LEXINGTON, Ky. – Currently riding a six-game winning streak, the No. 18 University of Kentucky softball team is ready for an exciting weekend of Southeastern Conference action as it will officially dedicate the newly constructed UK Softball Complex in a three-game series with Florida this weekend in Lexington, Ky. The series will begin Friday with a 6 p.m. ET first pitch, followed by a 1 p.m. ET first pitch Saturday and Noon ET first pitch on Sunday.
Live stats from all three games will be available online, while live video for Friday and Sunday will be available on UKathletics.com. Saturday’s game will be televised live nationally on ESPNU with Cara Capuano and Cheri Kempf on the call. Saturday’s contest can also be seen on ESPN3.com. Admission to all three games is free of charge.
Saturday’s pregame events will include the UK Softball Complex Grand Opening Ceremony at 11:45 a.m. ET on the main stadium staircase. UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart and others will speak to officially open the new stadium. The ceremony is open to all with gates of the facility opening at 11:30 a.m. ET. A commemorative ticket will be given out to all in attendance.
The weekend series is full of promotions to introduce fans to the new facility. The promotions start Friday as fans in attendance will have an opportunity to register to win a Nike+ FuelBand. On top of the commemorative ticket giveaway on Saturday, the first 100 fans in the facility will receive a pack of 2013 UK softball trading cards. The entire UK team will also sign autographs after Saturday and Sunday’s games. Free posters and schedule cards will be available before and after all three games.
Kentucky (30-10, 8-4 SEC) is coming off three midweek wins, defeating Marshall on Tuesday and sweeping a doubleheader with EKU on Wednesday. The Wildcats have won six consecutive games after its three-game sweep of South Carolina last weekend. The winning streak is the second longest of the season after UK earned a school-record tying eight-game winning streak earlier this season. Kentucky has also won a school-record tying six straight SEC games, posting back-to-back sweeps of South Carolina and Mississippi State.
The game-one win against EKU marked the 182nd victory of sixth-year head coach Rachel Lawson’s tenure at Kentucky, making her the winningest coach in school history. Lawson, who was named head coach in July 2007, has a 183-143 record all-time at Kentucky, including 66 SEC wins.
Senior Kara Dill, who pinch ran Wednesday for her first playing time since sustaining an injury on March 15 against LSU, and junior Lauren Cumbess lead the team with a .354 batting average while Cumbess owns a team-high 45 hits. Cumbess, who is riding a six-game hitting streak, hit two doubles Wednesday to move her season total to a team-high 10, adding seven home runs and 29 RBI. Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner is fourth on the team in batting average at .309 (34-for-110) with a team-best 10 home runs and team-high 31 RBI. Senior Alice O’Brien and freshman Maisie Steed have added power to the UK lineup with O’Brien blasting six doubles and five homers, while Steed has three doubles and seven roundtrippers.
Combined with Steed, UK’s freshman class has hit well at the dish this season. Infielder Nikki Sagermann is third on the team with a .349 (29-for-83) batting average, including two doubles, four home runs and 14 RBI, while fellow infielder Christian Stokes has two doubles, four homers and 22 RBI and outfielder Sylver Samuel is hitting .298 (14-for-47).
Freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley leads the team in the circle with a 19-4 record and 2.04 ERA. Nunley’s 19-win season makes her only the third player in school history to win 19 games in a season, joining former stars Keary Camunas (2000) and Chanda Bell (2009). The 19 wins are tied for the most in a single season in school history. Nunley earned her 19th win Wednesday in a complete-game effort against EKU, allowing only one earned run.
Cumbess is second on the team in pitching with an 8-3 record and a 2.78 ERA. The native of Normal, Ill., threw five strong innings to pick up the game-one win against EKU on Wednesday. Junior Ellen Weaver is 1-2 on the year with a 3.77 ERA after throwing two scoreless innings to start game one Wednesday at EKU, while freshman Katie Henderson is 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA in 14 innings pitched.
Florida enters the weekend series ranked third nationally in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25. The Gators have won 13 of their last 14 games, including a 9-1 midweek win over South Florida on Wednesday. UF sits 12-3 in conference play with series wins over Auburn, highly ranked Tennessee, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. The Gators are 39-4 overall, including a 17-2 mark away from home.
Freshman infielder Kelsey Stewart leads the team in batting average at .381 (56-for-147) with eight doubles, seven triples, three home runs and 22 RBI. Sophomore pitcher/infielder Lauren Haeger paces the team in home runs and RBI with 12 and 44, respectively, while sophomore outfielder Briana Little has eight home runs and 28 RBI. As a team, Florida hits .280 with an SEC-leading 62 doubles and 14 triples to go along with an impressive 57 home runs.
In the circle, junior pitcher Hannah Rogers leads the team with a 22-3 record and a 1.31 ERA. Rogers has thrown 160.1 innings this season, striking out 158 while opponents are batting .194 against her. Sophomore pitcher Alyssa Bache is second on the team with a 6-0 record and 1.71 ERA in 45 innings pitched, while Haeger is 11-1 with a 2.10 ERA in 83.1 innings pitched.
Florida leads the all-time series between the two teams with a 41-11 record, including a 19-6 mark in games played in Lexington. The Gators also lead the series 21-5 in games played in Gainesville, Fla. Kentucky has had more success as of late against the Gators, winning four of the last six meetings, including a three-game sweep of Florida in 2011. Lawson is 5-9 against Florida in her tenure at UK, including a 3-2 record in games played in Lexington. UF took two of three games from UK last season in Gainesville.
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 is available at www.UKathletics.com/secsoftball.
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Kentucky 30-10, 8-4 SEC
Florida 39-4, 12-3 SEC
Kentucky – No. 19 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25; No. 18 in USA Today/NFCA Top 25
Florida – No. 3 in USA Today/NFCA Top 25; No. 4 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25