Kentucky rallies for 4-2 softball win over No. 3 Florida

mmaloney@herald-leader.comApril 13, 2013 

  • Sunday

    Florida at Kentucky

    When: Noon

On a day when it dedicated a new stadium, on national TV, against the No. 3 team in the nation, all the Kentucky softball team needed to cap a super Saturday was to win. See a photo gallery from the game.

The Wildcats did, rallying for a 4-2 victory over Florida.

A crowd of 1,206 was on hand in John Cropp Stadium.

Krystal Smith had two of UK's nine hits and drove in a career-high three runs to back the three-hit pitching of Kelsey Nunley. Smith's two-run single in the sixth snapped a 2-2 tie.

"I was just looking for something that I could get my barrel on, that I can hit hard to the outfield to score (Emily) Jolly," Smith said. "I was more, in particular, looking for a sac fly, but I'll take the line drive.

Nunley (20-4), who struck out eight and walked four, set a single-season UK record for wins. She had been tied with Keary Camunas (2000) and Chanda Bell (2009).

"The whole thing was just an incredible day for us," said Rachel Lawson, who was honored before the game for becoming UK's all-time winningest coach three days earlier.

No. 18 UK (31-11, 9-5 Southeastern Conference) beat a top-five team for the 13th time in Lawson's six years.

Florida (40-5, 13-4) scored twice with the first two batters of the game — a single by Kelsey Stewart and a home run to Kirsti Merritt. After that, the Gators' only hit was a fifth-inning bunt single by Stewart.

"I just got some confidence back," said Nunley, a freshman right-hander from Soddy-Daisy, Tenn. "My teammates told me, 'It's OK; they average at least two home runs a game, so it's going to happen. But we've just got to play behind you and work hard. You can do it.'"

Said Lawson: "Our team, most of them haven't been on national TV before so I think they were pretty amped up. I think once they settled down and played their game, they showed that they did a good job."

UK halved the deficit in the bottom of the inning. Christian Stokes walked and Griffin Joiner, who had a two-hit day, drove her in with double.

The Wildcats tied with a run in the fourth.

Ginny Carroll led off with a double, took third on a groundout and scored on Smith's sacrifice fly to right.

Nikki Sagermann started UK's sixth inning with a single to left, and Carroll walked.

With Jolly in to run for Sagermann, the runners advanced to second and third on a double steal.

Then, with one out, Smith ripped a two-run shot down the left-field line.

Nunley did the rest in the seventh. After yielding a two-out walk, she fanned counterpart Lauren Haeger (11-2).

"I can't say enough about Nunley," Lawson said. "Today was a great performance. To start the game with a hit and a home run, and then to turn around and be able to hold one of the best-hitting teams in the country down, it really says a lot about her toughness."

Cropp honored

UK's $9.5 million facility is named after associate athletics director John Cropp, who is in his 22nd year at UK and 38th overall in intercollegiate athletics. He has served as softball administrator since UK began playing in 1997, and will retire in June.

"I'm going to stop punching the clock, but this is where my heart and soul is. I'm a Wildcat through and through," he said. "These teams and these girls are my family, so I'll be around as long as the good Lord lets me."

He had no idea before Saturday's game that the softball complex would be named for him.

"I was totally surprised," he said. "I don't deserve it, but I sure appreciate it."

Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart called Cropp "an unbelievable ambassador for this university for over 20 years."


Sunday

Florida at Kentucky

When: Noon

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @markmaloneyhl. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com

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