LEXINGTON, Ky. – Behind 12 strikeouts from senior Chanda Bell the Kentucky softball team earned a key Southeastern Conference win over No. 10/11 Georgia, 4-1, at the UK Softball Complex in front of 1,033 fans in a game that was nationally televised on ESPNU.
With the key SEC win, Kentucky improves to 20-22 overall and a 7-8 SEC mark. The Bulldogs suffered just their ninth loss of the season, falling to 33-9 on the year including an 11-6 record in the SEC.
Bell picked up her 11th win of the season to improve to 11-6, while Georgia starter Erin Arevalo falls to 17-4.
Bell limited a highly-powerful Georgia offense to just one hit, a season low for UGA. The Bulldogs had just two runners advance past second base in the game. The 12 strikeouts for Bell was an SEC-high, as she fell just one short of her season-high strikeout total which was 13 vs. UKMC on March 17.
“Chanda was awesome tonight,” UK head coach Rachel Lawson said. “I am so happy for her. She has had a great career, but this was a special moment for her tonight. Georgia is a great hitting team, and for her to do what she did is incredible.”
Kentucky struck for three of its four runs in the bottom of the second, putting up a three spot in the frame using smart base running and fundamentals.
The inning began with hot-hitting sophomore Lauren Cumbess doubling to deep left and then pinch runner Macy Allen advancing to third on a wild pitch. After a Ginny Carroll walk, Kentucky’s Emily Jolly executed a sacrifice bunt right in front of the circle to score Allen.
Georgia shortstop Paige Wilson elected to throw home and could not get Allen, thus advancing Carroll to first on the fielder’s choice. Sophomore Ellen Weaver followed with a walk to load the bases with one out, when senior Brittany Cervantes reached on a fielder’s choice to score Carroll to increase the lead to 2-0. The Wildcats stretched the lead to 3-0 when Jolly scored on a wild pitch.
Bell did not allow a hit until the top of the fifth frame when Georgia’s Anna Swafford doubled to left-center field to score Brittney Hubbard who walked to lead off the inning. Hubbard would come home on the play for the Bulldogs’ lone tally of the game. Bell then locked in and picked up back-to-back strikeouts against the top of the order and then induced a flyout to get out of the inning without allowing any further damage.
In the home half of the sixth, Jolly drilled a homer to left center on the first pitch of the inning to add insurance to the Wildcats’ lead. The long ball was the fourth on the season from the Owensboro, Ky., native who now has a season-long hitting streak of six games. Kentucky led 4-1 heading into the seventh inning, where the Bulldogs went quietly in the top of the frame to preserve the upset.
“We have played a lot better over the last couple of weeks, so hopefully we can take this momentum as we head down the stretch,” Lawson said. “It was great to have ESPN here because they are a major player in sports today. Five years ago, someone would have never seen them here for a softball game, so for them to be here on campus is a big deal.”
The Wildcats and Bulldogs will resume the series with the second game of the series slated for a 1 p.m. ET start. The series will completed with a Sunday 1 p.m. ET tilt.