University of Kentucky freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley threw seven strong innings, allowing only one hit and no earned runs, while junior infielder Krystal Smith went 2-for-3 at the plate with a home run and two RBI, as the No. 12 Kentucky softball team posted its school-record tying 40th win of the season and clinched its ticket to the NCAA Lexington Regional Finals on Sunday with a 6-2 win over Virginia Tech at John Cropp Stadium.
Kentucky (40-18) now advances to the regional finals on Sunday against either Notre Dame, Virginia Tech or Marshall depending on results from the rest of day two action from the Lexington Regional. The regional final will begin Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. If UK drops the first game of the regional final, a winner-take-all game two will be played at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.
The win for Kentucky was its 40th of the season, tying the school record for most wins in a season. Head coach Rachel Lawson's 2011 team also had 40 wins en route to advancing to the school's first ever Super Regional. UK's win against Virginia Tech was its first in school history over the Hokies in three tries.
This is the third time UK has advanced to a regional final, also accomplishing the feat in 2009 and 2011. The Wildcats lost the first game of the 2009 regional final to Ohio State while it defeated Michigan in game one of the Ann Arbor Regional Final in 2011. The Wildcats are now 10-8 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
Nunley was fantastic in the circle for the second straight game, throwing a complete-game one-hitter, allowing two runs - both unearned - with five strikeouts. For the season, Nunley is now 26-8 with a 2.00 ERA, striking out 185 in 245.1 innings pitched. So far this weekend, Nunley is an impressive 2-0 with a 0.47 ERA, striking out 10 batters in 15 innings pitched while opponents are hitting just .140 against her.
Offensively, Kentucky was paced by Smith and fellow junior first baseman Lauren Cumbess. Smith went 2-for-3 in the game with her third home run of the season and two RBI, while Cumbess blasted her team-best 12th home run of the season to finish 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored. Freshman outfielder Sylver Samuel was 2-for-3 in the game with a run scored, while sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner was 1-for-3 with a run scored.