UK softball: Clutch hits back strong pitching

mmaloney@herald-leader.comApril 26, 2014 

A day after giving up five unearned runs in the first two innings, Kentucky reversed field and did just about everything right Saturday.

The ninth-ranked Wildcats got big hits in clutch situations and rode the eight-hit pitching of Lauren Cumbess and Meagan Prince to a 5-2 victory over No. 8 Tennessee.

The John Cropp Stadium crowd of 1,858 is the second-largest in school history.

A rubber game in the three-game Southeastern Conference series is set for Sunday at 2 p.m.

UK (40-10, 13-7 SEC) scored its five runs on five well-timed hits.

Emily Gaines had the first, a single, which Cumbess followed with a home run over the left-field fence for a quick 2-0 lead in the second inning.

"I don't know if it was the pitch before that or maybe two pitches before that, but I nailed one into my shin. So I was a little angry after that, so maybe that's what made it happen," Cumbess said. "But it definitely felt good to hit one over the fence."

Cumbess worked the first four innings in the pitching circle, yielding third-inning RBI hits to Madison Shipman and Megan Geer.

Those were all the runs, though, for Tennessee (38-9, 13-7).

Prince, a freshman, came on to toss three innings of three-hit shutout ball.

"I thought Lauren was great, and then when Meagan came in she was throwing harder," Coach Rachel Lawson said. "That was probably one of her best performances of the year. I didn't really even have to call any pitches. I just sat back and let her throw, and she just did an awesome job today.

"We felt like the change in speed was needed because they were coming up the third time through the order (against Cumbess). ... That was actually planned from the get-go."

UK went ahead to stay with two runs in the fifth inning.

Griffin Joiner reached on an error, then moved to second as Sylver Samuel beat out a bunt single.

Nikki Sagermann, notching the game-winning RBI for the fourth time in seven games, brought Joiner home with a single to center.

"Honestly, I've just been lucky to come up when there's runners in scoring position, and I'm just trying to get them in," Sagermann said.

She was thrown out trying to take second on the play, but the throw to second enabled Samuel to sneak in with a second run on the play.

"We had timely hitting. It was nice," Lawson said. "Every time Sylver gets on — it's kind of like we go as Sylver goes. She was a difference maker."

The Cats added a run in the sixth.

Cumbess led off with a double, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Emily Jolly's sacrifice fly.

That was more than enough cushion for Prince (8-3).

"They're a great offensive team. Luckily, Coach Lawson, she knew what she was doing. ... She called the right game, and I threw what I was supposed to, and it ended up working."

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

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