TEMPE, Ariz. – University of Kentucky true freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley threw five strong innings in the circle, while at the plate UK scored 12 runs on eight hits to earn a 12-1 five-inning win over Western Michigan at the Tempe Sports Complex in Tempe, Ariz., on Friday. The win is the second of the day for the Wildcats, who dispatched No. 3 Cal 3-2 Friday morning.
Nunley was the leader for the Wildcats, throwing five innings of one-run ball, allowing only four hits, while striking out nine and only walking two in her first career start. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., fielded her position well with two assists and after the second inning only allowed two base runners to reach second base.
At the plate, seven Wildcats collected hits, including junior Ginny Carroll, who went 2-for-2 with a double and three RBI. Freshman Christian Stokes went 1-for-2 in the game with two RBI – the first of her young career – while junior Emily Gaines came off the bench and delivered a clutch pinch-hit ground rule double for two RBI. Seniors Kara Dill and Alice O’Brien each earned a hit in the game, while O’Brien crossed home three times.
UK freshmen Maisie Steed and Sylver Samuel showed the versatility of UK’s freshman class with Steed launching a solo homer well over the right-field wall. It was UK’s first homer of the year. Samuel scored her run with speed after singling and advancing to second on a throwing error and eventually scoring when Dill hit a slow infield single.
Kentucky (2-0) started the scoring in the bottom of the first inning. After Dill grounded out to start the game, Steed and O’Brien drew walks and later moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Junior Lauren Cumbess flied out softly to left field and Nikki Sagermann walked to set up the bases loaded for Carroll, who delivered a single to right field to score two and give UK a 2-0 lead. UK went up 3-0 when Carroll stole second, drawing a throw from the catcher, which allowed Sagermann to show her heady base-running skills to score from third.
Western Michigan (1-2) got its lone run in the bottom of the second inning. Caity Pixley started the inning with a single, advancing to third on the double by Loren Nagy. After a groundout, Marleen Rodriguez singled through the right side of the infield, scoring a run and leaving runners on first and third with one out. Nunley buckled down, however, getting out of the jam when she struck out the next two batters.
UK got the run back in the bottom of the frame after Samuel singled and advanced into scoring position on a throwing error by the third baseman. Dill then hit a slow roller in the infield, reaching first safely with a single. The speedy Samuel, who was sprinting from second the entire way, got the go sign from third base coach and associate head coach Kristine Himes and came home to score UK’s fourth run.
More of the same for UK offensively in the third inning when O’Brien and Cumbess started things with a walk with Sarah Frazer pinch running for Cumbess at first. Sagermann grounded into a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners with one out, while Darington Richardson replaced Sagermann at first as a pinch runner, eventually stealing second to put two runners in scoring position. After Carroll walked, Joiner drew a walk and an RBI to put UK up 5-1 and was replaced at first by pinch runner Kara Howard. Gaines then blew the game wide open with a two-run ground rule double that one-hopped the left field fence to give UK the 7-1 lead. Samuel’s sacrifice fly scored Howard and gave UK a 8-1 nod.
Steed started the fourth inning for UK off with a blast to right field, easily clearing the fence for UK’s first roundtripper of the season. O’Brien followed with a double to left field and after Sagermann walked, Carroll doubled to right field, scoring O’Brien. Joined was the second out with a sharp ground out, but UK would start a two-out rally when Stokes singled to score Carroll and Sagermann and make it 12-1.
Although giving up a two-out double, Nunley worked an easy fifth inning to seal the UK victory.
Cumbess led UK in its win over Cal earlier Friday, throwing nine solid innings and driving in two runs. The victory over Cal was the 32nd over a top-25 team for UK under head coach Rachel Lawson and the 11th over a top-five team. This was the second time that Kentucky has defeated a ranked Cal team. UK’s previous lone win against Cal came on May 28 in the 2011 Lexington Super Regional when Cal was ranked fifth nationally.
The Wildcats will return to the fields Saturday for another doubleheader. UK will begin the day against Oregon State at 4 p.m. ET and follow with a 6:30 p.m. ET contest against host No. 4 Arizona State at 6:30 p.m. ET. Both games will be played at Farrington Stadium on the campus of Arizona State.
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 for the tournament will be released next week on UKathletics.com.