LEXINGTON, Ky. – Senior Brittany Cervantes led an offensive charge in helping the Kentucky softball team to a 10-5 series-winner over South Carolina on Sunday afternoon. Cervantes charted a 2-for-3 outing at the dish with her third homer of the series and three runs scored to pace the Blue and White.
With the win, Kentucky improves to 18-21 on the season and 5-7 in Southeastern Conference action. South Carolina falls to 23-18 and 3-11 in league play.
Cervantes led the charge, but the offensive explosion came from the entire lineup as nearly every Wildcat contributed. Five players logged multiple hits in the game including junior Kara Dill, senior Rachel Riley, freshman Griffin Joiner and sophomore Lauren Cumbess. Riley smacked her team-leading sixth home run including her second in as many days, while Cumbess drove in a team-high three scores in the win.
“Obviously our offense came out swinging today which is awesome because with them scoring so early in the first inning and then Brittany to come up in such a big way really jump-started our offense,” UK coach Rachel Lawson said. “For us to be able to answer back really set the tone for the rest of the game for us, and then our offense just kept rolling.”
Senior Chanda Bell earns the win in the circle for the Wildcats to improve to 9-7 on the season. Bell tossed 10 strikeouts in the win.
“Hats off to Chanda, she did another great job with 10 strikeouts today,” Lawson said. “ We also played solid defense today which was a key as well.”
South Carolina struck first in the top half of the first with a pair of scores. The Gamecocks benefited from a solo leadoff homer from Sammy Garcia and then tacked on an additional score with an RBI double for the two-run edge.
Kentucky responded to the deficit in a big way with three runs of its own to capture a 3-2 edge. Cervantes led off with her third homer in as many games. Following a fly-out, Riley singled along the left field line and freshman Joiner answered with a double into the left-center gap. Following the second out of the inning, sophomore Emily Jolly drew a walk to set the stage for Cumbess. Cumbess delivered a two-run single that dipped just over the second-baseman’s glove into right field to plate the two score and give the home team a one-run advantage.
Bell worked around a pair of walks in the top half of the second to keep the Gamecocks away from home. Dill snagged a two-out single in the home half of the frame, but the Wildcats could push nothing across to add to the lead.
Kentucky’s right-hander bookended the third with a strikeout to start and close the frame after yielding a two-out infield single in the inning. The Gamecocks would respond with a 1-2-3 inning of its own, but that would be the last time the Wildcats would go scoreless.
After Bell again retired the side, the Wildcats tacked on two score in the fourth to stretch the lead to 5-2. Jolly reached on an error by the shortstop and Cumbess would also reach thanks to a Gamecocks’ error in a sacrifice attempt. Freshman Kara Howard delivered a beautifully executed sacrifice bunt to shift both runners into scoring position. Following a fielder’s choice that got Jolly out at home, Cervantes was intentionally walked to load the bases. Dill made South Carolina pay with a two-run double into left-center for the two tallies.
Garcia hit her second home run of the game to lead off the fifth and bridge the gap to a 5-3 lead for the home team.
Kentucky then struck for three more scores in the fifth to go ahead 8-3. Joiner began the stanza with a single through the left side. Junior Alice O’Brien drew a walk and Jolly would single to center to load the bases. Cumbess would bring in the first score with a single down the left field line. The bases remained loaded and Howard brought in her first RBI of her career when she logged a walk. Sophomore Emily Gaines then delivered an RBI sac fly to bring in the final run of the stanza.
Bell dispersed of the side in the top half of the sixth before the Blue and White would tack on two more tallies in the home half of the frame. Riley opened the scoring with a solo long ball that dipped over the left-center fence. Joiner would reach on an error by the first baseman and O’Brien would notch her second walk of the game. A grounder to third and a strikeout put two outs on the scoreboard, but O’Brien would be able to scoot to third and come home on a wild pitch for the Wildcats’ final score.
In a last-ditch comeback effort the Gamecocks scored twice in the top of the seventh to make the final 10-5 margin. South Carolina benefited from an inning-opening walk and an RBI triple in the frame.
Kentucky returns to action with a midweek doubleheader against Arkansas on Wed., April 11 beginning at 4 p.m. ET. The UK IMG Sports Network will carry the first game of the two-game set live on the CWKYT in Lexington.
“Arkansas is a good team, they do a nice job of swinging the bats and they’ve played an awesome schedule,” Lawson said. “They have good pitching and have added to an already good arsenal. We’re going to have to make sure we keep the runs down and do a great job on the mound and then hopefully bring our offense like we did today.”
For continuing coverage of the 2012 UK softball season, log on to UKathletics.com.