Kentucky (10-0) will begin the round-robin event with a Friday doubleheader, starting with Penn State (5-4) at 4 p.m. and host FAU (5-5) at 6 p.m. The Wildcats will play in the morning session Saturday, squaring off with Kent State (4-1) at 9 a.m. and No. 5/7 Michigan (7-2) at 11 a.m. UK’s play in the event concludes Sunday with a 9 a.m. battle vs. Penn State. All times are Eastern. Live stats from every game will be available on UKathletics.com.
Kentucky softball team looks to continue strong start in Boca Raton, Fla.
The Wildcats recently clinched the longest winning streak in school history by claiming the Texas Classic Championship last weekend in Austin, Texas. UK’s 10 consecutive wins have surpassed the previous school record for most consecutive wins, which was eight. Kentucky has won eight or more consecutive games six times in program history, with five of those six coming under head coach Rachel Lawson. UK posted two wins over then-No. 15 Texas and Louisiana Tech last weekend, while also defeating IPFW, which is currently receiving votes in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25.
Kentucky’s play in the Texas Classic helped it move up in the national rankings to No. 5 in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 and No. 6 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25. The rankings, which are the highest in school history, mark the 18th consecutive week UK has been ranked, which is a new program record.
UK’s great start to the season has come behind great hitting, pitching and fielding. Through 10 games (according to game-by-game records dating back to the 2005 season), UK’s .304 team batting average, 52 runs scored and 80 hits rank second most in school history, while its 14 home runs is the most through 10 games. The numbers are also impressive in the circle as UK has posted a 2.28 ERA behind four shutouts, which is the most UK has had through 10 games in program history. Defensively, the Wildcats have been superb with its 213 putouts, four errors and .987 fielding percentage ranking as program bests through 10 games.
Junior catcher Griffin Joiner is the leader of UK’s offense this season, posting a .556 (15-for-27) batting average with seven runs scored, two doubles, six homers and 14 RBI. Joiner’s batting average and home run total are the highest in school history through 10 games. The native of Hopkinsville, Ky., who had four four-pitch walks in last Sunday’s game vs. Texas, is currently riding a career-best, nine-game hitting streak. Sophomore outfielder Darington Richardson ranks second in batting average at .444 (4-for-9), while seniors Ginny Carroll and Emily Jolly rank third and fourth in batting average respectively, with Carroll adding two homers and Jolly blasting three roundtrippers.
In the circle, UK’s two rookie pitchers lead the way with Shannon Smith and Meagan Prince each holding 2-0 records. Smith holds a 0.00 ERA, striking out 14 batters in 10 innings pitched, while Prince has 12 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched with a 1.38 ERA. Sophomore pitcher Kelsey Nunley paces the team in wins at 4-0 with a 3.09 ERA, striking out 27 batters in 32 innings pitched, while senior Lauren Cumbess has a 2.81 ERA and 2-0 record with 11 strikeouts through 16 innings. Nunley and Cumbess have each thrown no-hitters this season.
Penn State enters the weekend with a 5-4 record after going 2-2 in last weekend’s Tiger Invitational. The Nittany Lions started the year by going 3-2 in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz., posting wins over Appalachian State, Bradley and Seattle, while dropping contests to Oregon State and highly ranked Arizona State. Penn State defeated George Washington in the Tiger Classic last weekend before falling to Northwestern and splitting a doubleheader on Monday vs. No. 23 LSU. PSU starts the year on a 23-game road trip and returns 15 letterwinners from last year’s team that finished 16-34.
The host of the weekend tournament, FAU, is hosting its third straight tournament to begin the year. The Owls are 5-5 on the season with wins over Louisville, Tulsa, Ohio State, LIU-Brooklyn and Maryland. FAU has fallen to Northern Illinois, St. John’s and Southeastern Conference foes Mississippi State (twice) and South Carolina. FAU brings back 13 letterwinners from last year’s squad that finished 5th in the Sun Belt.
The Golden Flashes enter the weekend with a 4-1 record after not playing last weekend. Kent State started the year in the Mizuno Invitational two weeks ago, where it won its first four games over George Washington (twice), Santa Clara and Long Beach State before falling in the tournament’s final game to Long Beach State, 9-7. Kent State returns 13 letterwinners from last season’s Mid-American Conference East Championship squad.
Preseason top-10 ranked Michigan enters the weekend with a 7-2 record with two wins over ranked foes in then-No. 25 South Florida and then-No. 20 Louisiana-Lafayette. Michigan’s two losses have come against ranked teams in highly ranked Florida and Louisiana-Lafayette. Michigan returns 16 letterwinners from last year’s squad that advanced to the Women’s College World Series. The Wolverines are currently ranked fifth in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 and seventh in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25.
UK holds a 15-7 record against teams it will play in the FAU Invitational this weekend. UK and Penn State have met twice with each team claiming wins, while UK leads the all-time series vs. FAU, 3-0, and Kent State, 9-2. Michigan is the only team that leads the all-time series vs. UK with a 4-2 record against the Wildcats.
The FAU Invitational will complete a 15-game road swing to start the year for Kentucky. After the event, UK will return to Lexington for its home opener on Friday, Feb. 28 against EKU as part of a three-day tournament at John Cropp Stadium. The event, which features four teams in UK, EKU, Butler and Pittsburgh, will begin with round-robin play on Friday and Saturday before seeded games Saturday and Sunday afternoon. The tournament begins a stretch for UK where it will play 19 of its next 27 games at John Cropp Stadium, including a 14-game home stand from March 21 to April 9.
Friday, Feb. 21
Saturday, Feb. 22
Sunday, Feb. 23
Information provided by UK Athletics
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