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Kentucky set to host in-state rivals Louisville, Western in midweek softball showdowns

Kentucky continues its eight-game homestand with games this week against in-state rivals Louisville and Western Kentucky (UK Athletics Photo)

Kentucky continues its eight-game homestand with games this week against in-state rivals Louisville and Western Kentucky (UK Athletics Photo)


Continuing an eight-game home stretch to wrap up its 2015 home schedule, the No. 14 University of Kentucky softball team hosts in-state rivals Louisville and Western Kentucky at John Cropp Stadium on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, for midweek non-conference games.

The midweek battles will start with a 6 p.m. showdown against Louisville on Tuesday, before a 6 p.m. first pitch with WKU, which is receiving votes in both national rankings, Wednesday.

Both games will be available on the SEC Network+ through WatchESPN with Dave “Buzz” Baker handling the play-by-play for both games, while former UK outfielder Ginny Carroll will provide commentary for the Louisville game and former Michigan assistant coach, Purdue head coach and Louisville associate head coach Carol Bruggeman on the call for the WKU game.

Tuesday’s game is “Paint the Crowd Blue” as fans are encouraged to arrive at the stadium early, wearing UK blue. The first 500 UK fans in attendance will receive a free Kentucky softball t-shirt.

Wednesday’s game is the annual Staff Appreciation Day as UK Athletics staff and their families receive free admission and free food with the annual UK Staff Home Run Derby to follow the game.

Tickets for both games are available and are $5 for adults, $2 for seniors (ages 65 or older) and youth (ages 6-18), while children ages five and under will be admitted free of charge. Tickets are available by calling the UK Ticket Office at 1-800-928-2287, in person at the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office or online at www.ukathletics.com/tickets.

Tickets will be sold — cash only — on game days at the ticket booths outside John Cropp Stadium with gates opening one hour prior to first pitch.

Students that present a valid UK ID will receive free admission to both games. A pregame block party will be held for students Tuesday and begin one hour before the game, featuring free food, giveaways, music, door prizes and more. A shuttle bus will run for students at the Wildcat Alumni Plaza (across from Memorial Coliseum) and The 90 at South Campus before and after the game.

Due to one of the most challenging schedules in the country as the only Southeastern Conference team to play three straight series against top-five ranked conference opponents, UK has lost seven of its last 10 games with all seven losses coming against teams either ranked or receiving votes in the national listings. UK dropped a best-of-three series last weekend to South Carolina at home.

Overall this season, UK has been led offensively by junior shortstop Christian Stokes, who is hitting .342 with nine doubles, one triple, seven homers and 24 RBI, while junior catcher Griffin Joiner is hitting .322 with six doubles, a team-best eight homers and 34 RBI. Junior outfielder Sylver Samuel is hitting .298 with a team-best 19 stolen bases, while fellow juniors Maisie Steed and Nikki Sagermann each have six home runs.

In the circle, sophomore pitcher Meagan Prince has a 12-5 record with a 3.03 ERA in 87.2 innings pitched, while Nunley is 11-11 with a 2.02 ERA in 142.1 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting .221 against Nunley, who leads UK with 126 strikeouts, while Prince has 73 strikeouts and is limiting opponents to a .255 average. Freshman pitcher Erin Rethlake is 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA in 45.1 innings pitched with 32 strikeouts. Sophomore Shannon Smith has tossed 23 innings with a 3.04 ERA in 31 strikeouts.

Louisville enters the game with a 24-14 record, including a 12-5 mark at home, 7-5 record in true road games and 5-4 listing in neutral-site games. The Cardinals are 12-5 in Atlantic Coast Conference play. Kentucky and Louisville met on April 1 in Louisville with the Wildcats earning a 4-0 victory. The loss for UofL snapped a six-game winning streak and the Cardinals have lost five of seven games played since then.

Louisville leads the all-time series between the two schools in softball 18-17, including an 11-5 record over the Wildcats during head coach Rachel Lawson’s tenure. The Wildcats have won four straight games in the series, which is the longest streak in the series for UK. Last season, UK swept the two-game, home-and-home series with the Cardinals for the first time since 2003.

WKU enters Wednesday’s game receiving votes in both national listings with a 27-8 record, including a 12-3 mark in Conference USA. The Hilltoppers are 7-1 at home this season, 13-5 in true road games and 7-2 in neutral-site games.

WKU has won 12 of its last 14 games entering the midweek battle. Back in early March, the Hilltoppers took down No. 14 Tennessee in Knoxville. WKU is hitting .295 at a team with 183 runs scored, 21 home runs and 32 stolen bases. Pitching has been the backbone of the Hilltoppers, who have a 1.95 team ERA with 337 strikeouts.

Kentucky leads the all-time series against WKU, 13-7, including a 8-4 mark in games played in Lexington. Lawson, who was the head coach at WKU from 2005-07, is 6-0 in her eight-year tenure at Kentucky against the Hilltoppers. Kentucky and WKU played a wild game last season in Bowling Green, with UK winning 11-8.

The Wildcats will open a three-game SEC series at home against Georgia on Friday. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.

From UK Athletics

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