LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 11 University of Missouri softball team posted six runs in the second inning and got an impressive pitching performance from senior All-American Chelsea Thomas, who threw six scoreless innings, lifting the Tigers to a 7-0 series-clinching win over No. 19 Kentucky on Sunday at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Ky.
Kentucky (36-16, 11-10 Southeastern Conference) will take midweek action off because of finals before it travels to face highly ranked Alabama this weekend to conclude the regular season schedule. The three-game set is scheduled to start Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET before a 3 p.m. ET start on Saturday and 2:30 p.m. ET start on Sunday.
Junior pitcher Lauren Cumbess started in the circle for UK on Sunday after throwing five scoreless innings against the Tigers on Friday night. The native of Normal, Ill., threw 1.2 innings on Sunday, allowing six earned runs on three hits with three strikeouts and five walks. Cumbess picked up the loss, moving to 10-6 on the year with a 3.70 ERA, striking out 81 in 106 innings pitched. Cumbess was impressive Friday night against MU, allowing no runs on four hits with one strikeout in a no-decision.
Freshman Kelsey Nunley, who pitched in all three games against the Tigers, came on to record the final out of the second inning Sunday and threw the final 5.1 innings of the game, allowing a run on six hits with six strikeouts. Nunley did not get a decision in the game, staying at 22-7 overall with a 2.02 ERA. The rookie hurler has thrown 208.1 innings this season with 159 strikeouts – which rank sixth best in a single season in school history. For the week, Nunley went 2-1 with her wins coming against highly ranked Missouri and No. 7 Louisville. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., had a 1.50 ERA over the week, throwing 23.1 innings with 16 strikeouts and only five earned runs allowed.
The Wildcats could not find their groove offensively Sunday, recording three hits against Thomas, who is a two-time first-team All-America honoree. Cumbess paced UK offensively with her team-leading 22nd multi-hit game, going 2-for-3 with two singles. Freshman outfield Sylver Samuel recorded a hit for UK, going 1-for-3.
Kentucky’s win on Saturday against Missouri was its seventh over a ranked foe this season and 38th all-time under Lawson. The Wildcats started the year with a win over then-No. 3 Cal while it also has wins over then-No. 3 Florida, No. 7 Louisville, then-No. 16 Washington, then-No. 20 Stanford and then-No. 25 North Carolina.
Cumbess is second on the team in hitting at .353 (60-for-170) with a team-best 11 home runs, adding 12 doubles and 38 RBI. Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner is third on the team in hitting with 12 doubles and 38 RBI, while O’Brien and freshmen Nikki Sagermann and Samuel, are hitting over .300 with O’Brien adding nine doubles, six homers and 29 RBI and Sagermann totaling two doubles and five home runs. Samuel leads the team in stolen bases with 18.
Thomas threw six innings for Missouri (29-9, 13-7 SEC), allowing no runs on three hits with six strikeouts to pick up her second win of the series. Freshman Lindsey Muller threw the final inning with one strikeout. Thomas is now 19-4 on the year. Offensively, the Tigers got multi-hit games from Jenna Marston, Angela Randazzo and Corrin Genovese with Marston posting three RBI.
The Tigers did most of their damage offensively in the second inning, posting six runs on three hits behind two UK errors and five walks. The inning started with back-to-back walks to Randazzo and Kelsea Roth before a sacrifice bunt put runners at second and third with one out. Genovese then singled up the middle to score a run and later stole second with the throw going into centerfield to allow another run to score. After a lineout to centerfield, Cumbess walked the bases loaded before Marston cleared the bases with a double to leftfield to give MU a 5-0 lead. A two-out walk then brought up Randazzo for the second time in the inning with the infielder singling to left to score a run and make it 6-0 Tigers.
MU got its final run in the sixth inning behind a two-out rally. Randazzo got the rally started again with a single to centerfield, moving to second when Roth was walked. That brought up Mackenzie Sykes, who doubled to centerfield to score a run and make it 7-0 Tigers.
Missouri leads the all-time series between the two schools 5-3. This series marked the first ever meeting between the two teams in SEC action. Kentucky, which started its program in 1997, played its second and third games in school history against the Tigers in Oxford, Miss., with Missouri winning both games. The two teams met again in 1999 in Chattanooga, Tenn., with the Tigers claiming a victory. UK and MU last met in 2003 at a tournament in Palo Alto, Calif., with UK winning both meetings. This weekend’s games marked the first non-neutral site games in the series.
Kentucky will play host to the SEC Tournament this season for the first time in school history. The event, which is considered one of the most prestigious softball tournaments in the nation, will be May 8-11 in Lexington. The championship game will be featured on ESPN2, while all other games will be shown on ESPNU. Ticket information is available at www.UKathletics.com/secsoftball.