LEXINGTON, Ky. – After earning two wins last week against top-15 ranked teams to conclude its home schedule, the No. 19 University of Kentucky softball team looks for more of the same this weekend as it completes the regular season with a three-game Southeastern Conference road series at No. 7 Alabama – the defending national champions – starting Friday.
The series will be played at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., beginning Friday with a 7:30 p.m. ET first pitch. The series will continue Saturday with a 3 p.m. ET first pitch before concluding Sunday with a 2:30 p.m. ET first pitch. Live stats and live video (subscription required) from all three games are available through the links provided below.
Kentucky (36-16, 11-10 SEC) is coming off a 2-2 week where it defeated No. 7 Louisville and No. 11 Missouri. The week started with Kentucky taking down in-state foe and highly ranked Louisville 2-1 in a thrilling seven-inning battle. Junior pitcher/infielder Lauren Cumbess was the hero in the game with a walkoff RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning to win the game. Freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley earned the win in the circle, throwing a complete game and allowing only one run.
Over the weekend, UK went 1-2 against Missouri, earning the win Saturday after a hard-fought nine-inning loss on Friday. Kentucky’s win Saturday against Missouri was its seventh over a ranked foe this season and 38th all-time under Lawson. The Wildcats started the year with a win over then-No. 3 Cal while it also has wins over then-No. 3 Florida, then-No. 7 Louisville, then-No. 16 Washington, then-No. 20 Stanford and then-No. 25 North Carolina.
Nunley earned the win Saturday in the circle, throwing a complete game, allowing two runs. For the week, Nunley was 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA, striking out 16 in 23.1 innings pitched. For her efforts, Nunley was named SEC Freshman of the Week – her second SEC weekly honor of the season. The rookie hurler is the third player in school history to earn two SEC weekly honors in a season. Nunley, who leads SEC freshmen pitchers in wins, ERA and strikeouts, paces UK in nearly every pitching category with a 22-7 record and 2.02 ERA.
Offensively, Kentucky has been led by Cumbess, who has a .353 (60-for-170) average with a team-best 11 home runs and team-high tying 12 doubles and 38 RBI. Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner is third on the team in average at .318 (47-for-148) with 12 doubles, nine home runs and 38 RBI, while freshman infielder Nikki Sagermann is hitting .306 (34-for-111) with two doubles, five homers and 18 RBI. Senior outfielder Alice O’Brien has provided some power with six homers and 29 RBI, while freshman outfielder Sylver Samuel is hitting .301 (22-for-73) with a team-high 18 stolen bases.
Kentucky stayed in the top 20 of both major softball polls this week, dropping one spot to No. 20 in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25 and staying at No. 19 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 on Tuesday. Kentucky currently sits 11th in the NCAA.com RPI listings. UK was 7th in the RPI two weeks ago, which is its highest mark in school history. 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 on Feb. 26 at No. 17/19,
Alabama (40-10, 12-9 SEC) is coming off a three-game sweep at LSU, dropping all three games by one run. Before the sweep, the Crimson Tide had won six of their last seven games. Bama started the season on a 22-game winning streak. Alabama is 12-9 in SEC play this season, posting series wins over South Carolina, Auburn, Texas A&M, Missouri and Mississippi State. The Tide has dropped series to Tennessee and LSU.
Freshman outfielder Haylie McCleney leads Alabama in batting average this season at .474 (73-for-154) with 12 doubles, four triples, four home runs and 36 RBI, while senior outfielder Kayla Braud is second with a .446 (70-for-157) average with seven doubles, one triple, one home run and 35 stolen bases. Junior pitcher/utility player Jackie Traina leads the team in home runs with 13 adding 44 RBI, while junior infielder Kaila Hunt has 12 roundtrippers with 51 RBI. The Tide is hitting .332 as a team with 55 home runs and 107 stolen bases.
Traina paces the Tide in the circle with a 17-6 record and a 2.16 ERA, throwing a team-high 165.1 innings with 183 strikeouts. Sophomore pitcher Leslie Jury is second in wins at 15-4 with a 1.93 ERA, throwing 108.2 innings with 85 strikeouts. Senior pitcher Lauren Sewell is 8-0 this season with a 2.29 ERA in 49 innings pitched.
Alabama leads the all-time series against Kentucky 38-2, including a 18-0 record in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Wildcats last defeated Alabama in game two of a doubleheader in Lexington in 2010. UK’s first win against the Tide came in game one of a doubleheader in 2004. Alabama leads the series 2-19 in Lexington and 1-0 at neutral sites. Alabama swept Kentucky last season in Lexington. The two teams have met every year UK has had a team except 2011.
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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Kentucky 36-16, 11-10 SEC
Alabama 40-10, 12-9 SEC
Kentucky – No. 19 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25; No. 20 in USA Today/NFCA Top 25
Alabama – No. 8 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25; No. 7 in USA Today/NFCA Top 25