BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Kentucky seniors Chanda Bell and Brittany Cervantes have been tabbed Southeastern Conference Pitcher and Player of the Week, respectively, it was announced by the league office on Monday afternoon.
The duo was instrumental in leading the Wildcats to the first series sweep of No. 22 LSU in program history and helping the Wildcats secure a school-record sixth SEC series topping last year’s five-series won.
Bell is earning her second consecutive SEC Pitcher of the Week accolade after being tabbed the league’s top pitcher for the first time in her career a week ago after leading UK to a series win over No. 2 Florida. This is the third SEC Player of the Week honor of Cervantes’ career, but the first this season after previously winning the award once in her sophomore season and again during her junior campaign.
After having simply one of the best weekends of her career in leading the Wildcats to a series win at No. 2 Florida a week ago, Bell went and topped that performance by leading UK to a sweep of No. 22 LSU to become NCAA Tournament eligible and clinch the No. 5 seed at the SEC Tournament.
The right-hander played a part in the circle in all three victories for UK. In the opening game of the series, she worked a complete-game eight-inning win, yielding four hits and striking out 10. It was the second consecutive game against a top-25 opponent she struck out 10 or more batters in the win. In the series-clincher, she was brought into the game in relief in the top of the seventh with runners on first and second and UK clinging to a one-run lead with one out. She promptly recorded outs against the only two batters she faced to earn her third save of the season and a UK-record breaking fifth of her career.
She then saved her best performance for last. On Senior Day no less, Bell tossed a no-hitter to clinch a sweep of the Tigers. She worked all seven innings, striking out six and allowing just two walks. It was the fifth no-hitter of her career, but first of the season for the Indianapolis native. Following the weekend, she moves into third in UK’s single-season record books for saves (3), fourth for strikeouts (194) and fifth for wins (16).
With the two wins this weekend she becomes the first pitcher in program history to have 15 or more wins in all four seasons of her career. Furthermore, she became UK’s first hurler to top 900 career strikeouts with 16 tossed this weekend to run her career total to 903. Finally, her ERA falls to a program-topping 2.48 for her career.
Cervantes was a difference-maker in every at-bat in guiding UK to a sweep of LSU which marked the first-ever series win over the Tigers in program history. In Friday night’s opening game with Kentucky trailing 3-0, Cervantes delivered a two-out two-run RBI double to bring UK within striking distance. In the bottom of the seventh and with two outs, Cervantes drilled a two-strike home run over the center field wall to tie the score at 3-3 and force extra innings. Kentucky would eventually win in the bottom of the eighth.
In the second game of the series, she connected for her second solo home run in as many at-bats to drive in the game’s first run in UK’s 2-1 series-clinching win. Following the homer, she was walked twice to avoid her bat.
In the final game of the series, Cervantes opened the game with a double to mark all four hits in the series going for extra bases.
For the weekend, she batted a team-high .571 and had four RBI. Three of those runs brought in came against the nation’s leader in ERA in Rachele Fico who entered the game with a 0.90 ERA. With the tremendous weekend, Cervantes advanced in a number of categories in UK’s record books. She now has the fourth-most single-season doubles (16) and home runs (12) and has drawn the third-most walks (32) in a season. In the career books, she moved into second in slugging percentage (.580), third in total bases (363), fourth in doubles (42) and runs scored (146), sixth in assists (366) and seventh in career games played (228). She already owns UK career records in RBI and home runs and pushed those totals to 160 and 47, respectively.
Kentucky will begin its postseason run on Thursday at the SEC Tournament at Rhodes Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., as the University of Alabama Crimson Tide will serve as the hosts of the tournament.
UK will be the No. 5 seed in the tournament and will face the fourth-overall seed in Georgia at 5 p.m. ET on ESPNU. In the regular season meeting between the two, Kentucky took two of three games, including a 4-0 win on Saturday April 14 in which Cumbess threw a no-hitter against the Dawgs.