COLUMBIA, S.C. – Junior pitcher Lauren Cumbess threw a complete game in the circle, allowing just three runs to get her seventh win of the season, while at the dish, Cumbess went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI, leading the No. 20 University of Kentucky softball team to a 4-3 win and a series sweep over South Carolina on Sunday at Carolina Softball Stadium.
The win for Kentucky (27-10, 8-4 Southeastern Conference) was its sixth straight in SEC action after sweeping Mississippi State two weekends ago in Lexington. The six-game conference winning streak ties a school record. The 2011 team also won six straight in league action, earning consecutive sweeps over Mississippi State and Florida.
This is the fifth consecutive year that UK has claimed the series over South Carolina dating back to the 2009 season. South Carolina still leads the all-time series against Kentucky 35-21, including an 18-11 mark in games played in Columbia, S.C. The Wildcats are 12-6 against the Gamecocks under Lawson, including a 7-2 mark in Columbia. UK has played 56 games against USC all-time, marking the second-longest series in program history. The longest series is 57 all-time games against Georgia.
After the series, UK will return to Lexington to face Marshall on Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET in a rescheduled game from an earlier rainout before a doubleheader at Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday. UK has a big weekend planned on April 12-14 vs. Florida as it will officially open the newly constructed UK Softball Complex. The weekend will feature numerous promotions to introduce UK fans to the new facility, including a grand opening ceremony on Saturday. Stay tuned to UKathletics.com for more information on the weekend's events. Admission to all home games is free of charge.
Cumbess had a strong outing for Kentucky in the circle, going the distance to move her record to 7-3 this season. The native of Normal, Ill., gave up three runs – all earned – on seven hits with four strikeouts. Cumbess now has a 2.78 ERA this season, striking out 60 in 73 innings pitched. At the plate, Cumbess had a multi-hit game with a RBI single and a home run. The slugging pitcher is now hitting .348 on the year.
True freshman pitcher Nikki Sagermann also had two hits in the game, going 2-for-3 with a walk to keep up her team-best batting average. Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner went 1-for-4 with an RBI, while juniors Ginny Carroll and Emily Gaines also earned singles. True freshman outfielder Sylver Samuel went 1-for-1 with a bunt single, increasing her season-long hitting streak to five games. Freshman Christian Stokes had the game-winning RBI in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly.
South Carolina (19-17, 1-11 SEC) started senior pitcher Audrey Broyles, who went three innings allowing two runs on four hits, while Julie Sarratt threw the final four innings allowing two runs on four hits with one strikeout. Dana Hathorn went 2-for-2 at the plate with three RBI, including a two-run home run.
The Gamecocks scored first in the game with two runs. The rally started with a leadoff double by Samie Garcia to leftfield, moving to third on a groundout. That set the stage for Hathorn, who blasted a two-run home run over the wall in left-centerfield. Cumbess got a flyout and a lineout to end the inning.
The Wildcats got on the board in the third inning. After a flyout to start the inning, Samuel got the rally started with a bunt single, moving to second on a stolen base and to third on a groundout. Stokes then walked to put runners at the corners for Joiner, who singled up the middle on the first pitch of the at-bat to cut the USC lead to 2-1.
USC got the run back in the bottom of the third on the third RBI of the game from Hathorn. Cumbess got a strikeout to start the frame before walking Garcia, who stole second and advanced to third on a groundout. That brought up Hathorn, who singled to right-centerfield to score Garcia and give USC a 3-1 lead.
Cumbess started a rally for Kentucky in the top of the fourth inning, launching a leadoff homer to leftfield to cut the South Carolina lead to 3-2. Sagermann followed with a single forcing USC to make a pitching change to Sarratt. Carroll greeted Sarratt with a single to put runners on first and second before Krystal Smith popped up for the first out. Pinch hitter Gaines then singled up the middle to load the bases before Sarratt got a strikeout and groundout to end the rally and keep USC on top.
Kentucky tied the game in the fifth inning after Joiner reached on a throwing error to start the inning. Sarah Frazer pinch ran for Joiner, moving to third on a sacrifice bunt by senior Alice O’Brien and later scoring on an RBI single by Cumbess to tie the game 3-3.
The Wildcats took the lead in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly from Stokes. Smith started the inning by drawing a walk, advancing to second when Samuel laid down a bunt and advanced to first when the first baseman dropped the ball. Steed then moved both runners into scoring position with a bunt, setting the stage for Stokes who hit a deep sacrifice fly to centerfield to give UK a 4-3 lead.
South Carolina left two runners on base in the seventh inning after a double by Garcia to start the frame. Alaynie Page then sacrificed Garcia to third before Hathorn got hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners with one out. Cumbess got a pop up to short and a foul out to first to seal the win.