Nunley Cats' workhorse into WCWS

After watching Kelsey Nunley reach deep for 375 pitches in two days to beat UCLA in the NCAA Super Regional, Kentucky softball coach Rachel Lawson says there's little doubt her sophomore pitcher can be the Wildcats' workhorse in their first trip to the Women's College World Series.

But Lawson also knows, with each step UK takes in the tournament, her team will likely need more than one arm to fare well in Oklahoma City beginning Thursday night with a 7 p.m. ET opening matchup against No. 6 Louisiana-Lafayette.

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"She continues to keep her velocity up and she's strong," Lawson said of Nunley (29-9), who will bring five postseason wins and a 0.87 ERA into the WCWS. "She does what she needs to do, so as long as those things are happening, I imagine she'll get the ball.

"With that said, I don't think any team can win the World Series with one pitcher anymore. I think those days are over, and if we're going to go deep into the tournament, we are going to have to go deep into our pitching staff, and they've been in big games, so it will definitely be OK, but you have to give Kelsey the ball as long as she can take it."

In other words, No. 14 Kentucky will go as long as it possibly can with its ace, but senior Lauren Cumbess (10-1, 2.07 ERA) and freshman Meagan Prince (8-4, 3.47 ERA) could also play key roles in the Cats' quest for a national championship.

A strong hitting squad awaits the Cats (49-17) in the opener. The Ragin' Cajuns are led by senior utility player Natalie Fernandez, who leads the team with a .423 batting average and 11 stolen bases, and sophomore catcher Lexie Elkins, who has posted a .388 average with 22 home runs and 72 RBI. Haley Hayden and Shelbi Redfearn have combined for 15 home runs.

Junior Christina Hamilton leads the Ragin' Cajuns' pitching staff with a 29-2 record and a 1.53 ERA. Opponents are hitting just .191 against her this season with 183 strikeouts in 224.1 innings pitched. Junior Jordan Wallace (14-3) is their No. 2 in the circle.

Offensively, Kentucky is led by first baseman Cumbess (.311, 9 HR, 39 RBI), senior outfielder Emily Gaines (.311, 6 HR, 35 RBI), junior catcher Griffin Joiner (.308, 10 HR, 39 RBI) and sophomore infielder Nikki Sagermann (.282, 13 HR, 49 RBI).

Louisiana-Lafayette (49-8-1), which is making its sixth trip to the WCWS, has yet to lose a game in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

Each game of the 2014 WCWS will be broadcast live on the ESPN family of networks.


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