LEXINGTON, Ky. – Fresh off winning its first Southeastern Conference series of the 2013 season, the No. 15 University of Kentucky softball team will conclude its five-game homestand by hosting two non-conference midweek games this week against No. 25 North Carolina and Southern Illinois. Both games will be played at the brand new UK Softball Complex with free admission to all fans.
Kentucky (18-4, 2-1 SEC) will begin the week with a 5 p.m. ET first pitch against North Carolina (18-6, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) on Tuesday. UK will then conclude its midweek schedule on Wednesday against SIU (10-9) at 3 p.m. ET. Live scores and live video (subscription required) will be available at UKathletics.com.
The Wildcats are coming off a strong opening weekend of SEC play where they took 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. 4/4 Florida, who took two out of three at Auburn, and No. 8/10 Tennessee, who took two of three from No. 1/2 Alabama in Knoxville, Tenn.
After a slow start to the series offensively, the UK offense responded with clutch hitting on Saturday and Sunday to clinch the series. UK scored four two-out runs on Saturday to ensure the win and continued its momentum into Sunday by scoring in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings. In the final two games of the series, UK posted 10 runs on 17 hits, while limiting Ole Miss to four runs on six hits.
Freshman second baseman Christian Stokes led Kentucky offensively with a .833 (5-for-6) average, including her first collegiate home run and three runs batted in. The native of Chesterfield, S.C., recorded a hit in each game, including multi-hit games Friday and Sunday. Stokes, who is hitting .279 (12-for-43) this season, went 2-for-2 Sunday with two RBI – her fourth multi-RBI game of the season. For her efforts, the SEC honored Stokes as its Freshman of the Week on Monday.
Fellow freshman Maisie Steed blasted her fourth homer of the year in the series, while junior Lauren Cumbess went 3-for-9 with a double and junior outfielder Emily Gaines was 2-for-6 with two RBI.
Cumbess still leads the Wildcats overall in hitting this season with a .368 (25-for-68) average behind five doubles, two homers and 18 RBI. Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner also has 18 RBI on the year, including a team-high tying four homers. Freshman Nikki Sagermann is hitting .361 (13-for-36), while senior infielder Kara Dill leads the team in hits with 27 and runs scored with 23.
True freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley earned a decision in each game, picking up her first loss of the season Friday before grabbing wins in a relief effort Saturday and Sunday. For the weekend, Nunley was 2-1 with a 1.37 earned-run average, striking out 12 in 15.1 innings pitched. Cumbess started the final two games of the series, collecting a combined 5.2 innings pitched with five strikeouts. Nunley, who is 12-1 on the year, leads the team overall this season with a 2.02 ERA, including a team-best 67 strikeouts in a team-high 83.1 innings pitched. Cumbess has a 4-1 record in the circle with a 2.56 ERA, striking out 41 in 43.2 innings pitched. Junior Ellen Weaver is 1-2 with a 4.45 ERA in 22 innings pitched.
North Carolina is coming off a three-game sweep of Boston College to open ACC play over the weekend. The Tar Heels are currently ranked 25th in both collegiate softball top 25 rankings. UNC has won 12 of its last 13 games on the year with its lone loss during that stretch coming to No. 3/3 Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz. North Carolina defeated highly ranked SEC foe LSU 3-1 in its opening weekend before defeating top-20 ranked Baylor two weekends ago.
Senior outfielder Tisha Mahon leads the team in batting average at .385 (15-for-39), while senior infielder/pitcher Constance Orr has a team-best seven homers and 26 RBI on the year. Freshman infielder Erin Satterfield and senior catcher/infielder Haleigh Dickey also have provided power this season. Satterfield has five doubles and two homers on the year, while Dickey has four doubles and three homers. In the circle, junior Lori Spingola is off to a great start with an 11-4 record, posting a 1.98 ERA with 116 strikeouts in 99.0 innings pitched. Junior Ashley Bone is 4-1 with a 2.82 ERA in 22.1 innings pitched.
This is the third-ever meeting between UK and UNC in softball with the all-time series knotted at a game apiece. UK won the first meeting in its inaugural season in 1997 before falling to UNC in the last meeting in 2005. This is the first-ever meeting in Lexington.
SIU will play a doubleheader Tuesday at Austin Peay before heading to Lexington for the single-game set Wednesday. The Salukis have won four of their last five games entering the week after going 1-1 in the Saluki Invitational last weekend in Carbondale, Ill. SIU has defeated one ranked opponent this season when it took down then-No. 15 USF 5-4 in Clearwater, Fla.
Senior outfielder Morgan Barchan leads the team in hitting with a .421 (24-for-57) average, including three doubles and a homer. Junior infielder Jayna Spivery paces the team in homers (five) and RBI (18), while sophomore outfielder Meredith Wilson has three homers and 12 RBI. Senior Brittney Lang leads the team pitching wise with a 6-5 record, throwing 69.2 innings with 41 strikeouts. Sophomore Alyssa Wunderlich is 4-4 with a 3.84 ERA.
The all-time series between the Wildcats and Salukis is also tied 1-1. UK dropped the first-ever meeting in 1998 before posting a 9-5 win in Carbondale in 2011. This is the first-ever meeting in Lexington.