LEXINGTON, Ky. – Looking to end its home schedule on a high note, the No. 9 University of Kentucky softball team will play host to No. 8 Tennessee this weekend for a three-game series at John Cropp Stadium that begins with a 6 p.m. ET first pitch on Friday. Kentucky and Tennessee will meet at 5 p.m. on Saturday in game two of the series, before a 2 p.m. series finale on Sunday.
Sunday’s finale will be Senior Day at John Cropp Stadium as the UK softball program honors the dedication and excellence of seniors Ginny Carroll, Lauren Cumbess, Sarah Frazer, Emily Gaines, Emily Jolly and Krystal Smith. Live stats and free radio from all three games will be available online, while live video (subscription required) will be available online at UKathletics.com.
The Southeastern Conference softball series between Kentucky and Tennessee is part of Big Blue Weekend at UK as the baseball team will host a three-game series with Ole Miss and the football team will hold its annual Blue/White Spring Football Game on Saturday, April 26 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Due to the multi-event Saturday on campus, softball fans are encouraged to arrive early and should expect heavy traffic congestion. Parking for the day is on a first-come, first-served basis with football and softball parking using shared lots. Gates to John Cropp Stadium will open at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. Gates will open one hour prior to first pitch on Friday and Sunday.
Single-game tickets are $5 for adults, $2 for seniors (65+) and youth (6-18). Children ages 5 and under and UK students with a valid student ID are admitted free of charge. Tickets are all general admission, and can be purchased by calling the ticket office at 1-800-928-2287. Tickets are also sold at John Cropp Stadium prior to each game, and all sales are cash only. UK Alumni Association members receive free admission this weekend, while fans can present their ticket stub from the Blue/White Football Game for free admission into Saturday’s softball game. Junior Wildcat Club members can also receive free admission to all three games, plus a guest.
Fans will have a chance to get involved with several different promotions this weekend. The first 100 fans into John Cropp Stadium on Saturday will receive a set of 2014 softball trading cards, while the entire UK team will sign autographs following Saturday and Sunday’s game. Additionally, fans that enter John Cropp Stadium between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday will be eligible to receive a Nike prize package and will get a $1 coupon to use at the concession stand. An inflatable bounce house for kids and a poster-making station will be available to help fans cheer on the Wildcats.
Kentucky (39-9, 12-6 SEC) is coming off an 11-8 victory at in-state foe WKU on Tuesday, marking its 39th win of the season, which sets a school record for most wins in regular-season play. Before the midweek contest, UK took two of three games from Arkansas last weekend, claiming its fifth SEC series win of the season. The Wildcats won the first two games of the series against Arkansas, which increased its winning streak to nine games, including seven straight in league action. The nine-game winning streak was the second longest in school history, while the seven-game league winning stretch was the longest in program history.
This weekend’s series concludes UK’s regular-season home schedule. Kentucky played 23 of its first 26 games away from John Cropp Stadium but returned home to tie the best home start in school history at 8-1. So far this season, UK is 16-5 at home, improving its two-year record at John Cropp Stadium to 30-14.
Kentucky has been led this season offensively by senior outfielder Emily Gaines, who is hitting .393 (33-for-84) with six doubles, five homers and 30 runs batted in, while sophomore infielder Nikki Sagermann paces the team with 11 homers and 39 RBI. Sophomore outfielder Sylver Samuel is hitting .342 (38-for-111) with a team-best 14 stolen bases, while senior pitcher/infielder Lauren Cumbess and junior catcher Griffin Joiner are hitting over .300 with Cumbess adding seven homers and 32 RBI and Joiner posting eight roundtrippers and 28 RBI.
Sophomore pitcher Kelsey Nunley leads UK in the circle with a 20-4 record and 1.96 ERA in 157.1 innings pitched with 129 strikeouts. Nunley, who earned her 20th win of the season Tuesday at WKU, is the only player in school history to win 20 or more games in a season, accomplishing the feat in each of her two years at Kentucky. Cumbess is 10-0 this season with a 1.75 ERA in 84 innings pitched with opponents hitting just .197 against her. Freshmen pitchers Meagan Prince and Shannon Smith have contributed some solid innings for UK with Prince sitting 7-3 with a 3.79 ERA in 61 innings pitched, while Shannon Smith is 2-2 with a 2.58 ERA in 35.1 innings pitched.
The Wildcat defense has been solid this season with a .976 fielding percentage, which ranks fourth best in the conference. Joiner, along with senior outfielder Emily Jolly and sophomore utility player Maisie Steed, have a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage this season. Kentucky is an impressive 21-2 this year when it does not commit and error.
