TEMPE, Ariz. – University of Kentucky junior pitcher Lauren Cumbess threw nine strong innings, allowing only two runs, while also belting two hits at the plate, including driving in the game-winning RBI, to open up UK’s 2013 season in style with a 3-2 nine-inning win over No. 3 California in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz., on Friday afternoon. The game was played on the campus of Arizona State inside Farrington Stadium.
Cumbess was spectacular both in the circle and at the plate, leading the Wildcats to the upset victory. The junior started the game in the circle, throwing nine innings, giving up only two runs – both earned – on six hits with six strikeouts and only four walks. At the plate, Cumbess went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, including the game-winning single in the top of the ninth inning.
After senior Alice O’Brien started the top of the ninth on second base due to international tiebreak rules, freshman Nikki Sagermann placed a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance O’Brien to third. Cumbess followed with a single to leftfield to score O’Brien and give UK the lead 3-2.
Cumbess had to work out of a jam in the bottom of the ninth to conserve the victory. After LaRisa Jones started the inning on second base, Cumbess got centerfielder Jasmin Mejia to pop up for the first out and then Vanessa Alvarez struck out looking for the second out. Cheyenne Cordes would single through to left field to put runners on the corners, but Cumbess would get Ashley Decker to strike out looking to end the game and give UK the win.
The victory over a ranked foe is the 32nd over a top-25 team for UK under head coach Rachel Lawson and the 11th over a top-five team. This is 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. Cal still leads the all-time series against the two teams 3-2.
All five players at the top of UK’s order earned hits in the game, while Cumbess was the lone player to earn a multi-hit game for UK. Kara Dill, O’Brien, Sagermann and Ginny Carroll each went 1-for-3 in the game with Dill scoring a run and O’Brien scoring two runs. Carroll earned her first RBI of the season in the fourth inning.
Cal’s star pitcher Jolene Henderson, who was named the 2011 and 2012 Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, also threw nine innings, allowing three runs – two earned runs – on six hits with seven strikeouts. Cordes led the way offensively with a 2-for-3 outing, while Mejia went 1-for-3 with two RBIs.
Cal got on the board first in the game in the bottom of the second inning, getting a two-RBI single down the right-field line by Mejia. The inning started when Breana Kostreba was hit by a pitch later advancing to second on the sacrifice bunt by Victoria Jones. Jordan Wallace then singled to centerfield, advancing Kostreba to third. After Wallace advanced to second, Mejia perfectly placed a single down the line to score two and give Cal the 2-0 lead. Cumbess would walk the next batter before getting Cordes to strike out looking to end the inning.
Kentucky answered in the top of the fourth inning, getting a run on an infield single from Carroll. The inning started with Dill singling to the second baseman, before O’Brien singled to right field, advancing to second on the throw to third. With runners on second and third and no outs, freshman Nikki Sagermann struck out looking followed by a sharp groundout by Lauren Cumbess. Carroll then hit a sharp ball to the second baseman, scoring Dill. Carroll would earn the single, but O’Brien would be called out at the plate trying to score.
UK tied the game in the top of the sixth inning, getting a clutch two-out hit from Cumbess. After freshman Maisie Steed and Dill grounded out to start the frame, but O’Brien would get the rally started by drawing a walk. Sagermann would then collect her first career hit with a single to centerfield, advancing O’Brien to second. After Kara Howard pinch ran for Sagermann, Cumbess would knock a single up the middle, scoring O’Brien and tying the game at 2-2. Carroll would strikeout to end the inning.
Cumbess would then throw a scoreless bottom of the sixth and both pitchers pitched scoreless frames in the seventh and eighth innings to set up the dramatic UK win in the ninth.
The Wildcats will return to action later today when it faces Western Michigan (1-1) at 7:30 p.m. ET at the Tempe Sports Complex. WMU lost its season opener Thursday to Oregon State 8-0 before earning a win earlier Friday against Cal-Poly 3-2 in eight innings. UK and WMU last met in the 2010 Kajikawa Classic with the Wildcats posting a 5-1 victory.
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.