LEXINGTON, Ky. – Seniors Brittany Cervantes, Rachel Riley and Chanda Bell combined to clinch a 2-1 victory over No. 22 LSU to claim the series with the Tigers for the first time in school history on Saturday afternoon in front of 1,151 boisterous fans at the UK Softball Complex. Cervantes hit her team-leading 12th home run of the season in the first inning and sophomore Ginny Carroll connected for her seventh to provide the game-winning run.
Riley was the winning pitcher in the circle after working 6.1 innings and limiting the Tigers to one run for her eighth victory of the year. Bell entered in the top of the seventh and logged the final two outs to preserve her third save of the season. LSU’s Brittany Mack drops to 14-10 after giving up two home runs.
“Rachel Riley was fantastic today,” UK head coach Rachel Lawson said. “It was really awesome for her to do so well on senior weekend.”
She earned five strikeouts while avoiding walking a single batter in the game. She yielded a mere six hits with none going for extra bases.
Kentucky with the win moves to one game above .500 for the first time since March 9 as UK now stands at 28-27 overall with a 14-13 record in Southeastern Conference games. The conference victory ensures a .500 or better record in league play for the second consecutive season and for just the third time in program history. LSU drops to 34-20 in the 2012 campaign with a 15-12 SEC mark.
Cervantes picked up where she left off on Friday night, pounding a home run opposite field in right-center to lead off the bottom of the first for Kentucky. The round tripper marked consecutive at bats in which the senior went deep following the heroic bottom of the seventh dinger in Friday night’s contest. Furthermore, the tally for the Chatsworth, Calif., native was her fourth RBI in three plate appearances.
LSU would respond in the visitor’s side of the third with a two-out rally. After retiring the first two batters of the inning, Dylan Supak got aboard after she was struck with an errant pitch to start things for the Tigers. After a single through the left side by Cassie Trosclair, three-hole hitter Juliana Santos laced an RBI single to left, scoring Supak from second. Riley would escape further damage with the score knotted at 1-1.
After Supak got aboard to lead off the Tiger half of the fifth, Kentucky’s Emily Jolly turned in a web gem helping lead a 4-6-3 double play to escape the LSU threat. Riley retired Trosclair to end the inning following the defensive dandy.
Carroll crushed a pitch out to deep left center to break up the tie and help Kentucky reclaim the lead in the home half of the fifth. The home run was Carroll’s seventh on the season, and 18th RBI of the year. Carroll went 2-for-2 in the game after a seeing-eye double that touched chalk in the bottom of the second.
In the top of the seventh, LSU pinch hitter Simone Heyward reached to lead off the inning with a slap up the middle. After a sacrifice to bring Heyward into scoring position, Supak reached on a walk which ended Riley’s day in the circle.
Bell entered the game inheriting runners on first and second and one out. Bell moved the scoreboard to two outs after forcing Ashley Langoni to foul out to catcher Griffin Joiner against the back stop. LSU executed the double steal on a 1-2 pitch to shift both runners into scoring position with two outs. Bell worked a full count and eventually induced Tiger batter Cassie Trosclair into a game-ending grounder to second to clinch the series for UK.
“For Chanda to come in there in the seventh and shut down their best couple of hitters was awesome.” Lawson said.
The three-game SEC series featuring UK and LSU will conclude on Sunday afternoon with Kentucky looking to sweep LSU for the first time in school history.
First pitch is slated for 1:00 p.m. ET and UK will honor seniors Macy Allen, Chanda Bell, Brittany Cervantes, Ashleigh Gustafson, Rachel Riley and Erika Silence prior to the opening pitch. The senior day ceremony is slated to begin around 12:30 p.m. ET.
Stay tuned to UKAthletics.com for more updates on the UK Softball season.