UK Softball claims highest ranking

After starting the season 5-0, Kentucky softball has earned a spot in the top 10 of both major polls for the first time in school history.

After starting the season 5-0, Kentucky softball has earned a spot in the top 10 of both major polls for the first time in school history.

The Wildcats are ranked No. 7 in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll and come in at No. 9 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball rankings.

Kentucky's previous high ranking was No. 12 in both polls.

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Rachel Lawson's program has been to postseason play five consecutive years and advanced to the NCAA super-regional in two of the last three years.

The Cats are coming off an impressive opening weekend on the west coast which saw them knock off previously No. 2 Oklahoma. The UK pitching staff has three shutouts, including a no-hitter by sophomore Kelsey Nunley, and has allowed only five runs this season.

"In our five games we had four different pitchers with complete games, and I don't know if we are the only school in the country that would do that, but I bet if you looked it up we are the only school in the country to be able to do that," Lawson said. "All of them had great outings."

Meanwhile, the UK offense has plated 31 runs on 48 hits. The Cats' seven home runs are the most in program history through five games. Junior catcher Griffin Joiner (.667, 3 HR, 9 RBI) was named the Louisville Slugger/NFCA National Player of the Week for her eye-popping start to the season, but Lawson has been impressed with the production her team is getting from top to bottom.

"When we played Oklahoma and beat them, they got their runs from 1-2-3 in the order, and we got our runs from 7-8-9 in our order, which is pretty cool," she said. "The top of our order did produce, but just to be so strong top to bottom is a lot of the reasons we won pretty convincingly this weekend.

"At no point were we out of it this weekend, it didn't matter who was up. We had a lot of key contributions from a ton of people and that is a good thing. In order for us to go where we want to go you have to be strong."

Kentucky will be tested often during the 2014 season in hopes of reaching the College World Series for the first time. The Cats are scheduled to play 22 more games against teams currnetly ranked in the polls, including three-game sets against No. 1/2 Tennessee, No. 8/11 Texas A&M, No. 14/18 Missouri, No. 17/19 Georgia, as well as Auburn and Arkansas, who are receiving votes.

UK will have a two-game set vs. No. 23/25 Louisville and single games vs. No. 4/6 Michigan and No. 15/16 Texas.

The Cats will resume a 15-game road swing to start the season this weekend in Austin, Texas, participating in a three-day, five-game tournament that will feature a matchup with the Longhorns on Friday at 5 p.m. ET.


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