LONG BEACH, Calif. – University of Kentucky true freshman pitcher Shannon Smith threw seven scoreless innings with nine strikeouts and only two hits allowed, while senior outfielder Ginny Carroll posted two RBI as No. 12 Kentucky rolled to its fifth straight win to open the season by defeating George Washington 3-0 on Saturday at the 49er Softball Complex in Long Beach, Calif.
Shannon Smith was impressive in her first collegiate start, going the distance to earn the win. The native of Milford, Mass., threw seven scoreless innings in the game with nine strikeouts and only two hits allowed to lead Kentucky (5-0) to the win. The freshman had a stretch of retiring 13 consecutive batters in the game.
Offensively, Kentucky was paced by Carroll, who went 1-for-2 with two RBI, while junior catcher Griffin Joiner went 2-for-3 with her second double of the season. Sophomore infielder Ansley Smith went 1-for-2 in the game with her third double of the season and a run scored, while sophomore Darington Richardson and senior Emily Jolly each recorded hits.
The win completes a successful 5-0 opening weekend for Kentucky with wins vs. No. 2 Oklahoma, Santa Clara, Long Beach State, Loyola Marymount and George Washington. Kentucky’s 5-0 start continues its best start to a season ever, passing the previous best start of 3-0 which UK set in 2013, 2011 and 2007. Kentucky’s win over No. 2 Oklahoma tied the highest-ranked foe UK has ever defeated.
Joiner paced Kentucky offensively over the weekend with a .667 (10-for-15) batting average with two doubles, three homers and nine RBI. Richardson was second on the team in batting average at .600 (3-for-5), while sophomore Maisie Steed, Ansley Smith, Carroll and Jolly each hit homers. Sophomore Christian Stokes hit .368 with four doubles and one triple, while Ansley Smith had three doubles.
Sophomore pitcher Kelsey Nunley paced UK in the circle with her first collegiate no-hitter and a 10-inning win over No. 2 Oklahoma. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., struck out a career-high 11 batters against Santa Clara in the no-hit bid, while striking out eight against Oklahoma. The sophomore ends the weekend 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA in 17 innings pitched. Senior Lauren Cumbess threw five strong innings in her lone outing to go 1-0 on the weekend with four strikeouts. UK’s two rookie pitchers also performed well with Meagan Prince going 1-0 with seven scoreless innings against Loyola Marymount before Shannon Smith’s strong performance Saturday vs. George Washington.
The Wildcats scored first in the game platting a run in the fifth inning. Ansley Smith started the rally with her third double of the season, advancing to third on a wild pitch. After Joiner reached on an error and advanced to second, senior Lauren Cumbess grounded out sharply back to the pitcher for the first out. Carroll then hit a sacrifice fly to leftfield to score Ansley Smith and give UK the 1-0 lead.
UK increased its lead to 2-0 in the sixth inning thanks to two George Washington errors. Sophomore Nikki Sagermann reached on an error to start the inning, followed by a perfect sacrifice bunt by Richardson to move Sagermann into scoring position. Jolly then hit an infield single to the shortstop, who stopped the ball but threw wildly to third to score Sagermann. Jolly got thrown out trying to advance to third for the second out and after sophomore Christian Stokes walked, Ansley Smith lined out to rightfield to end the inning with UK up 2-0.
The Wildcats added an insurance run in the seventh inning with an RBI single by Carroll. Joiner started the inning with a double off the wall in centerfield and was pinch ran for by senior Krystal Smith, who moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by pinch hitter Sarah Frazer. Carroll then singled off the GWU pitcher to score Krystal Smith and put UK up 3-0. Pinch hitter Breanne Ray walked and Richardson hit an infield single to load the bases, but Richardson was picked off at first to end the rally.
Kentucky will continue its 15-game road swing to start the season next Friday when it travels to Austin, Texas to play in the Texas Tournament. The Wildcats will play five games at the three-day event starting with an 11 a.m. ET battle vs. Louisiana Tech on Friday.
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