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UK softball begins its 2014 season with a doubleheader in the state of California on Thursday.
The Cats will kick off their campaign against Santa Clara University at noon in the Mizuno Invitational, and follow up with a matchup versus Long Beach State University immediately after.
UK returns its two top pitchers from a season ago in sophomore Kelsey Nunley and senior Lauren Cumbess. The duo pitched 378 innings combined in 2013, with Nunley posting 27 wins in 47 appearances and a 2.14 earned run average. Cumbess started 21 games, posting a 10-7 record in 111 innings, allowing 99 hits.
Cumbess was the team’s leading batter in 2013, hitting .323 with 13 home runs and 43 runs batted in. She played in the infield when not pitching.
Junior catcher Griffin Joiner was named to the preseason All-SEC team by the league’s coaches. She batted .322 with 10 home runs and 41 runs batted in, all of which ranked second on the team last season.
Santa Clara, UK’s first opponent, was 8-46 last season, with a 1-19 record away from home. Thursday’s game will be played in Long Beach, Calif.
Long Beach State won its last seven games and 10 of its final 12 games last regular season, going 37-20 overall and finishing second in the Big West Conference.
The Cats won their regional in the NCAA Tournament before losing the first two games of a best-of-three series in the Super Regional at Arizona State University.
UK will have another doubleheader on Friday in Fullerton, Calif. against Loyola Marymount University and No. 2 University of Oklahoma.