LOUISVILLE — Tough pitching plus clutch hitting added up to a Kentucky softball victory Wednesday.
The 13th-ranked Wildcats rode the arm of Kelsey Nunley and the bat of Breanne Ray to a 4-0 victory over archrival Louisville.
UK (24-9) beat U of L for the fourth time in a row, cutting the Cardinals' lead in the all-time series to 18-17.
"I thought Nunley did a great job on the mound," Wildcats Coach Rachel Lawson said. "Louisville's a great hitting team. And they're good top to bottom, so for her to be able to keep them off balance and keep and keep the off the board was big.
"We struggled a little bit early, but it was nice to see us finally break it open and be able to string our hits together. That's something we've been working on. So really proud of the team, the way they competed throughout the entire game and ended up with the win."
Nunley, a junior righty from Soddy Daisy, Tenn., fired a five-hitter, striking out six and walking two. Now 11-5 on the season, she is tied with Chanda Bell for most wins in program history, 68.
"Honestly, I didn't know," Nunley said of her school record. "But Chanda was a great pitcher, so it's awesome. It makes me proud to be able to do that because I know how good she was. And I just thank God for being able to do that."
Ray, a sophomore out of Marshall County, delivered the big blow in support of Nunley, a sixth-inning three-run homer to center field.
"I knew she (U of L pitcher Maryssa Becker) had been struggling, so I knew a good pitch had to come. So I was sitting on that," Ray said. "If it wasn't, I would have had to just take it, but I knew something good had to happen. ... Honestly, I didn't see. I just hit it. I have no clue what pitch it was."
UK opened the scoring with a two-out uprising in the fifth as an Ulmer Stadium crowd of 1,207 looked on.
No. 9 hitter Ansley Smith snapped an 0-for-31 funk by legging out an infield single.
Christian Stokes, extending her hitting streak to a career-best eight games, followed with a run-scoring double down the left-field line.
U of L (22-9), which had won its last six games and 13 of 14, stranded seven runners, including two each in the last two innings. The game ended on Kelsi Jones' fly ball to the warning track in left. A few more feet and the score would have been 4-3.
"We obviously had great defense," Lawson said. "(Third baseman) Nikki Sagermann came up with a couple of huge plays that really ended a big Louisville rally. And then Kara Howard, the last play of the game, was awesome. That ball was just a couple feet from going out. So the fact that she was able to stay focused and catch the ball at the fence — Howard's been doing those things her entire career. She's an outstanding outfielder."
Brittany Sims, a junior second baseman out of Lafayette High School, collected three of Louisville's five hits, including a pair of doubles.
"Really, to me, it doesn't matter if I got three hits or zero hits," said Sims, who took 15 stitches in her shin last week, a result of trying to break up a double play. "I'd like a win. But we're just looking ahead now, looking ahead to Virginia Tech this weekend."
"We certainly didn't hit the ball as well as I would have liked to have hit," Cardinals Coach Sandy Pearsall said. "The best part of my lineup was not really clicking today. They didn't kind of follow the game plan. ... We certainly had the opportunities. Once we got people on, we just didn't get that support from behind them. That's where we've got to be better."
The teams will meet again on April 21 at UK's John Cropp Stadium.