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March 13, 2016


Box Score

COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 17/15 Kentucky (22-3, 3-0 SEC) shut down South Carolina (19-5, 0-3 SEC) on Sunday, taking a 4-0 win in Sunday’s series finale at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field.

The Wildcats took a first-inning lead for the third-straight game, as Abbey Cheek singled home Maisie Steed after she led off the game with a double. Kentucky added an insurance run in the fifth when Brooklin Hinz doubled in Cheek on a blooper to center after Cheek worked a two-out walk.

Twice, South Carolina’s defense made outstanding plays that kept Kentucky from scoring. In the second, freshman second baseman Alexis Mack picked a deflected infield hit and threw home to get a runner who started the play at second. The next frame, with a runner at first, freshman shortstop Kenzi Maguire scooped up a grounder up the middle, touched second, leapt over the sliding runner and threw to first to complete the double play. Maguire also got a runner in the sixth straying too far off second on a ball in the hole as part of her six assists.

Two more Wildcat runs came home in the seventh. With one down, a sinking liner to right was caught by Gamecock freshman Kennedy Clark. She fired home in time, but the throw, a little up the line, came out of the catcher’s glove, giving Jenny Schaper the sacrifice fly. Pinch runner Sarah Rainwater also came home to make it 4-0 in favor of Kentucky.

South Carolina’s offense managed three hits in the game, the first two of the infield variety to senior centerfielder Ansley Ard in the third and Mack in the fourth. Ard and senior left fielder Alaynie Page, who replaced Mack at first after a fielder’s choice, both had stolen bases, but they would be left at second each time.

The Gamecocks threatened in the seventh, Page starting the frame with a walk and Clark posting a single to left. The Wildcats brought in Meagan Prince, who induced two grounders to second, the last one turned into a double play by Megan Reed to close the contest.

UK starter Kelsey Nunley (9-1) pitched six-plus innings, walking one to go with three hits and striking out five for the win. Prince picked up her first save with the four-pitch outing. Gamecock junior Nickie Blue (7-4) took the loss, giving up one earned run on five hits in four innings.

Game Changer:
South Carolina didn’t figure out Nunley until their third time through the order, which came in the seventh inning.

Key Stat:
This game marks the first time South Carolina has been shut out in 2016.

• Ard was honored in pregame ceremonies, the first of four senior days for the Gamecocks this year.
• Four Wildcats had two hits each: Steed, Cheek, Hinz and Sylver Samuel. Steed and Hinz both had doubles.
• Blue hit a career-high four batters, including Wildcat catcher Racheal Metzger twice.

Tweet of the Game:

Head coach Beverly Smith

The bottom line is we didn’t play well enough to win. Kentucky’s pitchers did a nice job holding our hitters down, but we didn’t do what we needed to do to win the ballgame. Give Nunley a nod. She’s certainly an excellent pitcher, but we’re an aggressive offense. We just couldn’t get anything going together. Moving forward, we have to be grittier and tougher in our at-bats and put runs on the board.

It was a beautiful weekend; the crowds were great. I just wish we had given them more to cheer about.

Up Next:
The Gamecocks host Buffalo on Wednesday for a doubleheader. First pitch is slated for 4 p.m. for the opening game of the twinbill at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field.