LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 17 University of Kentucky softball team scored five or more runs in an inning three times, including a six-run second inning in game two, to sweep its doubleheader against Middle Tennessee State University on Wednesday with a 7-4 victory in game one and 13-1 triumph in game two. Both games were played at Blue Raider Softball Stadium in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Home runs led Kentucky (33-12, 9-6 Southeastern Conference) in game two as the Wildcats blasted five home runs to break the school record for most homers in a game. Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner started the home run assault, blasting a leadoff shot in the second inning before junior infielder Krystal Smith hit a two-run homer later that inning. Junior pitcher/infielder Lauren Cumbess hit a two-run home run in the third inning before freshman infielder Ansley Smith hit consecutive two-run roundtrippers in the third and fourth innings to tie and break the school record.
In all, the Wildcats posted 15 hits in the game, including three doubles and 12 RBI. Cumbess, senior Alice O’Brien, Joiner and Ansley Smith each had multi-hit games with Cumbess going 2-for-4 with two RBI, extending her hitting streak to a career-best 11 games. Joiner was 3-for-3 with three RBI, while Ansley Smith went 2-for-2 with four RBI and two runs scored. O’Brien, who was playing in her hometown for the first time collegiately, went 2-for-3.
Freshmen Christian Stokes, Kelsey Nunley and Sylver Samuel each had hits in the game as did Sarah Frazer and Emily Gaines.
Freshman pitcher Katie Henderson led Kentucky in the circle in game two, throwing a complete game, allowing one earned run on five hits with two strikeouts. The native of Chattanooga, Tenn., is now 3-1 on the year.
MTSU started the scoring in game two by getting a RBI single to leftfield to Laura Dukes to score Kayla Toney, who started the rally with a double to left-centerfield. Henderson got out of the jam with a strikeout and groundout.
The Blue Raiders didn’t have the lead for long as Joiner blasted a leadoff home run in the top of the second inning to tie the game at 1-1. The rally continued as junior Ginny Carroll was walked on four pitches, bringing up Krystal Smith, who drilled her second home run of the season to left-centerfield to give UK a 3-1 lead. Samuel then reached on a fielder’s choice, stealing second and scoring when Stokes hit a double off the wall in centerfield, later scoring when Cumbess reached on a double. O’Brien then singled to rightfield to put runners on the corners for Joiner, who collected her second hit of the inning to drive in Cumbess and give Kentucky a 6-1 lead.
Kentucky got five more runs in the third inning on a two-out rally. After back-to-back groundouts to start the inning, Samuel hit an infield single, scoring on a two-run home run by Ansley Smith to give Kentucky a 8-1 lead. After a walk to Stokes and a Blue Raider pitching change, Cumbess hammered her 10th home run of the game to give Kentucky a 10-1 lead. Cumbess was pinch ran for by Kara Howard, who scored on the RBI double by Joiner. A fly out to rightfield ended the rally with UK up 11-1.
Ansley Smith moved Kentucky’s lead to 13-1 in the fourth inning with her second two-run home run of the game. The inning started with a single by Frazer, who scored when Ansley blasted her third home run of the season to leftfield .
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 on Tuesday. 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.
After the doubleheader, Kentucky 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.
No. 17 Softball Wins Game One Behind Five-Run Seventh Inning: Kentucky won the first game behind a five-run seventh inning to grab a 7-4 victory. Junior pitcher/infielder Lauren Cumbess got the win in the game, throwing the final five innings, allowing four runs on five hits with six strikeouts. Junior Ellen Weaver started in the circle, allowing no runs on three hits. Cumbess moved to 9-5 on the year.
Offensively, UK was led by multi-hit games from sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner, senior outfielder Alice O’Brien and freshman outfielder Sylver Samuel. Joiner was 2-for-4 with an RBI, while O’Brien went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a double. Samuel kept her hot bat alive with two infield singles, while junior Krystal Smith went 1-for-4 with two RBI. Freshman Maisie Steed had a two-RBI double while Cumbess got a hit to extend her career long hitting streak to 10 games.
Kentucky started the scoring in the game, moving to 19-2 when it scores first this season. The inning started with a four-pitch walk to freshman Maisie Steed, who moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Joiner. After Cumbess grounded out for the second out, O’Brien hammered a single through the right side, scoring Steed and giving Kentucky the early lead. O’Brien was thrown out trying to advance to second base to end the inning.
The Wildcats scored a run in the top of the fourth inning to take a 2-0 lead. Junior outfielder Ginny Carroll started the inning with a walk, moving to second on a stolen base and to third on a deep fly out to leftfield by Krystal Smith. After Samuel reached on an infield single, the speedster got caught in a rundown between first and second, allowing Carroll to score when the shortstop threw wildly home. The error moved Samuel to third, but a groundout and a strikeout ended the rally with UK up 2-0.
Middle Tennessee scored a run in the bottom of the fifth inning on a wild pitch. The inning started with a groundout before Nina Dever singled up the middle, moving to second on the walk to Kayla Toney before a groundout to first by LaRi Mitchell put both runners in scoring position. With pinch-hitter Ashley Stassin at the dish, Cumbess threw a wild pitch, scoring Dever to cut the lead to 2-1.
Kentucky added four insurance runs in the top of the seventh inning on a two-run, two-out single by Krystal Smith. The inning started with a double by O’Brien, who was pinch ran for by senior Kara Dill. Freshman Christian Stokes then reached on a fielder’s choice with Dill safe as third. A groundout then moved Stokes into scoring position, setting up Krystal Smith with the single. Ansley Smith then pinch hit for Samuel, reaching on an infield single before Steed doubled to leftfield to score both Smiths and give UK a 6-1 lead. Joiner then singled home Steed with a base hit to leftfield before Cumbess grounded out to shortstop to end the rally.
The Blue Raiders scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. The scoring started with a two-run double by Toney after singles by Samantha Nieves and Dever. Toney then moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on the infield single by Mitchell.
This was the fourth and fifth meetings between Kentucky and MTSU with the UK holding a 3-2 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 was the first-ever meeting between the two teams in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
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Kentucky: 33-12, 9-6 SEC
Middle Tennessee State: 5-39, 1-16 Sun Belt
Kentucky: No. 17 USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association; No. 17 ESPN.com/USA Softball
Middle Tennessee State: Not ranked
Kentucky def. Middle Tennessee State 7-4
Kentucky def. Middle Tennessee State 13-1 (5)