RICHMOND, Ky. – The No. 18 University of Kentucky softball team used strong performances in the circle and at the plate Wednesday to sweep its doubleheader against Eastern Kentucky University, making sixth-year head coach Rachel Lawson the winningest head coach in school history. UK claimed game one, 6-2 before a come-from-behind effort to win game two, 4-3. Both games were played at Gertrude Hood Field in Richmond, Ky.
The victory in game one gave Lawson 182 career wins at Kentucky, surpassing former head coach Beth Pruit, who was previously the all-time winningest head coach. Pruit, who was the first head coach in school history, coached eight years at Kentucky totaling a 181-297-1 record. Lawson currently sits at 183-143 during her short tenure at Kentucky. The team presented Lawson with an autographed softball after the game.
History was also made in UK’s game-two win as true freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley tied the school record for wins in a single season with 19. Nunley, who is 19-4 on the year with a 2.04 ERA, is only the third player in school history to win 19 or more games in a season. Former stars Chanda Bell and Keary Camunas also won 19 games in a year. Bell won 19 in 2009, while Camunas had 19 in 2000.
The wins were Kentucky’s fifth and sixth consecutive on the year after a three-game sweep of South Carolina last weekend and a 4-3 victory over Marshall on Tuesday. The six-game winning streak is the second longest of the season for Kentucky (30-10, 8-4 Southeastern Conference), who won a school-record tying eight straight earlier this season.
The Wildcats will now turn their attention back to SEC action as UK plays host to No. 3/4 Florida this weekend at the UK Softball Complex. The weekend series, which will start with a 6 p.m. ET first pitch on Friday, will be packed with excitement as UK will officially open the newly constructed UK Softball Complex. The weekend will feature numerous promotions to introduce UK fans to the new facility, including a grand opening ceremony on Saturday beginning at approximately 11:45 a.m. ET. Gates to the stadium will open at 11:30 a.m. ET with the dedication ceremony taking place on the main staircase of the stadium. The ceremony is open to all. First pitch Saturday is 1 p.m. ET, followed by a Noon ET start time on Sunday.
The Kentucky offense provided six runs on nine hits to take game one from the Colonels, getting multi-hit games from junior Lauren Cumbess and senior Alice O’Brien. Cumbess was terrific at the dish, going 3-for-4 with a run scored and two RBI, including her seventh home run of the season and ninth double. O’Brien was 2-for-3 in the game with an RBI and a run scored, while freshman Nikki Sagermann was 1-for-4 with a two-run home run in the seventh inning. Freshmen Maisie Steed and Christian Stokes also had hits in the game with Steed earning an RBI, while sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner went 1-for-4.
Junior Ellen Weaver started the game in the circle, throwing two scoreless innings allowing only two hits with four strikeouts. She was relieved in the third inning by Cumbess, who threw the final five innings of the game, allowing two runs – both earned – on six hits with two strikeouts. Cumbess earned the win, moving her record to 8-3 this season with a 2.78 ERA.
The Wildcats scored a run in the opening frame of game one and two more in the third to take a 3-0 lead before EKU posted two runs in the fifth inning to cut the Wildcat lead to 3-2. Kentucky added three insurance runs in the seventh inning to increase its lead to 6-2 over EKU with Cumbess throwing an easy seventh to seal the win.
UK used a come-from-behind effort in game two, scoring two runs in the top of the seventh inning to grab a 4-3 win from the Colonels. O’Brien was the key offensive bat for UK in the win, going 2-for-3 with three RBI, including a two-RBI single in the seventh inning to propel UK to the win. O’Brien also launched her fifth home run of the season in the second inning to tie the game 1-1 at the time. Steed collected a hit in the game, going 1-for-3, while Cumbess and Joiner each launched doubles. Junior infielder Krystal Smith went 1-for-3 with an RBI single, while junior Ginny Carroll went 1-for-3 with a run scored.
Nunley earned the win in the game, throwing all seven innings, allowing three runs – one earned – on five hits with one strikeout. EKU started Hayley Flynn, who went three innings, allowing two runs – both earned – on five hits, while Shaylon Robb pitched the final four innings, picking up the loss by allowing the final two runs of the game.
After a scoreless top of the first for UK, the Colonels posted a run in the bottom of the frame to take an early lead. The Wildcats took a 2-1 lead minutes later after O’Brien launched a home run and Smith posted her RBI single. EKU took the lead back in the bottom of the second on two UK errors. The Wildcats then rallied in the seventh inning, getting a leadoff walk to Steed, who advanced to third on a double by Joiner with no outs. After a lineout and a groundout, O’Brien stepped in and hit two-out, two-strike single up the middle to give UK the 4-3 lead. Nunley had a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh to end the game.
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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