Kentucky baseball just fired up last week, but the ladies have been at it for a bit longer. The softball team has been through two weekend series on the west coast that has included 11 games. And the Cats have fared pretty well in those contests, putting up an 8-3 record. Already Kentucky has knocked off three ranked teams and two others that were receiving votes.
The Wildcats opened the season with a nine-inning thriller that resulted in a one-run win over then-No. 3 California. Lauren Cumbess pitched a gem of a complete game; surrendering just six hits and two earned runs with six strikeouts, while leaving 11 Cal runners stranded. The Cats had their ace in the circle, and they faced the Golden Bears’ counterpart Joliene Henderson who is talked up quite a lot on the national scene. Kentucky struggled, but got to Henderson enough to take it to extra innings. There, Cumbess solidified her bid for the game’s most valuable player as she drove in the winning run in the top of the 9th, scoring Alice O’Brien from third base. The victory marked a significant milestone for Kentucky: knocking off a perennial power and starting the season on the right foot.
The Cats limped out of the gate a season ago, piling up losses to other nationally-ranked teams. That is not the case this year, and the team built off the momentum of a victory over No. 3 and turned it into a win over then-No. 16 Washington and then-No. 20 Stanford. The Cats also beat San Diego State and Oregon State, both of which are just outside the top-25 but receiving votes.
The Cats only losses this season have come to No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 3 Arizona State, and Portland State.
Kentucky has moved up in the rankings to No. 20 – the highest mark so far this season. But the Wildcats road does not get any easier from here. They are still scheduled to face seven teams that are ranked or receiving votes, which will consist of 16 games, including conference series’ against No. 2 Alabama, No. 5 Florida, No. 7 Missouri and No. 10 LSU.
After completing their west coast road trip to Tempe, Arizona and San Diego, Kentucky will travel back east to play in the Coke Zero Spartan Classic in Spartanburg, South Carolina this weekend. There the Cats will square off against Presbyterian, Georgetown, USC Upstate and Howard. If all goes according to plan, Kentucky should easily return home with four more victories.
Follow me on Twitter if you want to know more about UK softball and baseball @StuartHammerKSR.
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