Four Wildcats named to All-SEC softball team

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Four University of Kentucky softball players were named to the All-Southeastern Conference teams as announced by the league office Wednesday. Freshmen Chanda Bell and Brittany Cervantes, junior Molly Johnson and sophomore Megan Yocke were honored as four of the best players in the SEC this season.

The four total selections is the most in school history—topping the 2007 and 2008 squads that had three players earn All-SEC distinctions.

Johnson headlines the honors as a member of the All-SEC First Team. Kentucky’s shortstop who has started 154 consecutive games was tabbed a first-team member for the first time in her career. She also becomes the first Kentucky player to earn first-team honors since Nikki Jones in 2002. UK’s lead-off batter once again had a blistering season from the plate while being the stalwart of the much-improved Kentucky defense. Johnson batted a career-high .422 from the dish while setting the UK single-season record with 48 runs. She set career-highs in batting average, hits (70), triples (4), home runs (8), total bases (114), slugging percentage (.687), on-base percentage (.489), and stolen bases (21).

Each time in her three seasons Johnson has been honored by the league office as one of the conference’s best players. Johnson was an All-SEC Freshman team selection in 2007 and a member of the All-SEC Second team as a sophomore.

Yocke earned All-SEC Second team honors after being an All-SEC Freshman team member a season ago. The sophomore backstop is the unquestioned leader of the Kentucky defensive effort. But, it was her consistent bat that paid huge dividends for Kentucky’s marked improvement in 2009. The Sunnyvale, Calif., native hit three game-winning hits for the Blue and White—including a walk-off home run to beat Auburn in the opening weekend of SEC play. She also had a pair of doubles—including a two-run walk-off to beat Ole Miss. Yocke ranked second on the team with a .333 batting average and a team-high 35 RBI. She becomes the eighth player in UK history to win second team honors.

For the third consecutive season Kentucky had two players named to the All-SEC Freshman team. Bell and Cervantes were tabbed as two of the league’s top freshmen this season. Previously, Yocke and Meagan Aull were All-SEC Freshman team members in 2008 and Johnson and Natalie Smith in 2007.

Bell made an immediate impact as the Wildcats’ ace of the pitching staff. She started the team’s season opener and picked up her first collegiate win over Oregon. Since then, she has set the school’s single-season strikeout record with 206 strikeouts this season. She has topped 10 or more strikeouts on nine occasions—including four times setting the single-game record of 15 in a game. For the season Bell has an impressive 18-8 overall record and is just one win shy of the single-season win record.

Cervantes has served as the Wildcats’ clean-up batter and the starting third baseman. Both defensively and offensively she has been a major factor in UK’s rise up the SEC ladder. Cervantes paced the squad with nine home runs—seven of which were hit against SEC opponents. She was responsible for a number of series clinching walk-off home runs against conference foes. Her first game-winner came against Auburn when she smacked a three-run bomb to beat the Tigers. Cervantes then tallied a two-run shot in the bottom of the seventh against to tie the score with Tennessee before Smith would follow with the game-winning solo shot. Perhaps the biggest hit of the season though was the two-run round tripper in a come-from-behind win to sweep Mississippi State and clinch a berth in the SEC Tournament just two weeks ago.

The Wildcats will return to the field on Thursday in the first round of the SEC Tournament. UK faces Georgia in the opening game at 11 a.m. ET.