn't really understand the speed of the game when they first played it against Arizona State, who plays it very fast. Their expectation level now is completely different and how fast we play is completely different."

On pitchers Kelsey Nunley and Lauren Cumbess ...
"Lately we've been going with Lauren Cumbess and Kelsey Nunley. Nunley's gotten the bulk of our wins and the bulk of our innings and the great thing is Lauren Cumbess, who also plays first base and is one of our best hitters but is also a team captain. She's out there, and you'll always see during our games, you'll see her talking to Nunley. And she's only encouraging her saying, `Let's go,' but she's also talking strategy. They're really figuring out how to win and how to beat the batters. So it's kind of like having another coach on the field for us."

On Griffin Joiner ...
"You know, Joiner's done really well. Even in regionals where her average wasn't as high as it's been all season - and she is outstanding - she was hitting the ball hard and it was solid. So she was doing a great job offensively. And then defensively, what I ask her to do is difficult. She was good as a freshman, but now she's so much better. She's seasoned, she doesn't miss a pitch, she does a great job handling the batter and she does a nice job calming our team down. So Griffin's actually a huge asset to us moving forward."

On what she brings to the No. 2 spot in the lineup ...
"It means that we don't have as much speed as I would like. Normally Griffin would bat third or fourth, but what she does do is she has a high average. If Kara Dill gets on or if Sylver Samuel gets on - who's in the nine spot as we turn the lineup over - she's a good RBI hitter. But she's good about getting on base and if that happens when can put somebody in to run for her. But more than anything you just want somebody good at the top of the order who gives you a chance to win because the order turns over. If it turns over that fourth time you want to have another batter up there."

On if she is taking things into this weekend differently than Super Regionals two years ago ...
"Me personally, yes, as a coach. We have prepared completely different than we did two years ago in terms of pitch selection and stuff like that but that started in the fall. But for our team, only a couple of these players were on that team and only a couple of starters. They are able to take this experience and talk about it, but a lot of our players this will be their first Supers because we will start five freshmen on the field."

On getting senior Kara Dill back in the lineup ...
"It is a huge bonus because when she was gone a lot of people had to step up because they had taken a backseat early in the season because they were freshman. So it forced them into a leadership role and a production role. They were producing in the seven weeks that we didn't have her, but now that we have her back and able to put her at the top of the order, those young people that stepped up are still producing at a high level. Where losing Kara wasn't great, the fact that others stepped up like Sylver Samuel and Christian Stokes has helped our team move on."

On how she will handle the pitching staff this weekend ...
"Softball is changing now. Usually I would have said in the past absolutely use one pitcher and I think we are still at that place right now (in college softball). But in the future, that is going to change and every team will have two pitchers. I think both of these teams will ride heavily on their starters. I think we will rely heavily on Nunley as long as she can go and I think they will rely heavily on Dallas Escobedo. In this particular Supers, I believe you will see predominantly two pitchers."

On how Nunley is holding up even with a heavy work load this season ...
"She is doing great. The one thing that I keep aware of is that softball is one of the sports where they are here for the entire year. They don't get summer breaks or things like that. You will see in the middle of the year she starts getting some rest in games and in SEC play when we have already won a series and things like that there might be games she could have pitched that opted not to pitch her or pulled her out early. She has gotten her breaks just not at the times that people typically do it, which is right before postseason. We have been aware of that all year and she will be fine."

On batting Sylver Samuel ninth ...
"Softball is a little different than baseball, you don't have to sale as much. Everyone knows that actually your eight, nine and one hitters are pretty good. The reason she is at nine is because at the beginning of the year her average was really low. But you put someone really fast at nine because your one is fast too and they are both slappers. In softball, nine is not a bad thing until they earn their way to two. Eight is also a pretty good hitter. Usually in softball, one of your weakest producers is seventh in the lineup. It is a little bit different."

#15 Kara Dill, Sr., INF
On getting back on the field ...

"This is the best time of the year and if I could pick anytime to get back out there and play it would be this time. The team got us here and that is all I could have asked of them."

On how thankful she is to her teammates for getting UK this far so she could return ...
"I couldn't ask for anymore from them. If they wouldn't have made it this far I wouldn't have finished out the year. This is everything to us right now. They are incredible."

On how this trip to Super Regional is different from two years ago ...
"I think our team this year is better and there are more people that can do a more variety of things. We have more depth and are stronger as a team."

#2 Sylver Samuel, Fr., OF
On playing in a Super Regional ...

"I am really excited to go out there and compete and I think it will be fun. The team is really excited and it has been fun. We are ready to go out to ASU and give them all we got."

On what she remembers about Arizona State from playing them earlier this season ...
"I remember they came out and played with fire. They were really hyped and they were really competitive. Their pitcher was the definition of a competitor and we are going to have to work hard this week to go out there and try to win some games."

On how the team has improved ...
"We have changed a lot. We have gotten a lot stronger and a lot closer and that is what made us a better team."

On if she considers herself a weapon this weekend to help UK manufacture runs ...
"I would hope I would be, but that is one of those things where you go out there and compete and play strong and tell yourself you want to be the toughest out on the field. That is kind of what I want to do and the mentality I want to go out there with. I want to be the toughest out and get runs for my team."

On the confidence behind Kelsey Nunley ...
"Kelsey is really strong. When she goes out on the mound we put everything behind her and we do the same for our other pitchers. But when she is out there we know that she is competing and giving everything to win so we give everything we have behind her. She is a strong freshman and we are proud of her."


 

 

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