UK softball splits doubleheader, drops series with South Carolina

By Jordan Ondrof

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After losing its first game against South Carolina, No. 13 UK softball relied on the pitching of junior right-hander Kelsey Nunley in the doubleheader on Saturday.

Nunley bounced back after giving up six runs as the starter on Friday. She was strong in both games, earning her fifth save of the season in Game 1 — a 2-0 UK win — and tying a career-high with 11 strikeouts in Game 2 — a 7-6 South Carolina win in 11 innings.

“Kelsey’s great. She’s one of the main reasons that were doing as well as were doing,” head coach Rachel Lawson said. “She’s tough. She’s a workhorse. She’s one of the best in the country.”

Sophomore pitcher Meagan Prince made Nunley’s job easy in the first game, throwing five shutout innings.

“I was able to command both sides of the plate. Luckily in that game everything was working for me,” Prince said.

Lawson made multiple adjustments to her lineup throughout the day, constantly coming back to Nunley as a rock on the mound. Lawson turned to Nunley in the sixth to close out the game. Nunley had two strikeouts to keep South Carolina scoreless and secure the 2-0 win in Game 1.

In Game 2, the Cats got going early when junior shortstop Christian Stokes hit a lead-off double, followed by a single from junior centerfielder Sylver Samuel. Junior outfielder Maisie Steed then hit a home run over the left field wall to put UK up 3-0 in the first inning.

Despite the strong start, UK was not able hold on to the lead for long as South Carolina responded with four runs in the next inning.

The game went back and forth after that, as the Cats grabbed a 5-4 lead by the fourth. But the Gamecocks retaliated again, scoring two runs in the fifth inning. UK was able to tie it up in the bottom of the sixth thanks to an RBI-double from Stokes, and the game went into extra innings after a scoreless seventh.

The contest carried on for 11 innings, setting a John Cropp Stadium-record for the most innings played. A home run from South Carolina outfielder Alaynie Page broke it open, however, and the Gamecocks held on for the 7-6 win, clinching the series over UK.

“A lot of things didn’t fall in the direction the way that they did in the first game,” Samuel said, “Unfortunately, the second game didn’t work out the way we wanted it to, but I think that were headed in the right direction offensively. We came out better, and it’s putting us in the right direction.”

Another record was broken on Saturday as Stokes tied the school record with three doubles in a single game. Stokes said she is confident in her team’s ability to recover from the series loss with a home tilt against Louisville looming on Tuesday.

“I had a pretty good night, but the ultimate goal was not accomplished,” Stokes said. “We didn’t win the game, but hopefully we can carry our hitting over to Tuesday when we play Louisville. Louisville’s always a good matchup, and a fun one at that.”