LEXINGTON, Ky. – For the third consecutive week since entering the rankings on Feb. 12, the University of Kentucky softball team has moved up in both collegiate softball polls to No. 15 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 and No. 17 in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25, it was announced Tuesday.
Kentucky’s top-15 posting in this week’s ESPN.com/USA Softball poll ties the highest ranking by the outlets in school history. The Wildcats were also ranked 15th nationally by ESPN.com/USA Softball on April 26, 2011. The highest ranking in school history was 13th in the 2012 USA Today/NFCA preseason rankings. All national rankings have come during the tenure of sixth-year head coach Rachel Lawson.
UK began the season receiving votes in both polls before entering the rankings for the first time on Feb. 12 at No. 22/24. The Wildcats inched up to No. 20/21 the following week before entering the top 20 in both polls last week at No. 17/19.
The move up the rankings comes after UK went undefeated in consecutive tournaments for the first time in school history. The Wildcats went 3-0 in the Coke Zero Spartan Classic two weeks ago before posting a 5-0 mark in the Under Armour Invitational last weekend. The eight-game winning streak – which ties the longest in school history – moved UK to 16-3 on the year, which is the best record UK has ever had 19 games into a season. The previous mark was 15-4 by the 2011 squad.
Kentucky has earned the strong start against a trying schedule, playing eight of its 19 games against team that are currently ranked or receiving votes in either poll. UK has four wins over currently ranked teams in No. 6/6 California, No. 16/19 Washington, No. 19/18 Stanford and No. rv/23 Oregon State. The Wildcats have also defeated USC Upstate, who is receiving votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll and USF, who is receiving votes in both polls. Cal and USF were participants in the 2012 Women’s College World Series.
The Wildcats’ three losses this season have come to No. 1/2 Oklahoma, No. 3/3 Arizona State and unranked Portland State.
Kentucky’s schedule does not get easier as the Wildcats begin Southeastern Conference action this weekend against Ole Miss. The Wildcats are scheduled to face eight teams that are either ranked or receiving votes in either poll, spanning 19 games. UK will play three-game sets against No. 2/1 Alabama, No. 4/4 Florida, No. 7/5 Missouri, No. 12/12 LSU and Mississippi State, who is receiving votes in both polls. The Wildcats will also have a home-and-home series with No. 13/13 Louisville and single-game contests against No. 25/25 North Carolina and Iowa, who is receiving votes in both polls.
The SEC is well represented in the rankings with seven teams in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 and eight teams in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25. Alabama, Florida, Texas A&M, Missouri and Tennessee are in the top 10 in both polls, while LSU is 12th in both polls and Georgia is 24th in the USA Today/NFCA poll and receiving votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. Mississippi State is receiving votes in both polls.
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(NOTE: Throughout the release, the ESPN.com/USA Softball ranking is listed first, followed by the USA Today/NFCA ranking.)
Nunley Sets School Record with 10-0 Start: University of Kentucky true freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley is off to an impressive start to her collegiate career with a 10-0 record, becoming the first player in school history to start a season 10-0 in the circle.
Nunley leads the Wildcats with a 2.16 earned-run average this season in a team-high 68 innings pitched with 55 strikeouts. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., has five complete games and one shutout on the year and has allowed only 21 earned runs. In her six starts this season, Nunley is 6-0 with a 1.23 ERA, throwing 40 innings with 37 strikeouts and only seven earned runs.
The rookie hurler is coming off a strong showing in the Under Armour Invitational, where she went 3-0 with a 1.94 ERA. Nunley threw 21.2 innings for the Wildcats over the weekend, allowing six earned runs with 18 strikeouts.
Nunley’s wins have come against stiff competition this season, as she has earned wins against highly ranked Stanford, Washington and Oregon State. The freshman also won against San Diego State and USC Upstate, who both were receiving votes earlier in the year.
Nunley has earned the 10-0 start in just 13 appearances, shattering the previous school-best win-loss record in 13 appearances or less. Current UK student assistant coach Chanda Bell, who holds nearly every career pitching record in school annals, went 8-3 in 13 appearances her freshman season in 2009, while current junior pitcher Ellen Weaver is the only other Wildcat to go undefeated after 13 appearances in the circle, posting a 6-0 record to start the 2011 season.