The No. 20/22 University of Kentucky softball team will continue its 20-game road trip to start the 2013 season on Saturday when it begins play in the Coke Zero Spartan Classic in Spartanburg, S.C. The tournament is being hosted by USC Upstate at Cyrill Stadium. Live stats from all three games will be available on UKathletics.com.
Kentucky (8-3) will start three games in less than 24 hours at the event, beginning Saturday night with a doubleheader against Georgetown at 5 p.m. ET and Howard at 7 p.m. ET. The Wildcats will then face USC Upstate in the final game of the tournament on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
UK was scheduled to play four games over three days at the event before the threat on rain and cold temperatures forced the cancellation of all Friday games. Due to the cancellation, the Wildcats had to scratch its game with Presbyterian. No makeup date has been announced. An updated tournament schedule is posted below.
Head coach Rachel Lawson and Co. are coming off a 10-day, 11-game west coast swing against some of the best teams in the nation. The Wildcats have three wins over ranked foes already this season after defeating then-No. 3 Cal, then-No. 16 Washington and then-No. 20 Stanford in the first two weekends of the season. UK has also taken down two teams in Oregon State and San Diego State that are receiving votes in one of the two major collegiate softball polls. The Wildcats three losses are to No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 3 Arizona State and unranked Portland State.
The Wildcats begin play Saturday having won five of their last six games. Junior pitcher/infielder Lauren Cumbess sits atop the stat page with a team-high .429 (15-for-35) batting average, leading the team in hits (15), home runs (2) and RBI (10). Seniors Alice O'Brien and Kara Dill are also off to strong starts offensively with O'Brien posting a .308 (8-for-26) mark with seven RBI and a team-high three doubles, while Dill is hitting .342 (13-for-38) with a double.
Cumbess also leads the team in the circle with a team-low 2.04 ERA, striking out 22 in 24.0 innings pitched. True freshman hurler Kelsey Nunley paces the team with 36.1 innings pitched, striking out 32 with a 2.50 ERA. Nunley, who is 6-0 overall, has been impressive in her four starts, going 25 innings, allowing only three runs - two earned - while striking out 27 and walking seven.
Several other freshmen have played well to start their collegiate careers, including infielder Nikki Sagermann, who is second on the team in batting average at .364 (8-for-22) with a double and three RBI. Freshman outfielder and speedster Sylver Samuel leads the team in stolen bases with three, while true freshman infielder Christian Stokes has played in every game with four RBI.
Georgetown enters the tournament with a 1-7 record and is coming off a 0-3 weekend in the East Carolina Tournament. The Hoyas' lone win this season was a 2-0 posting over Florida International. Shikara Lowe leads the team in batting average with a .385 (5-for-13) mark, including an RBI, while Hannah Slovacek leads the team with two RBI. Megan Hyson is 1-3 in the circle with a 3.54 ERA in a team-high 28.0 innings. Lauren O'Leary has thrown 19 innings this season for the Hoyas with a 7.58 ERA and a 0-4 record.
Howard begins the tournament with a 3-3 record, posting a win over Benedict and two wins over Winston-Salem State. The Bison went 11-34 last season, including 7-8 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Howard returns Dominique Lawrence from last season, who paced the team in ERA at 7.98 and finished second in batting average at .321.
USC Upstate, who is playing host to the tournament, enters the weekend undefeated with an 8-0 record having played all games at home. The Spartans have started well due to impressive pitching performances throwing a shutout in five of their eight games. Pitcher Hannah Alexander leads the team in ERA with a 0.32 mark and a 4-0 record. Alexander has pitched 22 innings this season allowing only one earned run with 29 strikeouts. Jamie Ujvari is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA, while Anna Miller is 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA. Offensively, Maddison Kieffer leads the way with a .611 (11-for-18) average, including five doubles and nine RBI.
UK has never faced Georgetown, Howard or USC Upstate in softball.
After the event, Kentucky will return home to Lexington for a few days of practice before ending its season-opening road trip with the Under Armour Invitational in Tampa, Fla., from March 1-3. The Wildcats then will return to Lexington for its home opener on March 6 against Marshall at 5 p.m. ET.
Kentucky will play host to the SEC Tournament this season for the first time in school history. The event, which is considered one of the most prestigious softball tournaments in the nation, will be May 8-11 in Lexington. The championship game will be featured on ESPN2, while all other games will be shown on ESPNU. Ticket information for the tournament can be found here.
For the latest on UK softball, follow "@UKSoftball" on Twitter or like Kentucky Softball on Facebook.
Coke Zero Spartan Classic
Saturday, February 23
1:00 p.m. - Presbyterian vs. Georgetown
3:00 p.m. - Howard at Upstate
5:00 p.m. - Georgetown vs. Kentucky
7:00 p.m. - Howard vs. Kentucky
Sunday, February 24
9:00 a.m. - Georgetown vs. Howard
11:00 a.m. - Georgetown at Upstate
1:00 p.m. - Howard vs. Presbyterian
3:00 p.m. - Kentucky at Upstate