Softball looks to clinch SEC Tournament berth against Missouri



Freshman infielder Christian Stokes trying to beat Iowa senior outfielder Johnnie Dowling to the base during the first inning of the softball game vs. Iowa at the UK Softball Complex on Wednesday, March 20, 2013, in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Kalyn Bradford | Staff

By Tyler Spanyer | @KernelSpanyer

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Five games separate the third and 10th place teams in the SEC softball standings. This weekend, fifth place UK will look to clinch an SEC Tournament berth as they take on third place Missouri at John Cropp Stadium.

The Cats can secure their postseason spot with a single victory against the Tigers in the three-game series, which begins Friday.

Missouri comes in after splitting a mid-week doubleheader with Western Kentucky and a series win over No. 12 LSU.

“Missouri is an awesome team,” UK head coach Rachel Lawson said. “They have a really good pitcher and hit the ball very well. If we could do something pretty cool against Missouri it would really help our (postseason) standing.”

UK (35-14. 10-8 SEC) is coming off a win over in-state rival and No. 8 Louisville. Freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley picked up her 21st win of the year, extending the record she broke on April 13. Junior first baseman Lauren Cumbess drove in the game-winning run with her single in the bottom of the seventh inning. The win was the second walk-off win for the No. 17 Cats this season.

Missouri (27-8, 11-6 SEC) is led at the plate by freshman utility player Emily Crane, who is hitting .381  for the No. 11 Tigers. Sophomore third baseman Angela Randazzo leads the Tigers in RBI’s with 40 and is second on the team with her eight home runs.

In the circle, Missouri is led by senior Chelsea Thomas, who is 17-4 on the year with an 1.41 ERA. Thomas has started 25 games this year for the Tigers.

UK is led by Cumbess, who is hitting .363 on the year, leading the team in home runs (11) and RBI’s (38). Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner is second to Cumbess in home runs (9) and RBIs (37).

Nunley leads the Cats from the circle with a 21-6 record and 2.04 ERA. Nunley has thrown 146 strikeout this season, putting her in seventh place in the single-season record books.

When asked about this weekend’s series against Missouri, Nunley said, “I am just expecting wins; that’s all I want.”

The Cats and the Tigers play the first game of the series at 5 p.m. on Friday at John Cropp Stadium. Games on Saturday and Sunday will start at 1 p.m., with Senior Day fesivities being held before Sunday’s game. Senior outfielder Alice O’Brien and senior infielder Kara Dill will be honored Sunday.