LEXINGTON, Ky. – For the third time in as many weeks, the University of Kentucky softball team has moved up in both major collegiate softball rankings sitting 17th nationally in the ESPN.com/USA Softball rankings and 19th in the nation in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll, it was announced Tuesday.
Kentucky (11-3) started the season receiving votes in both polls before moving into the top 25 for the first time this season on Feb. 12 at No. 22/24. Last week, UK inched up to No. 20/21. This is the first time UK has been ranked top 20 in both polls since last season’s preseason rankings when UK was ranked 13th by USA Today/NFCA and 18th by ESPN.com/USA Softball.
So far this season, the Wildcats have defeated three ranked teams and two others that were receiving votes when the Wildcats defeated them. UK started the season with a win over then-No. 3 California before also taking down No. 16 Washington and No. 20 Stanford. UK has also defeated San Diego State, which was receiving votes when UK defeated them on Feb. 14, and Oregon State, which is currently ranked 24th in the USA Today/NFCA poll. UK’s latest opponent, USC Upstate, which the Wildcats defeated 12-8 in 11 innings on Sunday, is currently receiving votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll.
Two of the Wildcats’ three losses this season have come against teams currently ranked in the top three nationally in No. 1/2 Oklahoma and No. 3/3 Arizona State. UK’s other loss came to unranked Portland State.
The Wildcats are set to face several top teams the rest of the season, including three-game sets with No. 1/2 Alabama, No. 4/4 Florida, No. 6/6 Missouri and No. 11/11 LSU. UK will play a home-and-home series against No. 15/16 Louisville and single games against USF, North Carolina and Iowa, who are all receiving votes in at least one poll.
Overall, UK has 17 games left against teams currently ranked or receiving votes, including a showdown this weekend with USF in the Under Armour Invitational in Tampa, Fla.
The Southeastern Conference is well represented in the rankings with eight teams in the top 25 in both polls, including Alabama, Florida, Texas A&M, Missouri and Tennessee in the top 10. LSU is just outside the top 10 at 11th in both polls, while Georgia is just inside the top 25 at No. 23/24.
UK is coming off a 3-0 weekend with victories over USC Upstate, Georgetown and Howard. In all, the Wildcats scored 34 runs in the tournament, allowing only eight runs. The Wildcats hit .333 (29-for-87) as a team at the event with seven doubles, one triple, four homers and 28 RBI. In the circle, UK posted a 2.23 ERA in the three games with 19 strikeouts and only four walks.
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Cumbess, Joiner, Nunley, Steed Named to Coke Zero Spartan Classic All-Tournament Team: Junior pitcher/infielder Lauren Cumbess, sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner, and freshmen Maisie Steed and Kelsey Nunley were named to the Coke Zero Spartan Classic All-Tournament Team earlier this week after their impressive play over the weekend in Spartanburg, S.C.
Cumbess finished the weekend with a .571 (4-for-7) batting average with two doubles and five RBI, while Joiner continued her hot hitting with a .583 (7-for-12) mark with two doubles, two homers and eight RBI. Steed went 3-for-5 at the event with a double, homer and three RBI, while Nunley pitched 10 strong innings with five strikeouts, including picking up the win against USC Upstate.
Junior pitcher Ellen Weaver and freshman pitcher Katie Henderson also performed well in the circle. Weaver went five strong innings against Georgetown, allowing only one hit and no runs with three strikeouts. Henderson followed that performance with a five-inning shutout against Howard, allowing only one hit in her collegiate debut.