LEXINGTON, Ky. – Freshman Abbey Cheek hit home runs in both the first and second innings on Friday, driving in four of No. 12 Kentucky’s seven runs on the night as the Wildcats used a six-run sixth inning to power past the No. 18 Missouri Tigers to clinch a series-opening win at John Cropp Stadium.
UK sent 11 batters to the plate in the first inning on Friday night, scoring six runs on six hits after Missouri had scored on an RBI single in the top of the first. The first inning on Friday marked the most runs scored in the first inning for Kentucky since a six-run first against South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. on March 11. It was the ninth time this season UK has scored five runs or more in an inning, already eclipsing 2015’s total.
With Friday’s win, Kentucky improves to 36-8 on the season, sits 12-4 in the Southeastern Conference and remains in solo second place, one game out of first place Auburn and Florida. The No. 18 Tigers drop to 28-11 overall and 5-8 in SEC play.
Kelsey Nunley picked up her 16th win to improve her 2016 record to 16-4 overall on the year, tying Meagan Prince with 16 victories for the team lead in that category. Nunley pitched six full innings in the win, allowing three runs on three hits with four strikeouts and two walks. Erin Rethlake pitched one inning in relief for Kentucky.
Missouri’s Tori Finucane picked up the loss for the Tigers, allowing five runs on five hits in one third of an inning pitched. Finucane falls to 0-2 on the season.
Kentucky and Missouri will play on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET from John Cropp Stadium on the SEC Network+ in the second game of the weekend series. Mark Buerger and Carol Bruggeman will have the call. All fans will be admitted free on Saturday with a ticket from the Kentucky Football Blue/White Game taking place on Saturday at Noon ET inside Commonwealth Stadium.
Six. Kentucky scored six runs in the bottom of the first inning, marking the ninth time this season UK has scored five or more runs in a single inning. The five runs scored in the first was the first time since March 11 at South Carolina that UK has scored five or more runs in the first inning.
Leading 6-1 in the bottom of the second, the eventual game-winning run came by freshman slugger Abbey Cheek as she blasted one out to leftcenter field off the middle of the Daktronics videoboard to give Kentucky a 7-1 lead at the time. The Tigers would score five unanswered, but the seventh run scored by Cheek proved to be the game-winning run.
Brooklin Hinz and Jenny Schaper were the key players in the series-opening win, both hitting solo home runs in the bottom of the first. For Hinz, it was her sixth homer of the season, and the second for freshman Schaper.
Missouri took the lead in the top of the first when Emily Crane led off the game with a walk and got to third with two outs after two groundouts. With two outs and Crane on third, clean-up hitter Chloe Rathburn singled back up the middle to score Crane. MIZ 1, UK 0
Kentucky scored six runs in the bottom of the sixth. Sylver Samuel led off the inning with an infield single, which was followed by another infield single from freshman Katie Reed to put runners on the corners with no outs. Samuel scored on a defensive error trying to axe Reed down from stealing second and it went into center to score Samuel and tie the game at the time. After a Christian Stokes single put runners on first and second, clean-up hitter Abbey Cheek hit her first of two home runs to straight-away center to make it 4-1.
After a pitching change in the circle for Missouri, freshman Jenny Schaper hit her second home run of the season off of Danielle Baumgartner to left field to make it six runs on six hits for UK. UK 6, MIZ 1
Freshman Abbey Cheek clubbed a solo home run off the scoreboard in left to give UK a 7-1 lead. This turned out to be the game-winning run for the Wildcats. UK 7, MIZ 1
Missouri would get a sign of life in the top of the third, scoring two runs on two hits after the bases were loaded with no outs off of Nunley. After a popout to right and a 4-3 groundout, the Tigers executed a double-steal to score a run, coupled with an RBI single. UK 7, MIZ 3
The final three runs were scored off Rethlake in the fourth inning, as the Tigers had runners on second and third with two outs and senior Emily Crane at the plate. Crane hit a double off the top of the wall in left, driving in two, and coming around to score on a Kentucky throwing error. UK 7, MIZ 6
With the top of the order due up for Missouri in the top of the seventh, Nunley got a popout and two groundouts to end the game. FINAL – No. 12 Kentucky 7, No. 18 Missouri 6