Kentucky (49-14), which won twice at longtime softball power UCLA in the super regional, posted its first win in five tries against Louisiana-Lafayette (49-9-1).
The Wildcats will play Alabama on Friday, and Louisiana-Lafayette will face defending national champion Oklahoma on Saturday in an elimination game. Alabama beat Oklahoma 6-2 in the final game of the day.
Lexie Elkins had the only hit against Nunley (30-9), slamming her 23rd home run of the season in the first inning. But the Ragin’ Cajuns — who entered the game hitting .307 — never advanced a runner past second base after that, failing to take advantage of five walks.
Nunley outdueled Louisiana-Lafayette’s Christina Hamilton (29-3), who threw a five-hitter but saw her six-game winning streak end.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Kentucky coach Rachel Lawson said. “I was just really proud of my team because we came out and we fought from the first inning on. Our offense did a nice job, Nunley was great on the mound and defensively we made all the plays that we needed to make. It’s a good day for Kentucky softball. I don’t know what else to say. It’s pretty cool.”
Kentucky’s Nikki Sagermann reached on a two-out error and scored on Cumbess’ double to right-center field in the first. After the Ragin’ Cajuns tied it in the bottom of the first on Elkins’ home run, Kentucky’s Krystal Smith doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ginny Carroll to make it 2-1.
Cumbess’ home run leading off the fourth put Kentucky up 3-1. The Wildcats added an insurance run in the fifth, thanks to a pair of infield singles by Griffin Joiner and Cumbess and a throwing error on Hamilton that allowed Joiner to score.
“We just love being here,” said Cumbess, who was 3 for 3. “We just want to enjoy every moment. No one plays well under pressure, so we’re not playing with any pressure on ourselves. We’re going out there, trusting what we’ve worked on in practice. We think that we’re prepared to face anybody. What happens, happens. We’re just going for it.”
Louisiana-Lafayette coach Michael Lotief had no explanation for the Ragin’ Cajuns’ offensive woes.
“Offensively, we’ve been good for the last month and a half,” Lotief said. “This team has been in a rhythm. At some point, it’s just not going to happen. There’s no reason to go soul-searching. These kids know how to hit and they’re going to bounce back.”