LEXINGTON, Ky. – After its first-ever series win over the defending national champion No. 7 Alabama Crimson Tide over the weekend, the No. 19 University of Kentucky softball team looks to keep its momentum alive when it plays host to the 2013 Southeastern Conference Tournament for the first time in school history, beginning Wednesday at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Ky.
Kentucky (38-17) earned the No. 7 seed in the tournament and will play Wednesday in the opening round of the event at 6:30 p.m. ET against No. 10 seed South Carolina. The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU. Live stats and more information can be found at the tournament central page at www.ukathletics.com/secsoftball. If UK wins, they will face No. 2 seed Tennessee on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Several different ticket options are available for fans to come watch one of the most prestigious softball tournaments in the nation. All-session tickets are available for the event in reserved chairback seats ($60), reserved bleacherback seats ($50) and general admission bleachers ($40). Fans can also purchase single-session tickets, which include admission to two games with the exception of session 5, which is the championship game. Single-session tickets are available in reserved bleacherback seats ($15), general admission adult ($10), general admission youth/seniors ages 3-18, 65 or older ($8) and general admission group rate for 10-plus people ($5).
Fans can reserve their seats in a number of ways:
- Online by using My UK Account.
- Calling the UK Ticket Office at (800) 928-2287 or (859) 257-1818.
- Ordering in person at the UK Ticket Office in the Joe Craft Center.
- In person – based on availability – at John Cropp Stadium, beginning Wednesday, May 8th at 2:00 pm. All ticket sales at the stadium are cash only.
The Wildcats earned the No. 7 seed in the tournament with a 13-11 conference record, marking the third straight winning conference season for UK. Prior to sixth-year head coach Rachel Lawson taking over the program, UK had only posted a winning SEC record one time. This appearance marks the fifth-consecutive in the SEC tournament for Kentucky and its seventh all-time. The Wildcats hold a 1-8 record all-time in the event. This is the first time the tournament has hosted 10 league teams.
UK started its conference slate by taking two of three games from Ole Miss before dropping all three games at highly ranked LSU the following weekend. Lawson and Co. responded the following weekends with consecutive sweeps of Mississippi State and South Carolina, tying the longest SEC winning streak in school history. The Wildcats then took one of three from Florida, Arkansas and Missouri before winning the series against Alabama to conclude the season.
This is the first time in school history that Kentucky has hosted the SEC Tournament. The event, which is considered one of the most prestigious softball tournaments in the nation, will begin with two first-round games Wednesday, followed by four quarterfinals games on Thursday. Friday will feature two semifinal contests before the championship game on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. The championship game will be featured on ESPN, while all other games – except Game 6 which will also be on ESPN – will be shown on ESPNU. A detailed schedule is below.
The Kentucky softball team recently completed one of the most successful weekends in school history, taking two of three games against perennial national power Alabama – the defending national championships – in Tuscaloosa. The series win was the first for Kentucky against the Tide in school history and also marked the first time UK had won in Tuscaloosa.
The two wins over Alabama gave UK nine wins against ranked foes this season and 40 against ranked foes under Lawson, including 24 against top-10 teams. The Wildcats started the year with a win over then-No. 3 Cal while it also has wins over then-No. 3 Florida, then-No. 7 Louisville, then-No. 16 Washington, then-No. 20 Stanford and then-No. 25 North Carolina.
Freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley led Kentucky over the weekend winning both games she started, throwing 15 innings, allowing only four earned runs with 11 strikeouts and a 1.87 ERA. Nunley shutout the Tide Saturday, marking the first time a pitcher had shutout Alabama at home since 2010. Fellow freshman Nikki Sagermann went 3-for-5 in the series finale with a school-record tying six RBI. Sagermann blasted a three-run home run in the eighth inning, giving Kentucky the win, while fellow freshman Maisie Steed had a solo home run and robbed the potential game-tying grand slam in the eighth inning to seal the win.
