No. 20 Kentucky earns shutout to open series against No. 7 Alabama
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Kentucky's freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley tossed her 18th complete game of the season, throwing seven scoreless innings and allowing four hits with five strikeouts, while fellow freshman Christian Stokes launched her fifth home run of the season to lift the 20th-ranked Wildcats to a 5-0 series-opening win against No. 7 Alabama on Saturday at Rhoads Stadium.
The win for Kentucky (36-16, 11-10 Southeastern Conference) was its third all-time against Alabama. UK’s last win against Alabama was in 2004, but this is the first time UK has ever defeated the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.
The win marks UK’s eighth against a ranked foe this season and 39th all-time under sixth-year head coach Rachel Lawson. The win is the 23rd for Lawson against a top-10 team during her tenure and the fourth this season.
Nunley did well in the circle for Kentucky, throwing all seven innings, allowing no runs on four hits with five strikeouts. She is now 23-7 on the season with a 1.89 ERA, striking out 164 in 215.1 innings pitched. The win for Nunley was her third consecutive against a highly ranked team after taking down No. 7 Louisville and No. 11 Missouri last week.
Offensively, Kentucky was paced by Stokes, who went 2-for-3 with two RBI and her fifth home run of the season. Fellow freshman Sylver Samuel also had a multi-hit game, going 2-for-2, while sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner went 1-for-4 with a two-RBI single. Senior Alice O’Brien had a single and scored a run in the game, while junior outfielder Ginny Carroll doubled.
Kentucky scored first in the game, getting three runs on two hits in the top of the second inning. O’Brien started the rally with a bloop single to left field before freshman Nikki Sagermann laid down a bunt that the Alabama third baseman fielded and threw to second base too late to get the out. After a pop up for the first out, both runners advanced into scoring position on a passed ball before freshman Ansley Smith hit a sacrifice fly into centerfield to get UK on the board. The next pitch of the game was then hammered into left center field by Stokes for her fifth home run of the season, giving UK the 3-0 lead.
The Wildcats added two more runs in the fifth inning. After a leadoff walk to Smith to start the frame, Stokes singled to right center field, putting runners on the corners for Samuel, who bunted Stokes to second base. Freshman Maisie Steed then walked to load the bases for Joiner, who singled into left-centerfield to score two and give Kentucky a 5-0 lead.
Alabama leads the all-time series against Kentucky 38-3, including an 18-1 record at home. UK’s first win against the Tide came in game one of a doubleheader in 2004. Alabama leads the series 2-19 in Lexington and 1-0 at neutral sites.
Kentucky will play host to the SEC tournament this season for the first time in school history.