No. 14 Kentucky Ends Historic Season to No. 13 Baylor
OKLAHOMA CITY – The University of Kentucky softball team scored the first seven runs of the game against No. 13 Baylor, but one of the nation’s best offensive teams came alive in the bottom of the sixth inning, scoring eight unanswered runs to post a 8-7 victory in eight innings and eliminate the Wildcats from the 2014 Women’s College World Series.
Kentucky (50-19) received a leadoff home run from senior outfielder Emily Gaines and a two-run home run from senior outfielder Ginny Carroll in the second inning to take a 3-0 lead in the game and scored two more runs in the fourth inning when senior infielder Krystal Smith scored on an error and senior outfielder Emily Jolly scored on a RBI fielder’s choice by Carroll. But after a Smith solo home run and sophomore Christian Stokes steal of home in the sixth inning took the lead to 7-0, Baylor’s bats came alive as the Bears scored eight runs on 10 hits with help from two Kentucky’s errors in the final three frames to win the game, 8-7.
A celebration for the team once it returns to Lexington is being planned and details on location and time will be announced once they have been confirmed.
Smith was the leader for UK at the plate, going 3-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI. The native of Bristow, Va., set career highs in hits and runs scored in the game with a single, double and homer run. The homer was her third of the season. Stokes was the only other Wildcat with a multi-hit night, going 2-for-4 with a double, while sophomore outfielder Sylver Samuel had a hit and junior catcher Griffin Joiner extended her program-best NCAA Tournament hit streak to seven games with a single. Gaines and Carroll each launched home runs in the game with Gaines hitting her seventh of the year to rightfield and Carroll her fourth to straightaway centerfield. Jolly also had a hit in the game and scored a run.
Sophomore pitcher Kelsey Nunley tossed the entire game for Kentucky and finishes the season with a 30-11 record, including a 6-4 mark in NCAA Tournament play. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., who entered the game allowing the fewest hits of any pitcher at the 2014 WCWS that had thrown five or more innings, allowed only four earned runs in the game with five strikeouts and three walks allowed. Nunley ends the season with a 1.88 ERA – second lowest in school history – striking out 219 in 282.1 innings pitched.
The loss concludes the winningest season in UK softball history with the Wildcats earning 50 wins and advancing to the Women’s College World Series for the first time in program history. Kentucky started the season with 12 consecutive wins, marking the longest winning streak in school history and the best to a season in program history.
The Wildcats ended the season by making the most successful run in program history in two of the world’s most prestigious tournaments. UK advanced to the championship game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament earlier this month before winning the NCAA Lexington Regional and NCAA Los Angeles Super Regional to claim its first ever appearance in the WCWS. All told, UK defeated a school-record 15 ranked teams in 2014, including six wins over top-10 teams.
This was Kentucky’s sixth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, becoming one of just 21 schools nationally to claim that honor. UK was the No. 14 national seed in the event and hosted a regional for the second straight year. The Wildcats are one of nine schools nationally to be a national seed each of the last two seasons.
UK, which peaked in the national rankings at No. 5/6 on Feb. 18, spent the entire season ranked in the top 25 of both national rankings, including eight weeks inside the top 10 of both polls. UK has been ranked in 30 consecutive polls dating back to last season, setting a new program record in that category.
The loss completes Rachel Lawson’s seventh season at the helm of the UK program, holding a 244-172 record. Lawson, who is the winningest head coach in program history, has 55 wins over ranked teams in her tenure at Kentucky. Prior to Lawson, UK had 11 years of softball and never made it to the NCAA Tournament, but under Lawson UK has advanced to six NCAA Tournaments, three NCAA Super Regionals and one WCWS. In Lawson’s time at UK, she has led 10 players to 25 All-SEC honors, including three Wildcats named all-conference in 2014.
A total of 9,323 fans packed ASA Hall of Fame Stadium on Saturday night for the session, marking the most ever for the WCWS fifth session.
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