UK SOFTBALL: Pitcher Kelsey Nunley Stars As Wildcats Blank Louisville
LOUISVILLE – UK junior pitcher Kelsey Nunley earned her 11th win of the season and 68th of her career, tying the program record for most career wins, while sophomore outfielder Breanne Ray blasted a three-run home run in the sixth inning, leading No. 13 Kentucky to a 4-0 victory over Louisville on Wednesday, April 1 at Ulmer Stadium.
Nunley, who ranks top 10 in program history in nearly every pitching category, was dominate in the win for the Wildcats, tossing seven scoreless innings. The junior hurler allowed just five hits with six strikeouts to move to 11-5 on the season with 1.65 ERA. For her career, Nunley is 68-27 with a 1.95 ERA, tying Chanda Bell’s school record for most career wins.
The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., had a stretch of retiring 14 of 16 batters faced in the game, keeping an impressive Louisville offense off balance the entire game. The shutout for Nunley marked only the third time this season Louisville has been held scoreless. The Cardinals entered the game with the eighth-highest batting average in the nation at .354, while ranking 24th nationally in scoring with 6.97 runs per game.
The game was scoreless through four innings before junior infielder Ansley Smith reached on a two-out infield single, scoring when fellow junior shortstop Christian Stokes (pictured below) ripped her sixth double of the season down the third-baseline to give UK a 1-0 lead.
The Wildcats rallied again in the sixth inning, getting a leadoff single by junior Maisie Steed, who moved to second when senior Griffin Joiner grounded out. After a walk to junior Nikki Sagermann, Ray crushed a 3-1 pitch well over the wall in centerfield for her fifth home run of the season to put the Wildcats up 4-0.
Stokes was the lone Wildcat with a multi-hit game, going 2-for-3 with an RBI to extend her hitting streak to a career-best eight games. The multi-hit game was Stokes’ ninth of the season, while she has a hit in 24 of UK’s 33 games. Freshman infielder Rachael Metzger went 1-for-1 in the game with a pinch-hit single, while Steed was 1-for-4 with a run scored. Freshman Brooklin Hinz was 1-for-3 in the game, while senior Kara Howard was 1-for-2 and Smith was 1-for-3 with a run scored.
The win for Kentucky (24-9) marked the fourth consecutive over Louisville (22-9), which is the longest winning streak in the series for the Wildcats. Kentucky started the winning stretch against the in-state rivals in 2013, taking down the Cardinals at John Cropp Stadium before sweeping the two-game series last season. The loss breaks a six-game winning streak for the Cardinals, who entered the midweek game having won 13 of its last 14 games and receiving votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25. UK has now won back-to-back road games at Louisville for the first time since 2003.
Louisville started sophomore Maryssa Becker in the circle, who went seven innings allowing four earned runs on eight hits with five strikeouts. The loss moves her to 8-3 on the season. Offensively, second baseman Brittany Sims went 3-for-3 with two doubles, while Becker and shortstop Whitney Arion each had infield singles.
During the game, Joiner was selected in the fourth round of the 2015 National Pro Fastpitch College Draft, going 20th overall to the Akron Racers. Joiner is the second player in program history to be drafted in the NPF Draft. UK All-American and current assistant coach Molly Johnson-Belcher went second overall in the draft in 2010.
Joiner’s name is all over the UK career record book, ranking 10th all-time in hits, fourth in RBI, ninth in batting average, sixth in doubles, third in walks, fourth in home runs, seventh inning slugging percentage and fifth in total bases. The native of Hopkinsville, Ky., is hitting .333 this season with five doubles, one triple, six homers and 30 RBI.
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UK Athletics Photo by William DeShazer