LEXINGTON, Ky. – True freshman utility player Maisie Steed started the game with her fourth home run of the year, while true freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley finished the game with four hitless innings in relief as the No. 15 University of Kentucky softball team claimed a 5-2 win Saturday to even its weekend series with Ole Miss at a game apiece. The win for Kentucky (17-4, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) is its first ever in the new UK Softball Complex.
The series will conclude with the rubber match Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at the UK Softball Complex. Ole Miss took game one Friday night 3-1. Admission to the game is free of charge. Live stats and live video (subscription required) will be available on UKathletics.com.
After a slow offensive night in game one, Kentucky responded on Saturday with seven hits and five runs, including four two-out RBI. Steed got the Wildcats out of the gate fast with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the first inning, her fourth homer of the season. The roundtripper got UK going offensively as UK would score four more runs over the next three innings to take a comfortable lead.
Senior infielder Kara Dill was the lone Wildcats to record a multi-hit game, going 2-for-3 with a run scored. Junior outfielder Emily Gaines got the clutch hitting started with a two-RBI single in the third inning, finishing 1-for-2. Senior outfielder Alice O’Brien went 1-for-3 in the game with a run scored and an RBI double, while sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner continued her impressive start to the season with a 1-for-3 game, including an RBI single.
Ole Miss (17-10, 1-1 SEC) plated two runs in the top of the third inning off of UK starting pitcher Lauren Cumbess, who went three innings, allowing two runs – both earned – with one strikeout. Nunley came on in relief in the fourth inning, throwing four hitless innings to end the game, striking out two Ole Miss batters. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., only allow two of the 13 batters she faced to reach base – both by walks, retiring the first seven batters she faced. Nunley, who earned the win to move to 11-1, has a 2.13 ERA on the year with a team-high 64 strikeouts.
The Rebels got both of their runs on the two-out, two-RBI single by first baseman Londen Ladner, who finished the game 1-for-2. Ole Miss centerfielder RT Cantillo was the only other Rebel to earn a hit, going 1-for-3 with a run scored.
Ole Miss started junior pitcher Shelby Jo Fenter, who went 2.2 innings, allowing three runs – all earned – on three hits before senior Erinn Jayjohn went three innings, allowing two runs – both earned – on four hits. Freshman Madi Osias earned the final out of the game after giving up a walk to the first batter she saw.
After Steed starting the scoring with her homer in the first inning, Ole Miss fought back to take a 2-1 lead in the top of the third inning on the two-RBI single by Ladner. The inning started with a walk to Haley Culley, who advanced to second on the single by Cantillo. After a sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position, Allison Brown grounded out to third, setting the stage for Ladner, who singled on the first pitch she saw to leftfield, scoring both runners.
UK answered back with two runs in each of the next two innings. The bottom of the third inning started with Dill singling to leftfield, later advancing to second on a stolen base. After Cumbess and freshman Nikki Sagermann walked to load the bases, Gaines singled to leftfield, scoring two runs and giving UK the 3-2 lead.
The Wildcats added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth. After second baseman Christian Stokes singled to start the inning, Steed placed a perfect sacrifice bunt to the left side to advance a runner in scoring position. Dill also laid down a sacrifice bunt for the second out, moving Stokes to third, who later scored on the double to rightfield by O’Brien. Joiner then slammed a single through the right side of the infield to drive in O’Brien and give UK the 5-2 advantage.
The game sustained a 15-minute delay in the top of the seventh inning as Ole Miss head coach Windy Thees tried to reenter Jayjohn as a pinch hitter for Culley after removing Jayjohn in the bottom of the sixth inning when she made the pitching change to Osias. After a conversation with both coaches and multiple huddles among themselves, the umpiring crew determined Jayjohn was an illegal player and could not reenter the game, causing Thees to put the game under protest. Culley would stay in the game and hit for herself, flying out to leftfield to end the game.
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