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Cumbess’ Two RBIs Back Nunley’s Pitching Effort as Kentucky Defeats Louisiana-Lafayette at the WCWS, 4-1
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – On Thursday evening at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla., a pair of RBIs from first baseman Lauren Cumbess proved plenty to back a one-hit, complete-game effort by pitcher Kelsey Nunley as Kentucky prevailed over Louisiana-Lafayette in UK’s first-ever Women’s College World Series match-up, 4-1.
Nunley was terrific from the circle for the ‘Cats, improving to 30-9 overall after allowing one earned run on a single hit with five walks and seven K’s over seven frames. Her opposite for the Ragin’ Cajuns, Christina Hamilton, dropped to 29-3 for the year after permitting two earned runs on five hits with three free passes and two strikeouts in a complete-game effort.
Cumbess proved the star at the dish for Kentucky, going 3-for-3 with a double, a HR and a pair of RBIs, while second baseman Krystal Smith was 1-for-3 with a two-bagger. Catcher Lexie Elkins (1-for-2) registered ULL’s lone hit of the match-up on a long solo HR in the bottom of the first.
"I didn't know what to expect," Kentucky head coach Rachel Lawson said. "We came out and fought from the first inning. Obviously our offense did a great job, and I thought Nunley was great on the mound and our defense made all the plays they needed to make. Good day for Kentucky softball."
Kentucky wasted no time moving in front on the scoreboard against ULL and Hamilton as the Wildcats nabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning with the benefit of a little help from the ‘Ragin Cajuns. With two retired in the frame, third baseman Nikki Sagermann reached on a fielding miscue by the ULL shortstop. That error opened the door for the UK offense to strike as catcher Griffin Joiner followed with a walk. Cumbess followed by blasting an RBI double to center as Sagermann raced home with an important unearned run.
The UK advantage lasted only a few minutes as Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elkins tied things up by crushing a two-out solo HR to left that landed halfway up the outfield bleachers.
Smith quickly ignited another Kentucky scoring threat by opening the top of the second with a long double off the wall in left. A perfect sacrifice bunt advanced the runner to third, allowing Smith the chance to score easily on a sacrifice fly to left from designated player Ginny Carroll and make it 2-1.
The advantage expanded to a pair of tallies in the top of the fourth via another UK long ball as Cumbess blasted a Hamilton offering over the fence in left.
With Nunley having limited the Ragin’ Cajuns to just one run on a single hit over four complete frames, the ‘Cats tried to add more in the top of the fifth. A throwing error to first on a bouncer from Carroll placed a runner in scoring position opening the frame. Following a sac bunt that moved the runner within 60 feet of pay dirt, center fielder Sylver Samuel hit a hard chopper to short. Pinch runner Dari Richardson took off for the plate on contact and was gunned down on a strong throw by ULL shortstop Corin Voinche. A pop-up by Sagermann ended the once-promising inning as UK failed to add to its advantage.
Louisiana-Lafayette finally managed to get a runner in scoring position with two retired in the bottom of the fifth after a leadoff walk. A promising liner off the bat of second baseman Natalie Fernandez was corralled, however, on a leap by UK shortstop Christian Stokes.
Another Ragin’ Cajun miscue, this time on a throw to first, cost ULL another tally during the top of the sixth. Joiner got things started with a leadoff single back through the middle of the infield. Cumbess dropped a perfect bunt out in front of the plate that was thrown wide of first, allowing pinch runner Maisie Steed the opportunity to plate the Blue & White’s fourth run of the evening.
In desperate need of a rally, Elkins tried to get something going in the bottom half of the sixth by drawing a one-out walk. Nunley uncorked a wild pitch, allowing pinch runner Meagan Thomas the chance to advance into scoring position. Third baseman Samantha Walsh hit a ball solidly but missed it, lifting a towering fly ball to shallow center for the second retirement. From there, Nunley managed to coerce a harmless grounder to second by right fielder Shellie Landry as ULL left its fourth overall runner stranded.
Facing one final chance to extend things in the bottom of the seventh after UK left two in scoring position in the top half, left fielder Shelbi Redfearn granted the Ragin’ Cajuns some life with a leadoff free pass. A strikeout of first baseman Kelsey Vincent and a fly out to right by designated player Sara Corbello got Nunley within a single out of a one-hitter. The UK hurler finished off the victory in style by striking out Voinche swinging.