Updated 7 months ago
After playing 11 of its last 15 games away from the friendly confines of John Cropp Stadium, the No. 19 University of Kentucky softball team begins a four-game homestand on Wednesday when it plays host to in-state foe and No. 8-ranked Louisville at 6 p.m. ET in Lexington, Ky. Admission to the game is free of charge while live stats will be available online at UKathletics.com. The game will also be broadcast live on the UK/IMG Sports Network throughout the entire Fox Sports South footprint.
The first 100 fans in John Cropp Stadium on Wednesday will receive a free pack of 2013 softball trading cards while the entire UK team will sign autographs after the game. UK students can register to win a free Nike+ Fuel Band, while the game will serve as the annual UK Staff Appreciation Night with UK staff members participating in a home run derby challenge after the game. It will also be Junior Wildcat Club Night at the park and club members should contact UK marketing at (859) 257-8022 for more information.
After the midweek contest, UK will play its final home Southeastern Conference series of the season when it welcomes highly ranked Missouri to town over the weekend. Friday and Sunday's game against Missouri will also be televised on the UK/IMG Sports Network to the Fox Sports South footprint.
Kentucky (34-14, 10-8 SEC) dropped two spots to No. 19 in both the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25 and the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 on Tuesday. This is the third consecutive week that UK has been ranked inside the top 20 of both major polls. The Wildcats have played 23 games against teams currently ranked or receiving votes in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 with 12 wins in those games, while they have played 20 games against teams currently ranked or receiving votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 with eight wins in those games.
All seven of UK's regular-season games left on its 2013 schedule will be against highly ranked foes, including Wednesday's battle with Louisville, who is tied for seventh in the ESPN.com/USA Softball and eighth in the USA Today/NFCA poll. Missouri is 11th in both polls while next weekend's opponent, Alabama, is fourth in the USA Today/NFCA poll and sixth in the ESPN.com/USA Softball.
The Wildcats are coming off a 3-2 week on the road, sweeping a doubleheader at Middle Tennessee State before dropping two of three games at currently ranked Arkansas over the weekend. UK defeated Middle Tennessee State 7-4 in game one before a 13-1 triumph in game two last Wednesday. Home runs led UK in game two as the Wildcats blasted five home runs to break the school record for most homers in a game. Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner started the home-run assault, blasting a leadoff shot in the second inning before junior infielder Krystal Smith hit a two-run homer later that inning. Junior pitcher/infielder Lauren Cumbess hit a two-run home run in the third inning before freshman infielder Ansley Smith hit consecutive two-run roundtrippers in the third and fourth innings to tie and break the school record. In all, the Wildcats posted 15 hits in the game, including three doubles and 12 RBI.
Cumbess has been the offensive leader for UK this season, hitting safely in 13 of her last 14 games with an extra-base hit in nine of those 14 games. For the season, Cumbess leads the team with a .359 (56-for-156) average, including 12 doubles, 11 homers and 37 RBI. Joiner is third on the team in hitting with a .338 (46-for-136) average, including 12 doubles, nine home runs and 37 RBI. Freshman Nikki Sagermann follows Joiner with a .323 (32-for-99) average, belting five home runs with 17 RBI, while senior Alice O'Brien has five home runs and 28 RBI. Freshman Maisie Steed has seven roundtrippers this season, while fellow freshman Christian Stokes has four homers and four doubles.
Freshman Kelsey Nunley is 20-6 on the year in the circle with a 2.08 ERA to lead Kentucky. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., is the first 20-game winner in school history and has struck out 143 batters in 185 innings pitched this season. Cumbess is second on the team with a 3.52 ERA and a 10-5 record, while junior Ellen Weaver is 1-2 with a 3.50 ERA in 28 innings pitched and freshman Katie Henderson is 3-1 with a 1.11 ERA in 19 innings pitched.
Louisville (42-6, 15-1 Big East) enters the midweek challenge having won 15 consecutive games dating back to a win against Syracuse on March 30. Last weekend, the Cardinals swept Villanova in a three-game set to increase their road record this season to 10-2. U of L is also 21-2 at home and 11-2 in neutral site games.
Junior infielder Katie Keller leads the team with a .432 (67-for-155) average with 16 doubles, two triples, 10 home runs and 47 RBI. Senior infielder Alicja Wolny is hitting .411 (58-for-141) with 12 doubles, one triple, nine homers and 44 RBI, while junior outfielder Jordan Trimble is hitting .367 (47-for-128) with 14 doubles and two home runs. As a team, the Cardinals are hitting .340 with 92 doubles, nine triples and 48 home runs.
In the circle, the Cardinals are led by junior pitcher Caralisa Connell, who is 25-2 with a 2.03 ERA. Connell leads the team with 179 innings pitched and 189 strikeouts. Junior pitcher Rachel Le Coq is second on the team with a 17-4 record and 1.72 ERA, striking out 80 in 134 innings pitched.
This is the second meeting of the year between the two teams with Louisville earning a 5-1 victory at Ulmer Stadium back on April 3. Connell earned the win by throwing a complete game, allowing one run on two hits with four strikeouts. Cumbess started in the circle for UK, throwing two innings and allowing three runs on two hits, while Nunley pitched the final four innings, allowing two runs on three hits.
Louisville leads the all-time series against Kentucky 18-13, including a 9-6 edge in the series in games played in Lexington. The Cardinals have won four consecutive meetings. UK and U of L met three times last season with the Cardinals earning one-run wins in all three games. The final meeting was an NCAA Regional elimination game in Louisville with the Cardinals posting a 3-2 victory. U of L leads the all-time series in games played in Louisville 9-7. UK has played more games against Louisville than any other non-SEC team in school history.