LEXINGTON, Ky. – With only two hits on the board entering the bottom of the sixth inning, University of Kentucky sophomore outfielder Sylver Samuel started a two-run, game-winning rally in the sixth inning with a single up the middle, followed by a double from sophomore infielder Nikki Sagermann and a single from junior catcher Griffin Joiner to power No. 14 Kentucky to a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over No. 25 James Madison University on Saturday at John Cropp Stadium.
The win advances Kentucky (46-15) to the regional final on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET against the winner of tonight’s 6 p.m. game between JMU and the winner of the 3 p.m. game between DePaul and Ohio. The Wildcats are 2-0 in the regional and sit one win away from clinching a berth in a NCAA Super Regional for the third time in the last four seasons. UK will have to be defeated twice on Sunday to not advance through the regional.
Live stats and free live video from every game at John Cropp Stadium this weekend will be available on UKathletics.com. A complete schedule of events and ticket information is posted below, while fans can visit www.ukathletics.com/ncaasoftball for complete information on the regional. Kentucky’s games on Sunday can be heard live on WLAP-AM 630 in Lexington with Dick Gabriel and former UK baseball star Doug Flynn calling the action.
Samuel was the rally starter for Kentucky in the sixth, slapping a one-out single up the middle to start the game-winning rally. Samuel moved into scoring position moments later when the JMU catcher threw behind her wildly at first, allowing Samuel to move to second. That set the stage for Sagermann, who belted a double into the gap in right-centerfield, scoring Samuel to tie the game. Joiner propelled UK over the edge on the very next pitch, singling to leftfield to score Sagermann and give UK a 2-1 lead.
Sagermann and Joiner were the lone Wildcats to post RBI in the game, with Sagermann going 1-for-3 with a run scored, while Joiner was 1-for-3. Samuel was 1-for-2 in the game with a run scored, while senior pitcher/infielder Lauren Cumbess went 1-for-3 and senior outfielder Emily Jolly was 1-for-2 with a double.
“I thought a lot of our adjustment the third time through the order was due to the fact the crowd really got into it, chanting ‘blue’ and ‘white,’ you could hear them really cheering when Sylver got that hit up the middle and everybody went crazy,” Lawson said. “I actually think the crowd was a lot of the reason why we adjusted. The crowd was the big difference, I thought they were tremendous and a lot of the reasons why we scored the runs at the end of the game.”
Nunley made sure the 2-1 lead held in the top of the seventh inning, getting a groundout and two strikeouts to seal the victory. The sophomore tossed her second complete game in as many days, allowing a run on five hits with a career-high tying 11 strikeouts. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., is now 26-7 on the season, sitting one win shy of tying the school record for wins in a single season – a mark she set last year with 27. Nunley has 53 career wins, sitting one win shy of tying Keary Camunas (1997-2000) for second most in a career in program history.
The win continues UK’s program-best record after breaking the school record for wins last week at the Southeastern Conference Tournament. UK has 46 wins this season, five better than the previous school record of 41 set in 2013. The Wildcats have consecutive 40-win seasons for the first time in program history.
The victory over No. 25 JMU was the 15th this season for UK over a team ranked or receiving votes at the time UK played team. Saturday’s win marked the 52nd for Lawson over a ranked foe. The win snapped a 16-game winning streak for JMU.
The Dukes started ace Jailyn Ford in the circle, who went 5.1 innings allowing two runs – both earned – on two hits with seven strikeouts. Ford was replaced with one out and two runners on in the sixth inning by Heather Kiefer, who got Cumbess to ground into a double play to end the threat. Ford took the loss, moving to 24-7 on the season.
Offensively, JMU had five hits, including a solo home run from Caitlin Sandy, who ended the game 2-for-3 with an RBI, while Niki Prince, Erica Field and Tahli Moore each had singles.