LEXINGTON, Ky. – The best player in Kentucky softball history’s career just got harder to top, as senior pitcher Kelsey Nunley was named the Southeastern Conference’s 2016 Pitcher of the Year on Tuesday morning, as she becomes the first Kentucky softball in program history to earn that honor.
Nunley just capped off the best regular season pitching performance in program history on Sunday with her seventh complete-game shutout of the year as she helped Kentucky clinch second place outright in the SEC for the first time in program history. Nunley set a new regular-season ERA record, posting a 1.26 ERA in her 31 appearances, which was more than five tenths of a run better than anyone had ever recorded in one season in UK history.
The Soddy Daisy, Tenn., native went 20-5 this season in the circle with 21 games started and 12 complete games. She is currently the NCAA’s active innings-pitched leader with over 900 in her career, and this year threw 161.1 innings allowing just 29 earned runs in those innings and struck out an SEC-leading 185 batters.
Nunley was named the SEC Pitcher of the Week two times in back-to-back weeks this season – the only player in the league to win the Pitcher of the Week award in two consecutive weeks after her complete-game shutout on the road at No. 8 LSU to pick up the win over the Tigers, and then another shutout then next week in conference action.
She is a finalist for many national awards, including two of the most prestigious awards in the country – the Senior CLASS Award, and the ASA/USA Softball National Player of the Year. Nunley is the first-ever Kentucky player to be a finalist for the National Player of the Year Award.
Kentucky will open SEC Tournament play on Thursday afternoon in Starkville, Miss., at 2:30 p.m. ET live on the SEC Network. The second-seeded Wildcats will play either the seventh-seeded LSU Tigers, or 10th-seeded Texas A&M Aggies – who play on Wednesday afternoon in the opening round of the tournament hosted by Mississippi State this week.