OKLAHOMA CITY - Making its first appearance in the Women’s College World Series after defeating No. 3 UCLA last weekend in the NCAA Los Angeles Super Regional, the No. 14 University of Kentucky softball team is ready to start its march to the school’s first national title, squaring off against No. 6 Louisiana-Lafayette on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Every game of the 2014 Women’s College World Series, which begins Thursday at Noon ET, will be on the ESPN family of networks. Live stats from Kentucky’s games will be available on UKathletics.com, while all of Kentucky’s games will be aired live on radio in Lexington and streamed online. The UK-ULL game on Thursday will be on 630-AM WLAP with Ryan Lemond and Jenny Dalton-Hill calling the action.
All-session tickets are sold out for the Women’s College World Series, but fans can still purchase an Outfield Flex Ticket Package or single-session tickets. Kentucky begins play Thursday in session two. Tickets can be purchased online at NCAA.com/WCWS.
Kentucky (49-17) enters the WCWS with the most wins in program history, shattering the previous record of 41 set by the 2013 squad. The Wildcats are making their sixth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, becoming one of just 21 schools nationally to claim that honor. UK is the No. 14 national seed in the tournament and hosted the NCAA Lexington Regional at John Cropp Stadium, defeating Ohio, James Madison and DePaul to advance to its third Super Regional in program history.
UK punched its ticket into the WCWS by winning two straight elimination games against No. 3 UCLA at Easton Stadium in Los Angeles. After dropping the first game of the Super Regional, 6-4, Kentucky scored 14 runs in Sunday’s two games, winning 7-3 and 7-1.
Sophomore pitcher Kelsey Nunley was the star, tossing 14 innings, allowing four runs - all earned - on 11 hits with five strikeouts. The sophomore is 29-9 on the season, breaking her own school record for wins in a season. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., now has 202 strikeouts this season, becoming the second player in program history to post 200-plus strikeouts in a season. Nunley has thrown every pitch for Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament, posting a 5-2 record and a 0.87 ERA in 48.1 innings pitched.
Offensively, sophomore infielder Nikki Sagermann led the way for Kentucky, going 4-for-6 combined with two RBI, while junior catcher Griffin Joiner was 3-for-6 on Sunday with two RBI. Senior infielder Krystal Smith was 2-for-5 in the two wins with two doubles and four RBI, while fellow seniors Lauren Cumbess and Ginny Carroll also collected two RBI. Senior outfielder Emily Jolly went 2-for-6 on the day with a run scored and a RBI.
Undefeated so far in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, Louisiana-Lafayette (49-8-1) enters the WCWS with a 49-8-1 record, including a 14-0 mark in true road games and 8-2 record in neutral-site games. This is the sixth trip in school history to the WCWS for the Ragin Cajuns, who are 5-0 so far in the NCAA Tournament after defeating Texas Southern and Texas (twice) in regional play and highly ranked Arizona (twice) last weekend in super regional action.
Senior utility player Natalie Fernandez leads the team offensively with a .423 (80-for-189) average, including a .530 on-base percentage and team-best 11 stolen bases. Sophomore catcher Lexie Elkins is second on the team at .388 (71-for-183) with 12 doubles, 22 homers and 72 RBI, while freshman infielder Haley Hayden and senior Shelbi Redfearn each have 15 home runs.
In the circle, junior pitcher Christina Hamilton paces the staff with a 1.53 ERA in 224.1 innings pitched with 183 strikeouts and opponents hitting just .191 against her. Hamilton is 29-2 on the season with three shutouts. Junior pitcher Jordan Wallace is second on the team in innings pitched with 102.1 with 136 strikeouts and a 14-3 record.
Louisiana-Lafayette leads the all-time series in games played against Kentucky, 4-0, including a 2-0 mark vs. Kentucky with Rachel Lawson as head coach. The first ever meeting was at a neutral site in 1999 with ULL earning a 2-1 victory before a neutral-site 8-4 win in 2004. In 2009, UK fell 5-2 at ULL in an early season tournament in Lafayette. The last meeting between the two teams was in 2012 when ULL took down UK 5-4 in an early season home tournament. Lawson has some experience vs. ULL, having coached for three seasons at Sun Belt rival WKU. While with the Hilltoppers, Lawson played ULL 13 times with a 3-10 record.