Tennessee enters the weekend ranked eighth in both national polls, sitting 37-8 overall and 12-6 in SEC play. The Lady Vols are tied for second place in the conference with Kentucky and Missouri. UT started the year with 14 straight wins before falling to BYU in a neutral-site game. Tennessee is 16-3 at home this season and 9-4 in true road games.
UT started league action by winning two of three games at Arkansas before back-to-back home sweeps of South Carolina and highly ranked Florida. The Lady Vols have lost two of their last three SEC series, dropping two games at LSU in early April before claiming two of three games against Texas A&M two weekends ago. Last weekend, UT lost two of three games to Mississippi State in Knoxville. The Lady Vols are coming off an 8-0 victory over Furman on Tuesday.
The Lady Vols are led by a high-powered offense that ranks first in the league with a .330 team batting average. UT ranks second in the league with a .440 on-base percentage, while leading the conference in doubles. Senior infielder Madison Shipman highlights the offense, hitting .444 (59-for-133) with 11 doubles, 17 homers and 45 RBI, while freshman infielder Annie Aldrete is hitting .381 (48-for-126) with 12 doubles, two triples, 11 homers and 45 RBI. Six other UT players are hitting over .300 this season, including senior outfielder/infielder Melissa Davin at .343 (48-for-140) adding 11 homers, while freshman outfielder/infielder Megan Geer is hitting .321 (45-for-140) with a team-high 15 stolen bases.
In the circle, sophomore Rainey Gaffin, who is hitting .329 (26-for-79) this season, leads the team with a 1.57 ERA, earning a 5-2 record in 35.2 innings pitched. Senior Ellen Renfroe is the ace of the staff, sitting 23-5 with a 1.95 ERA in 176.1 innings pitched. Renfroe has 194 strikeouts this season, while opponents are hitting just .183 against her. Sophomore Erin Gabriel is 5-0 this season in 53 innings pitched with 52 strikeouts and a 2.91 ERA, while junior Cheyanne Tarango is 4-1 with a 4.81 ERA in 27.2 innings pitched.
Tennessee leads the all-time series against Kentucky 35-12, including a 15-7 record against UK in Lexington. The Wildcats are 5-9 against UT under seventh-year head coach Rachel Lawson. The two teams have met every year since UK started a program in 1997, except for 2002. Last year, UK and UT met in a non-conference midweek battle in Lexington with UT claiming a 6-0 victory.
Kentucky 39-9, 12-6 SEC
Tennessee 37-8, 12-6 SEC
Kentucky – No. 10 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25; No. 9 in NFCA/USA Today Top 25
Tennessee – No. 8 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25; No. 8 in NFCA/USA Today Top 25
Friday, April 25
Kentucky vs. Tennessee – 6 p.m. ET – Live Stats – Live Video (subscription required) – Free Radio
Saturday, April 26
Kentucky vs. Tennessee – 5 p.m. ET – Live Stats – Live Video (subscription required) – Free Radio
Sunday, April 27
Kentucky vs. Tennessee – 2 p.m. ET – Live Stats – Live Video (subscription required) – Free Radio
Single-game tickets are $5 for adults, $2 for seniors (65+) and youth (6-18). Children ages 5 and under and UK students with a valid student ID are admitted free of charge. Tickets are all general admission, and can be purchased by calling the ticket office at 1-800-928-2287. Tickets are also sold at John Cropp Stadium prior to each game, and all sales are cash only.
Friday – Alumni Weekend (free admission for UK Alumni Association members); Junior Wildcat Club members earn free admission, plus a guest; Inflatable bounce house for kids; Poster making to help fans cheer on the Wildcats
Saturday – Alumni Weekend (free admission for UK Alumni Association members); First 100 fans get set of 2014 softball trading cards; Bring your ticket stub from Blue/White Spring Game to get free admission; Fans who enters JCS between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. will be eligible for Nike prize pack giveaway; $1 concession stand coupons for fans that enter between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.; UK team taking batting practice on field, which is open to fans; Team autographs following the game; Junior Wildcat Club members earn free admission, plus a guest; Inflatable bounce house for kids; Poster making to help fans cheer on the Wildcats
Sunday – Senior Day recognition pregame; Alumni Weekend (free admission for UK Alumni Association members); Team autographs following the game; Junior Wildcat Club members earn free admission, plus a guest; Inflatable bounce house for kids; Poster making to help fans cheer on the Wildcats