Pitcher Meagan Prince was perfect through 6 1/3 innings to lead Kentucky past Indiana 3-1 in the Wildcats softball home opener Wednesday night.
Prince struck out nine and gave up two hits and a run before she was pulled after 6 2/3 innings and senior Kelsey Nunley came in to get the last out.
Wednesday was Prince’s first chance to show a home crowd her dramatic improvement from last season.
“She is night and day different from last year,” Coach Rachel Lawson said. “She has awesome command on all of her pitches, and she can throw on both sides of the plate now. Everything is so crisp. I really believe she has emerged as a dominant pitcher.”
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The Wildcats bats got off to a slow start, but a solo home run by first basemen Maisie Steed put Kentucky on the board first in the fifth inning.
“I just wanted to get on base and make something for the team,” Steed said . “Meagan was doing such a good job we had to get something started for her.”
Later in the fifth, Nikki Sagermann singled to left field and advanced to second on a wild pitch by Indiana freshman Tara Trainer. Abbey Cheek worked a walk to put two runners on with one out. Hannah Huffman pinch ran for Sagermann and come around to score on a throwing error by the Indiana right fielder Shannon Cawley who tried to keep Huffman from advancing to third on a fly out by Brooklin Hinz. A single by Katie Reed single put runners at first and third with two out and set up a daring double steal that scored Cheek and put the Cats up 3-1.
Indiana’s Kassie Farmer broke up Prince’s perfect game in the seventh with a hard hit infield single to shortstop Christian Stokes. Pinch-runner Alyssa Rosati came around to score on a two-out single by Kelsey Dotson, giving the Hoosiers their only run of the game. Nunley got a strikeout for the final out and her first save of the season.
Kentucky improved to 19-3, which is the Cats best start in program history.
“It’s really cool because they didn’t disappoint,” Lawson said. “You always think you know what is going on before the games start, but its always different when you transition onto the field. Their ability to take what they worked on all fall and all winter and us to show that dominance really says a lot about their work ethic.”
New challenges await as Kentucky opens up SEC play on the road against South Carolina this weekend.
“We want to keep going,” Prince said. “Its just a start. We want to finish, so we need to make sure we keep this momentum going.”
Kentucky at South Carolina
Friday, 6 p.m.