Senior infielder Kara Dill leads Kentucky in hitting this season with a .363 (29-for-80) average, including 29 runs scored and a .414 on-base percentage. Junior pitcher/infielder Lauren Cumbess is second on the team in hitting at .341 (61-for-179) with 12 doubles, 11 home runs and 39 RBI, while sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner is hitting .327 (52-for-159) with 13 doubles, 10 homers and 41 RBI. Sagermann is fourth on the team in average at .311 (37-for-119) with six homers and three doubles, while freshman outfielder Sylver Samuel is hitting over .300 with a team-high 18 stolen bases.
Nunley paces UK in the circle with a 24-7 record and a 2.01 ERA, striking out 170 batters in 223.1 innings pitched. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., finished the regular season leading SEC freshmen pitchers in ERA, innings pitched, strikeouts, batters struck out looking, wins and appearances. The rookie hurler has made her mark in UK’s single-season record book, ranking third in ERA, second in win-loss percentage, first in wins, tied for fourth in saves and appearances and fifth in strikeouts. In SEC play, Nunley is 10-6 with a 1.97 ERA.
South Carolina (31-22) won nine of its last 12 games to conclude the regular season, including six of its last nine SEC games to earn the No. 10 seed in the tournament. In their final three SEC series, the Gamecocks won two of three games at Auburn, swept Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., and earned a win over SEC regular-season champion Florida on the final day of the regular season.
The Gamecocks are led offensively by senior utility player Samie Garcia, who is hitting .417 (75-for-180) and leads USC in runs scored (47), hits (75), doubles (16), triples (7), stolen bases (18) and on-base percentage (.475). Junior outfielder Chelsea Hawkins is hitting over .300 and leads the team in home runs with seven, while sophomore outfielder Kristen Struett paces the team with 40 RBI, adding 11 doubles and three RBI. Junior infielder Dana Hathorn is hitting .342 (54-for-158) with four homers and 29 RBI.
In the circle, sophomore pitcher Julie Sarratt paces the team with a 10-7 record and a 3.11 ERA, striking out 69 batters in 110.1 innings pitched. Freshman pitcher Katie Marks is second on the team with an 8-7 record and 3.43 ERA in 89.2 innings while senior pitcher Audrey Broyles is 9-8 with a 3.61 ERA. Sophomore pitcher Katelynn Howser is 3-0 with a 3.86 ERA in 29 innings pitched, while sophomore pitcher Lakyn Shull is 1-0 with a 3.94 ERA in 10.2 innings pitched.
Kentucky and South Carolina met in the regular season at Carolina Softball Stadium with the Wildcats sweeping the Gamecocks. The series sweep marked the fifth consecutive year that UK had claimed the series over South Carolina dating back to the 2009 season. South Carolina leads the all-time series against Kentucky 35-21, including a 15-10 mark in games played in Lexington, Ky. The Wildcats are 12-6 against the Gamecocks under Lawson, including a 5-4 mark during that time in Lexington. UK has played 56 games against USC all-time, marking the second-longest series in program history. The longest series is 57 all-time games against Georgia.
For the latest on UK softball, follow "@UKSoftball" on Twitter or like Kentucky Softball on Facebook.
2013 SEC Softball Tournament Schedule (All times Eastern)
Game 1 - Wednesday, May 8 – No. 8 Alabama vs. No. 9 Texas A&M – 4 p.m. – ESPNU
Game 2 - Wednesday, May 8 – No. 7 Kentucky vs. No. 10 South Carolina – 6:30 p.m. – ESPNU
Game 3 - Thursday, May 9 – No. 1 Florida vs. Game 1 winner – 11 a.m. – ESPNU
Game 4 - Thursday, May 9 – No. 4 LSU vs. No. 5 Georgia – 1:30 a.m. – ESPNU
Game 5 - Thursday, May 9 – No. 3 Missouri vs. No. 6 Arkansas – 4 p.m. – ESPNU
Game 6 - Thursday, May 9 – No. 2 Tennessee vs. Game 2 winner – 7:30 p.m. – ESPN
Game 7 - Friday, May 10 - Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner – 3 p.m. – ESPNU
Game 8 - Friday, May 10 - Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner – 5:30 p.m. – ESPNU
Game 9 - Saturday, May 11 - Championship Game – 8 p.m. – ESPN