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UK softball team to honor seniors in final regular-season series; baseball squad hosts USC


After a week off for final exams and coming off Southeastern Conference bye week, the No. 12 Kentucky softball team will return to action this weekend as it hosts the Mississippi State Bulldogs for the final regular-season series of the year at John Cropp Stadium, beginning Friday night at 6 p.m.

Saturday afternoon will serve as Kentucky’s annual Senior Day, with festivities beginning at 11:45 a.m. The starting time has been changed from 3 p.m. to noon to accommodate SEC Network Plus.

 Senior pitcher Kelsey Nunley will be one of six seniors honored Saturday  (Photo by UK Athletics)

Senior pitcher Kelsey Nunley will be one of six seniors honored Saturday (Photo by UK Athletics)

Sylver Samuel, Maisie Steed, Christian Stokes, Kelsey Nunley, Ansley Smith and Nikki Sagermann are the six seniors who will be honored and will sign autographs following the game.

Kentucky enters this weekend with a 40-11 overall record, and a 14-7 mark in SEC play with three games remaining. The Wildcats currently sit in a tie for fourth with the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC standings, which could be critical when looking ahead to next week’s SEC Tournament in Starkville, Miss. The top four finishers in the SEC league standings will receive a bye into the quarterfinals in next week’s tournament. Alabama holds the tiebreaker over UK due to its 2-1 series win two weeks ago over the Wildcats. Tennessee is 14-6 with one less game played that will not be made up. The Lady Vols play Ole Miss this weekend, with Alabama hosting the Georgia Bulldogs.

Mississippi State enters the weekend with an RPI in the top 35, but a 25-27 overall record and a 3-18 mark in the SEC. MSU has played one of the toughest schedules in the league this season, and has taken a game off of No. 4 Auburn in 14 innings, as well as pushing the top-ranked Florida Gators to 10 innings in that series finale.

MSU had one of the best pre-conference seasons in the league, entering league play 18-6 overall with quality wins over South Alabama, Chattanooga, Central Arkansas, Penn State and California Santa Barbara. Alexis Silkwood leads the way in the circle with a 3.04 ERA in a team-leading 106.0 innings thrown. Silkwood is one of six different pitchers who have thrown more than 10 innings this season for Vann Studeman’s squad, including Holly Ward (3.01 ERA) and Regan Green (1.88 ERA), who have over 25 appearances in the circle for the Bulldogs.

At the plate for MSU, Kayla Winkfield leads the way with a .323 batting average, the only MSU player hitting above .300 on the season. Winkfield has one homer and 20 RBI on the year coupled with six doubles and six triples.

The series opener won’t be televised, will not have any television or online coverage, but Saturday and Sunday’s games will be shown on SEC Network Plus and the WatchESPN app with Dave Baker and Brian Milam on the call. Sunday’s game will be a part of the SEC Network’s “Bases Loaded” coverage, where they will go around the country to all six SEC series. The WatchESPN app will have the game in its entirety.

Baseball team opens series with South Carolina

The University of Kentucky baseball team is set to host its penultimate home series of the season this weekend, as the Wildcats play host to top-10 South Carolina for a three-game set. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. on Friday andSaturday. Sunday’s game will begin at 3 p.m. All three games will be played at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Kentucky (27-18, 11-10 Southeastern Conference) and South Carolina (35-9, 15-5 SEC) have met 76 times. South Carolina holds a 14-game edge in the all-time series, with UK holding a 31-45 record against the Gamecocks.

Kentucky’s right-handed trio of junior Zach Brown and senior classmates Dustin Beggs and Kyle Cody will take the mound for the Wildcats against USC.

Brown, Friday’s probable starter, enters the game with a 2-8 record and a 5.45 ERA. He has pitched 66 innings this season, allowing 75 hits and 44 runs while striking out 49 batters. Last time Brown took the mound, he gave up 12 hits and five runs while striking out three batters in six innings against Auburn.

Beggs is slated to start Saturday, boasting a 2.79 ERA – the best among UK starting pitchers – and a 7-1 record entering the game. The senior has pitched 77.1 innings this season, allowing 55 hits and 24 earned runs while adding a team-best 63 strikeouts. Beggs let up seven hits and six runs while striking out four batters last weekend in seven innings against Auburn.

Cody (5-2, 4.06 ERA) has worked 62 innings this season, giving up 55 hits and 28 earned runs with 55 strikeouts during 2016. The senior earned his fifth win of the season last Sunday, surrendering seven hits and three runs while striking out six batters over the course of 7.1 innings.

Kentucky’s offense is paced by 2015 SEC All-Freshman selection first baseman Evan White. The sophomore from Gahanna, Ohio leads the team with a .358 batting average and 38 runs scored. Closely behind is junior outfielder Zach Reks who is batting .330. Junior designated hitter Gunnar McNeill leads the team with 35 RBIs while JaVon Shelby’s 10 home runs pace the team and the SEC.

White and Shelby have been red-hot as of late offensively, both hitting .400-plus over the past five games. White has earned 11 hits in the last 23 at bats including a triple and a homer with four RBI. Shelby has earned eight hits in his last 19 trips to the plate, with three doubles and three homers for a team-best nine RBI during the span.

South Carolina (35-9, 15-5 SEC) enters the weekend fresh off of a 4-1 win earlier in the week over in-state opponent USC Upstate. The Gamecocks are expected to start a trio of right-handed underclassmen in sophomore Clarke Schmidt (8-1, 1.99 ERA), freshman Braden Webb (9-2, 3.05 ERA) and first-year classmate Adam Hill (6-0, 2.57 ERA). Outfielder Gene Cone has a team-best .379 batting average for the Gamecocks while first baseman Alex Destino and catcher John Jones add offensive firepower with 40 and 39 RBI this season, respectively.

The series will be broadcast on the UK Sports Radio Network. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the games live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com. Neil Price will be on the call. The first two games with Gamecocks will be broadcast on SEC Network Plus, accessible through the Watch ESPN app on tablets and mobile devices. Sunday’s showdown is set for national broadcast on ESPNU. The SEC Network Plus games will be covered by Dick Gabriel and Doug Flynn. Clay Matvick and Mike Rooney will provide Sunday afternoon’s coverage.

From UK Athletics


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