Sep 16, 2012 7:53 PM
For the first time since its school-record fourth-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament last season, the University of Kentucky softball team hit the diamond for game action, beginning the fall season with an 11-6 win over Marshall University at Dot Hicks Field in Huntington, W. Va. on Sunday.
Kentucky (1-0) controlled the game from the opening frame, posting a five-run first inning. The Wildcats used a balanced effort in the game, getting strong performances offensively, defensively and on the mound. UK posted four extra-base hits against Herd pitching, getting doubles from senior Kara Dill and freshmen Sylver Samuel and Christian Stokes, and a triple from junior Emily Jolly. The Wildcats also had an impressive six stolen bases in the game, one each from junior Ginny Carroll, Dill, Jolly and Stokes and two from Samuel.
Offensively, Samuel posted the only multi-hit performance of the game, going 2-2 with an RBI and a run scored. Senior Alice O'Brien gathered a hit and a RBI, while Dill, Jolly and junior Ellen Weaver each posted a hit. Stokes led the team in RBI after a bases-loaded double scored three runs.
"The offense showed a lot of versatility today," head coach Rachel Lawson said. "We hit for power, executed the short game and were aggressive on the bases. I was also pleased that we had production from both the returners and the newcomers. Defensively, we did not have a lot of opportunities, but there was a sense of confidence and competitiveness when we took the field that showed a lot of potential in terms of our ability to make the hardest plays."
Pitching wise, junior Lauren Cumbess led the way with three efficient innings of work to start the game. The native of Normal, Ill., faced 11 batters, allowing one hit and one run - none earned - while walking none and striking out three. Cumbess was relieved by freshman Kaitlyn Henderson, who threw two complete innings, allowing three earned runs on one hit and three walks with three strikeouts. Fellow freshman Kelsey Nunley concluded the game, going two innings with two earned runs on four hits and two strikeouts.
"On the mound, Cumbess showed a lot of poise and had command of all her pitches," Lawson said. "She spun the ball, changed speeds and hit her spots. The fan in me really enjoyed watching her think through the game and go to work against the batters. (Griffin) Joiner also showed a lot of maturity behind the plate, which was evident in the game she called for Cumbess. It was also nice to get our newcomers on the mound. Both Nunley and Henderson showed that they have good out pitches and it was clear they were getting more comfortable on the mound with each batter."
Kentucky started the offensive attack early putting up five runs on two hits and two Marshall errors in the first inning. Dill began the inning getting hit by a pitch and then stealing second to get in scoring position for O'Brien, who singled up the middle to score Dill and eventually move to third base on an error by the centerfielder. After O'Brien scored on a wild pitch, Carroll was hit by a pitch, stole second, moved to third on a groundout and later scored on a wild pitch. Griffin Joiner kept the inning alive drawing a walk and later scoring when Jolly tripled to right field and scored on a throwing error.
The Wildcats would get on the board again in the sixth inning with two runs on two hits. Weaver started the inning with a single up the middle before being pinch ran for by Jolly, who stole second. Stokes than moved Jolly over to third on a sacrifice bunt before Samuel doubled to left field to give UK a 6-4 lead. Samuel would later steal third and come home to score on a passed ball to make it 7-4.
UK added four insurance runs in the seventh inning. After Marshall walked the bases loaded with two outs, Stokes doubled to left field, clearing the bases and increasing the lead to 10-4. Stokes later scored Kentucky's final run on a throwing error by the Thundering Herd.
Kentucky will return to action next weekend when it travels to Cleveland, Ohio, for a round-robin event with Cleveland State and Pittsburgh. UK will face both teams twice over the two-day event, which begins Saturday, Sept. 22. A complete schedule is below.
2012 Kentucky Softball Fall Schedule
Sept. 16 at Marshall Huntington, W. Va. W, 11-6
Sept. 22 vs. Pittsburgh Cleveland, Ohio 12 p.m. ET
vs. Cleveland State Cleveland, Ohio 4 p.m. ET
Sept. 23 vs. Cleveland State Cleveland, Ohio 11 a.m. ET
vs. Pittsburgh Cleveland, Ohio 1 p.m. ET
Oct. 7 Georgetown College Georgetown, Ky. 1 p.m. ET
Oct. 14 EKU (Doubleheader) Richmond, Ky. 1 p.m. ET