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No. 21 Softball returns to SEC action, hosts Mississippi State

LEXINGTON, Ky. – After splitting its midweek home schedule, the No. 21 University of Kentucky softball team returns to Southeastern Conference action this weekend when it plays hosts to a three-game series with Mississippi State at the UK Softball Complex in Lexington, Ky. The series will conclude a five-game homestand for Kentucky, who will have eight straight road games after this weekend.

The three-game SEC series will begin Friday night at 6 p.m. ET, before 1 p.m. ET start times Saturday and Sunday. Sunday’s game will be televised live on Fox Sports South as part of the SEC regional TV package. It will also be available online at ESPN3.com.

Admission to all three games is free of charge due to the continued construction of the new UK Softball Complex. The new stadium is nearly completed, but until construction in the seating areas is fully complete, admission to games will be free of charge. Fans can contact the UK Ticket Office with any questions prior to attending a game at 1-800-928-2287.

Fans attending games this weekend will have countless promotions to get involved with starting Friday as the first 100 fans in the stadium will receive a free package of UK softball trading cards. Fans can also register to win a free Nike FuelBand on Friday. Saturday and Sunday will be Little League Day at the complex as all little league coaches and players are invited to wear their team uniforms. The entire UK team will also sign autographs following the games on Saturday and Sunday.

Kentucky (20-8, 2-4 SEC) is coming off a split midweek set where it defeated in-state foe WKU 7-1 before falling to Iowa, who is receiving votes in both collegiate softball polls, 3-1. The Wildcats used a four-run fourth inning to defeat WKU with junior pitcher Lauren Cumbess earning the win with four strong innings and freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley gathering the save. Freshman infielder Nikki Sagermann hit her first collegiate homer in the win, while fellow freshman Christian Stokes had a two-RBI single.

The Wildcats began the week falling four spots to No. 21 in both the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 and USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25. Mississippi State is receiving votes in both polls.

UK is 2-4 in SEC play this season after winning two of three games against Ole Miss in its conference opener before losing all three games last weekend to highly ranked LSU. The Wildcats had late leads against the Tigers on Saturday and Sunday before LSU won both games in its final at bat.

Kentucky has been led this season offensively by Sagermann, who is hitting .370 (17-for-46) with one double, one homer and nine RBI. Senior infielder Kara Dill is second on the team in hitting at .354 (28-for-79), leading UK in runs scored with 25. Sophomore Griffin Joiner leads the team in home runs with six and doubles with seven, while Cumbess is hitting .349 (30-for-86) with six doubles and three homers.

In the circle, Nunley and Cumbess lead the Wildcats. Nunley paces the team with a 12-3 record and a 2.21 earned-run average, while Cumbess is 5-2 with a 2.50 ERA. Nunley has thrown a team-high 101.1 innings this season with 81 strikeouts, while Cumbess has thrown 56 innings with 49 strikeouts. Freshman Katie Henderson is 2-1 on the year with a 1.00 ERA, while junior Ellen Weaver is 1-2 with a 4.45 ERA.

Mississippi is 20-6 on the year and 1-2 in conference play after a conference bye last weekend. The Bulldogs have won 14 of their last 16 games for the third-best start in school history, including 12 straight road games this season.

Junior catcher Sam Lenahan leads the team in hitting with a .403 (27-for-67) average, including 10 doubles, one triple, six homers and 26 RBI. Junior infielder Erin Nesbit is hitting .406 (13-for-32) with a homer and 12 RBI, while junior infielder/catcher Logan Foulks has a .366 (30-for-82) average with a team-high seven home runs and 21 RBI.

In the circle, junior Alison Owen has a 10-3 record with a 1.01 ERA, striking out 124 batters in 90 innings pitched. Owen has allowed only 13 earned runs this season in 18 appearances with five shutouts. Senior Stephanie Becker is 6-1 with a 2.35 ERA in 59.2 innings, while freshman Jacey Punches is 2-0 with a 1.91 ERA.

Mississippi State leads the all-time series against the two teams 27-16, including an 11-10 mark in Lexington. The Wildcats were swept last season by the Bulldogs in Starkville, Miss., dropping all three games by just one run, including the last two games in walk-off fashion. UK is 8-6 against Mississippi State under head coach Rachel Lawson, including a 6-0 mark in Lexington.

For the latest on UK softball, follow "@UKSoftball" on Twitter or like Kentucky Softball on Facebook.

Records:
Kentucky 20-8, 2-4 SEC
Mississippi State 20-6, 11-2 SEC

Schedule:
Friday, March 22 – Kentucky vs. Mississippi State – 6 p.m. ET
Saturday, March 23 – Kentucky vs. Mississippi State – 1 p.m. ET
Sunday, March 24 – Kentucky vs. Mississippi State – 1 p.m. ET – TV: Fox Sports South

Online Coverage:
Game 1
- Live stats | Live video (subscription required)
Game 2:
- Live stats | Live video (subscription required)
Game 3:
- Live stats | Live video (subscription required) | Live video via ESPN3

Ticket Information:
Admission to all three games vs. Mississippi State is free of charge due to the continued construction of the new UK Softball Complex. The new stadium is nearly completed, but until construction in the seating areas is fully complete, admission to games will be free of charge. Fans can contact the UK Ticket Office with any questions prior to attending a game at 1-800-928-2287.

Promotions:
Fans attending games this weekend will have countless promotions to get involved with starting Friday as the first 100 fans in the stadium will a free package of UK softball trading cards. Fans will also be able to register to win a free Nike FuelBand on Friday. Saturday and Sunday will be Little League Day at the complex as all little league coaches and players are invited to wear their team uniforms. The entire UK team will also sign autographs following the games on Saturday and Sunday.


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