LEXINGTON, KY (Press Release) -- Kentucky catcher Griffin Joiner hit a go-ahead single in the bottom of the sixth inning to lead No. 14 Kentucky to a 2-1 win over No. 25 James Madison in the winners’ bracket game of the Lexington Regional at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky, Saturday.
The loss snaps JMU’s 16-game winning streak and puts them in the second elimination game of the regional at 6 p.m., Saturday, against the winner of the game between DePaul and Ohio. The Dukes drop to 45-14 overall and 1-1 in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Kentucky improves to 46-15 and advances to the championship round. It next plays at 1 p.m. on Sunday where it awaits the survivor of Saturday’s two elimination games.
Kelsey Nunley earned the win in the circle for the Wildcats, improving to 26-7 overall. She limited Madison to one run on five hits in seven innings pitched. The right-hander struck out 11 and walked one in her 23rd complete game of the season.
Sophomore pitcher Jailyn Ford (Hot Springs, Va./Bath County) was saddled with her seventh loss of the season, dropping to 24-7 overall. She gave up two runs on five hits in 5 1/3 frames worked. Ford struck out seven and did not walk a batter. Junior right-hander Heather Kiefer (Potomac Falls, Va./Potomac Falls) needed only three pitches to record two outs in relief.
Only one player had more than one hit in the game, JMU senior shortstop Caitlin Sandy (Fayetteville, N.C./Jack Britt) who went 2-for-3 with a home run. Freshman left fielder Tahli Moore (Sydney, Australia/Loreto Normanhurst College), sophomore catcher Erica Field (Manassas, Va./Osbourn Park) and freshman center fielder Niki Prince (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) all went 1-for-3 with a single for the Dukes with Prince adding a walk.
Joiner led the Wildcat attack, going 1-for-3 with a RBI while third baseman Nikki Sagermann was 1-for-3 with a double, a RBI and a run scored. Center fielder Sylver Samuel had a single, a run and a sacrifice in three plate appearances.
The Dukes open the days scoring in the top of the second inning on Sandy’s eight home run of the season. The senior hacked at the first pitch she saw from Nunley and drove it out over the fence in left-center field. It was Sandy’s 14th career four-bagger, ranking her tied for eighth all-time.
Ford and Nunley settled into a pitchers’ duel after that with each pitcher working masterfully in the circle and pitching around the few base runners they allowed.
Kentucky finally broke through against the Dukes’ lefty in the bottom of the sixth. Samuel ignited the rally with a one-out single up the middle. She went to second on a JMU throwing error before scoring on a double in the gap by Sagermann. Joiner followed the double with a line-drive single over the third baseman’s head that chase home Sagermann from second. Moore’s throw from left field was on target, but the ball hit the bat that was left in the batter’s box and took a high hop to allow the runner to get under the tag.
Kentucky set down Madison in order in the top of the seventh to move into the regional final.