#24 Kentucky Softball 2017 Preview

Kentucky Wildcats
Overall Rank: #24
Conference Rank: #9 SEC
Kentucky Logo
Last year was one that's going to be hard for Kentucky to match this season with their 46-14 record that included them finishing second in the tough SEC and with a No. 9 national seed in the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky also earned the right to host the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last four seasons. Kentucky's dream season came to an abrupt end though when they were eliminated by a 5-3 loss to the Utah Utes. The Wildcats finished the season with a team ERA of 1.71 thanks to ace pitchers Kelsey Nunley and Meagan Prince. Unfortunately for Kentucky, only Prince will be back for this season. Nunley is gone and that is going to be a big piece of last year’s success that will be hard for the team to replace.
2016: 46-14, 17-7
2016 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Rachel Lawson
Key Departed Players:
Kelsey Nunley, P, 1.27 ERA, 181.1 IP, 203 SO
Nikki Sagermann, IF, .285 BA, 6 HR, 23 RBI
Sylver Samuel, OF, .337 BA, 0 HR, 7 RBI
Christian Stokes, IF, .277 BA, 6 HR, 25 RBI
Key Returning Players:
Meagan Prince, P, 1.85 ERA, 162.2 IP, 126 SO
Shannon Smith, P, 1.83 ERA, 42.0 IP, 72 SO
Erin Rethlake, P, 4.81 ERA, 16.0 IP, 22 SO
Abbey Cheek, UTL, .326 BA, 10 HR, 52 RBI
Brooklin Hinz, OF, .310 BA, 7 HR, 35 RBI
Katie Reed, INF, .312 BA, 3 HR, 22 RBI
Jenny Schaper, C, .281 BA, 4 HR, 21 RBI
While Kentucky had a great year last season, the teams dynamic duo of pitchers Kelsey Nunley and Meagan Prince is no more with Nunley graduating and moving on to playing pro ball. Having a star pitcher like Meagan Prince still there though is a good base to build upon. Kentucky head coach Rachel Lawson recently told me that, "Shannon Smith and Erin Rethlake are the two returning pitchers that we will be relying on for this upcoming season to compliment Meagan in the circle. One of the things that is very important in order to win in the postseason is having a deep pitching rotation." Kentucky also has several players back from last year who played a crucial part in their success with the run producing side of things, including Katie Reed, Jenny Schaper and Abbey Cheek. With the core of strong returning players and several new incoming team members, if the team can find a complimentary pitcher for starter Meagan Prince, then look for them to make a deep run in the tournament this year.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament