No. 17 softball hits road to face No. 13 LSU

LEXINGTON, Ky. – After a historic midweek win against No. 24 North Carolina that included the ninth no-hitter in school history and the largest margin of victory in school history, the No. 17/17 University of Kentucky softball team looks to keep its hot streak alive when it travels to face No. 13/13 LSU this weekend at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge, La.

The three-game series will begin Friday at 7 p.m. ET, followed by a 5 p.m. ET first pitch on Saturday and 1 p.m. ET start on Sunday. Saturday’s game will be shown on regional television by Cox Sports Television and will also be shown as part of the Southeastern Conference regional TV package on CSS. CST is currently carried on cable systems in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Virginia. CSS is shown in the state of Kentucky, to see listings in your area, go here.

Kentucky (19-4, 2-1 SEC) is coming off an impressive all-around performance Tuesday night against No. 24 North Carolina, earning the largest margin of victory in school history behind the ninth no-hitter in UK history. The 18 runs and four homers tied the most runs scored in a game in school annals, while UK’s 18 runs batted in was the most ever in a single game in school history.

True freshman pitcher Katie Henderson was brilliant in the circle, throwing the first no-hitter of her collegiate career. Henderson is only the fifth player in school history to throw a no-hitter, joining current teammate Lauren Cumbess, along with Chanda Bell (2009-12), Rachel Riley (2009-12) and Amber Matousek (2007-10). It was the first no-hitter for a UK pitcher since Bell threw her fifth and final no-hitter in last season’s home finale against LSU. All nine no-hitters have come in the tenure of sixth-year head coach Rachel Lawson.

The start in the circle was the second of the season for Henderson, who is now 2-0 with a 0.00 earned-run average. The rookie hurler has thrown 10 innings on the year, striking out 12 batters and only allowing one hit. Her previous start was a five-inning win against Howard in the Coke Zero Spartan Classic, where she took a no-hitter into the final inning before giving up a two-out single.

Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner was the leader of the pack offensively in the win, posting a 4-for-4 night with career highs in home runs with two, runs scored with four and runs batted in with six. Joiner’s two homers in a single game marked only the 19th time in school history a player has accomplished that feat and the first since Samantha DeMartine had two roundtrippers against South Carolina on April 23, 2011.

The native of Hopkinsville, Ky., became only the fourth player in school history to earn six or more RBI in a game and the first since Riley had six against Austin Peay in 2011. Joiner’s four runs scored tied the school record for most runs scored in a game, becoming the first player since 2008 to earn that honor.

Every starter recorded a hit for the Wildcats in the game while Joiner, Cumbess and freshmen Maisie Steed and Nikki Sagermann recorded multi-hit games. Cumbess blasted her third homer of the season in a 2-for-2 night with three runs scored and a RBI, while Steed went a season-best 3-for-4 with three runs scored. Sagermann was 2-for-3 with two RBI, while freshman Christian Stokes was 1-for-3 with a grand slam in the first inning.

The win over the top-25 ranked Tar Heels was Kentucky’s sixth of the season against a team currently ranked or receiving votes in either the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 or USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25. The Wildcats started the season with a win over current No. 4/5 Cal, while it also has wins over No. 16/18 Stanford, No. 16/18 Washington, No. 23 Oregon State and USC Upstate, who is receiving votes in one poll. UK has now defeated 35 ranked teams during Lawson’s tenure, including 20 top-10 teams and 12 top-five teams.

The Wildcats had a strong opening weekend of SEC play, taking two out of three games from the Ole Miss Rebels. UK dropped the first game of the series 3-1 before earning 5-2 wins on Saturday and Sunday. The series win was the sixth consecutive against the Rebels and the second time in three years that UK has opened SEC play with a series win. UK currently sits tied for first atop the SEC Eastern Division standings with No. 3/3 Florida, who took two out of three at Auburn, and No. 6/7 Tennessee, who took two of three from then-No. 1/2 Alabama in Knoxville, Tenn.

Stokes led Kentucky offensively against the Rebels with a .833 (5-for-6) average, including her first collegiate home run and three RBI. The native of Chesterfield, S.C., recorded a hit in each game, including multi-hit games Friday and Sunday. For her efforts, the SEC honored Stokes as its Freshman of the Week on Monday.

Cumbess leads Kentucky in hitting with a .386 (27-for-70) batting average, including five doubles and 19 RBI. Senior infielder Kara Dill leads the team in hits with 28, while Sagermann is hitting .385 (15-for-39) with a double. Joiner is hitting .361 (22-for-61) leading the team in doubles with seven, home runs with six and RBI with 24. Freshman Sylver Samuel leads UK with eight stolen bases behind a strong .320 (8-for-25) average.

Freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley paces UK in the circle with a 2.02 ERA and a 12-1 record. Nunley has thrown a team-high 83.1 innings this season, allowing 24 earned runs with 67 strikeouts. Cumbess is second on the squad with a 2.56 ERA and a 4-1 record.

LSU (20-5, 2-1 SEC) is coming off a series win against Mississippi State last weekend and a midweek win over Nicholls State on Wednesday night. The Tigers, which went to the 2012 Women’s College World Series last season, have spent the entire 2013 season ranked in the top 15 nationally. All five of LSU’s losses have come against teams ranked or receiving votes in one major poll this season, while it has defeated three ranked foes in then-No. 14 Arizona, then-No. 14 Michigan and then-No. 22 North Carolina.

Junior Jacee Blades leads the team in hitting this season with a .378 batting average, while three players in juniors Allison Falcon and Tammy Wray and freshman Kellsi Kloss have four homers. Falcon leads the team with 18 RBI and eight doubles. The Tigers are hitting .299 as a team with 131 runs scored.

Senior Rachele Fico, who is the reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week, is the team’s leader in the circle with a 12-3 record and a 1.73 ERA. Fico has a team-high 97 innings pitched, striking out 127 batters while opponents are hitting just .189 against her. Junior Megham Patterson is second on the team with a 1.88 ERA and a 3-2 record, while junior Ashley Czechner is 5-0 with a 2.36 ERA.

LSU leads the all-time series against Kentucky 32-6, including an 18-3 mark in Baton Rouge. The Wildcats swept the Tigers last season in Lexington, getting great pitching and clutch hitting. Bell threw a no-hitter in the series finale to clinch the sweep – the first ever series win against LSU – while 2012 senior Brittany Cervantes hit .571 for the series with two homers, two doubles and four RBI to guide the offense. Five of UK’s six all-time wins vs. LSU have come in the Rachel Lawson Era. The two teams have met annually since 1998.

Kentucky will play host to the SEC Tournament this season for the first time in school history. The event, which is considered one of the most prestigious softball tournaments in the nation, will be May 8-11 in Lexington. The championship game will be featured on ESPN2, while all other games will be shown on ESPNU. Ticket information for the tournament can be found here.


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