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No. 17 softball returns home for challenging midweek slate

LEXINGTON, Ky. – After a disappointing showing last weekend in its second Southeastern Conference series of the season at No. 13 LSU, the No. 17 University of Kentucky softball team returns to the friendly confines of the UK Softball Complex to host two midweek games against Western Kentucky University and Iowa this week.

The midweek schedule starts Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET when Kentucky (19-7, 2-4 SEC) faces in-state foe WKU. The Wildcats will have a quick turnaround the next day, squaring off against Iowa at 4:30 p.m. ET. The UK-Iowa game will be the first of four games televised live this season on the UK/IMG Sports Network. The game will also be shown on the entire Fox Sports South footprint. Check local listings for details.

Admission to both games is free of charge due to the continued construction of the new UK Softball Complex. The new stadium is nearly completed, but until construction in the seating areas is fully complete, admission to games will be free of charge. Fans can contact the UK Ticket Office with any questions prior to attending a game at 1-800-928-2287.

Kentucky had a historic outing in its last midweek game, getting the ninth no-hitter in school history from true freshman pitcher Katie Henderson and one of the best offensive showings in school annals. UK fell in all three of its SEC games over the weekend to highly ranked LSU, dropping game one 7-1 before falling the next two days in LSU’s final at-bat of the game.

Junior pitcher/first baseman Lauren Cumbess leads the Wildcats offensively this season with a .375 (30-for-80) average, including six doubles, three home runs, 19 RBI and a team-best 30 hits. Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner leads the team in doubles with seven, home runs with six and RBI with 24, while senior infielder Kara Dill paces the team with 25 runs scored. Fellow senior Alice O’Brien has added some pop to the UK lineup with four doubles, one homer and 17 RBI.

UK’s freshman class has performed well this season with 53 combined hits and 48 runs scored. The talented group has also combined for four doubles, eight homers and 37 RBI. Nikki Sagermann leads the bunch in hitting at .349 (15-for-43) with a double and seven RBI, while infielder Christian Stokes is hitting .255 (14-for-55) with one double, three homers and 18 RBI. Speedy outfielder Sylver Samuel is hitting .286 (8-for-28) with a team-best eight stolen bases, while utility player Maisie Steed has two doubles, four homers and nine RBI.

In the circle, UK is led by true freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley and Cumbess, who each have strong earn-run averages. Nunley paces the team with a 2.33 mark while holding a 12-3 record. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., has thrown a team-high 93.1 innings, striking out a team-best 72 batters. Cumbess has a 2.56 ERA behind a 4-2 record. The native of Normal, Ill., has pitched 52 innings on the year with 46 strikeouts.

True freshman pitcher Katie Henderson is 2-0 on the year with a 0.00 ERA in just 12 innings pitched. Henderson threw the ninth no-hitter in school history last week against North Carolina. Junior Ellen Weaver is 1-2 on the year with a 4.45 ERA, striking out 14 in 22 innings pitched.

The Wildcats have played well in limited action at the UK Softball Complex this season, posting a 3-1 record. Stokes has enjoyed her time in the new stadium, hitting .667 (6-for-9) with two homers and seven RBI, while UK has hit .404 as a team with six homers and 28 RBI at the new facility.

WKU enters the midweek game with a 15-8 record, including a strong 5-1 start in Sun Belt Conference play. The Hilltoppers have won four consecutive games, including six of their last seven with the lone loss during that stretch coming to highly ranked Louisville. WKU is coming off a series sweep over Florida Atlantic before it won two of three games two weekends ago vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, who was ranked 15th nationally at the time.

Senior outfielder Katrina Metoyer leads the team in batting average with a .385 (25-for-65) mark, including six doubles, three homers and 16 RBI. Junior infielder Amanda Thomas leads the team with six homers and 26 RBI, while junior speedster Olivia Watkins has a team-best 20 runs scored and 13 stolen bases. Senior pitcher Mallorie Sulaski has a 4-3 record this season with a 1.67 ERA, while junior Emily Rousseau is 8-3 with a 1.73 ERA.

Iowa played two games Monday, falling to Ball State 7-5 before defeating highly ranked Louisville 6-2. Iowa and U of L will play again Tuesday in Louisville. The Hawkeyes are 18-7 overall this season having won nine of their last 11 games. Iowa has played a tough schedule this season with games against several ranked foes, including then-No. 1 Alabama, who won the national championship last season.

The Wildcats are 11-7 all-time against the Hilltoppers, including a 7-3 record in Lexington. The two teams first met in 2000 and have played every year since but two (2008 and 2011). This will be the first of two meetings on the year between the Wildcats and Hilltoppers as Kentucky will take a trip to Bowling Green, Ky., on March 26.

Kentucky and Iowa have met only twice in softball with each team owning a win. UK lost to Iowa in the first meeting in 1997 in Bloomington, Ind., before defeating the Hawkeyes in Iowa City, Iowa in 2003. This is the first meeting in Lexington.

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.

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