COLUMBIA, S.C. – Sophomore slugger Brooklin Hinz had a 3-for-4 night with two doubles and an RBI on opening night of Southeastern Conference play on Friday as the No. 15 Kentucky softball team scored six runs in the top of the first inning and two more in the third to knock off the South Carolina Gamecocks 8-2 at Beckham Field.
With the win, Kentucky moves to 20-3 overall on the year, and sits 1-0 in conference action. The 20-3 start is the best in school history through 23 games of a season. Senior pitcher Kelsey Nunley came into the game in the third inning, picking up the win to move to 8-1 on the season. Nunley threw 4.1 innings in the game allowing no runs on one hit, while striking out three batters.
Kentucky put its foot on the gas early, scoring six runs in the top of the first inning on South Carolina pitcher Jessica Elliott. The Junior College National Player of the Year pitcher went the distance on Friday, dropping her first game as a college pitcher. She allowed eight runs with six of them earned on 11 Kentucky hits and walked three with one strikeout on the night.
The three-game set between the Wildcats and Gamecocks picks up on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET from the Palmetto State. The SEC Network will carry the live broadcast with Cara Capuano and Cheri Kempf calling the action from Columbia. The game will also be available on WatchESPN and the WatchESPN app.
Six. Six is the number of runs scored by Kentucky in the top of the first inning, the most runs scored by the Kentucky offense this season in a first inning. It is the sixth time this season that UK has scored five or more runs in an inning – already more than the entire season last year.
The key play in the game came with no outs in the top of the first, as senior Kelsey Nunley stepped up to the plate with no outs and Christian Stokes on first. Nunley delivered with an RBI single into left field to put Kentucky up 6-0 with no outs and Kentucky batting in the top of the first inning.
Brooklin Hinz was the key player in Friday’s win for Kentucky, going 3-for-4 at the plate with an RBI and two doubles. Hinz had an RBI double in the top of the first inning to score Nikki Sagermann from second and put Kentucky up on the board, 3-0. In the top of the seventh, Hinz doubled to center on a full count to get a rally going for the UK offense. Hinz this season is now batting .435 on the season with a team-leading seven doubles.
Senior Maisie Steed led off the top of the first inning with a walk for Kentucky, which would be the beginning of a six-run inning for UK. Katie Reed legged out an infield single to put runners on first and second with no outs for Nikki Sagermann. Sagermann reached on an error by the USC second basemen and Steed scored on the play. Kentucky then executed a double-steal, and Reed scored with Sagermann taking second. Christian Stokes, who has been hot of late, reached on a throwing error by the pitcher, and racing to second with no outs still in the inning.
Stokes advanced to third on a wild pitch, and was brought home on a double by Brooklin Hinz – her first of two on the night. Kelsey Nunley then stepped to the plate and roped an RBI single up the middle to score Hinz from second and put Kentucky up, 6-0. UK 6, USC 0
Kentucky would add two more in the top of the third, as Abbey Cheek and Hinz led off the inning with back-to-back singles. A walk to Christian Stokes loaded the bases with no outs. Rachael Metzger came in to pinch hit for Jenny Schaper and the pitcher threw to first rather than home to score a run. An Erin Rethlake RBI single brought in Cheek to add another run for Kentucky. UK 8, USC 0
South Carolina scored twice in the bottom of the third. After a walk and a defensive error by UK put runners on first and second, Kaylee Snaer doubled to left to score two runs. FINAL – No. 15 Kentucky 8, South Carolina 2
For the latest on the Kentucky softball team, follow @UKSoftball on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as on the web at UKathletics.com.