Apr 26, 2013 10:35 PM
The No. 11 University of Missouri softball team got a strong nine-inning effort from All-American senior pitcher Chelsea Thomas and a multi-RBI night from senior utility player Nicole Hudson, including the game-tying RBI in the seventh inning and game-winning home run in the ninth inning, lifting the Tigers to a 2-1 series-opening win over No. 19 Kentucky on Friday night at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Ky.
The three-game series will continue with 1 p.m. ET starts on Saturday and Sunday. Sunday's game will be televised on the UK/IMG Sports Network and shown live to the entire Fox Sports South footprint.
Admission to both games is free of charge, while live stats will be available online at UKathletics.com. Live video (subscription required) will be available for Saturday's game only.
There are numerous promotions for fans this weekend at John Cropp Stadium, including a chance to win a free Nike+ Fuel Band on Sunday. The first 100 fans on Saturday and Sunday will receive a free package of 2013 softball trading cards, while the entire team will sign autographs after both games. Sunday will be Senior Day as the UK softball program honors seniors Kara Dill and Alice O'Brien for four great years with Kentucky. Saturday and Sunday will be Little League Day at the park as little league players are invited to wear their uniforms to the games.
Kentucky (35-15, 10-9 Southeastern Conference) scored first in the game, posting a run in the second inning and held the lead until the Tigers tied the game in the top of the seventh inning. Junior pitcher Lauren Cumbess started the game in the circle, throwing five scoreless innings on four hits with one strikeout. Cumbess, who earned a no-decision in the game, was relieved to start the sixth inning by freshman Kelsey Nunley, who threw the final four innings, allowing two runs - both earned - on five hits with three strikeouts. Nunley picked up the loss, moving to 21-7 on the year with a 2.07 ERA.
Offensively, the Wildcats posted five hits in the game with freshman utility player Maisie Steed earning the lone RBI on a double to shallow rightfield in the second inning. Senior Alice O'Brien went 1-for-4 in the game, while juniors Ginny Carroll and Krystal Smith each had singles. Freshman Sylver Samuel also had a single. O'Brien and Samuel are now on three-game hitting streaks.
Thomas was impressive in the circle for Missouri (28-8, 12-6 SEC) throwing all nine innings, allowing one earned run on five hits with seven strikeouts. The senior earned the win, moving to 18-4 with a 1.37 ERA. Offensively, Hudson led Missouri with a 2-for-4 night with two RBI and a home run. Jenna Marston went 2-for-3 with two walks, while Mackenzie Sykes was 2-for-4. Angela Randazzo, Kelsea Roth and Carlie Rose each had hits in the game.
The Wildcats posted their only run of the game in the bottom of the second inning on the RBI double by Steed. After Carroll started the inning with a double, Smith walked and freshman Christian Stokes laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to put both runners in scoring position. Steed then hit a blooper into shallow right-centerfield that dropped in for a double, scoring Carroll.
The Tigers tied the game at one in the top of the seventh inning. Rose began the rally with an infield single, advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt. Nunley then walked Marston before Hudson hit a liner to leftfield that dropped in and scored the tying run. The Tigers then loaded the bases befor Nunley got a fielder's choice and a strikeout to end the inning.
MU sealed the win in the top of the ninth inning on a two-out solo home run by Hudson over the wall in right-centerfield. It was Hudson's 13th of the season.
Missouri leads the all-time series between the two schools 4-2. This series marks the first ever meeting between the two teams in SEC action. Kentucky, which started its program in 1997, played its second and third games in school history against the Tigers in Oxford, Miss., with Missouri winning both games. The two teams met again in 1999 in Chattanooga, Tenn., with the Tigers claiming a victory. UK and MU last met in 2003 at a tournament in Palo Alto, Calif., with UK winning both meetings. This weekend's games mark the first non-neutral site game in the series.