LEXINGTON, Ky. – Senior Chanda Bell threw her fifth-career no hitter on Senior Day, helping Kentucky clinch the No. 5 seed at the Southeastern Conference tournament with a 1-0 victory over No. 22 LSU. The win ensured a sweep of the Tigers for the first time in program history in front of 1,554 raucous fans at the UK Softball Complex.
With the win, UK ups its record to 29-27 overall including a 15-13 SEC mark. Bell completes the regular season with 16 wins. The Tigers fall to 34-21 on the season and stand at 15-13 in the SEC. Kentucky earns the tie-breaker with LSU for the tournament’s fifth seed after earning the three wins over the Tigers this weekend.
Kentucky’s top-five finish in league play is the highest under the direction of Rachel Lawson after previously finishing sixth in each of the past three seasons. The Wildcats are slated to take on Georgia, who UK beat twice in the regular season.
“For Chanda Bell to be able to throw a no hitter on senior day is pretty special,” Lawson said. “When we woke up, we were just trying to come up with how we were going to get through Senior Day ceremonies, so for her to throw a no hitter is pretty special.”
Bell worked all seven innings and yielded just two walks and struck one batter in the no-hit bid. For the weekend, she was instrumental in all three victories. She pitched a 10-strikeout complete game win to open the series and then earned the save in yesterday’s series-clinching 2-1 victory. Today, she tossed six strikeouts and earned the first no-hitter of the season and fifth of her career.
The Wildcats’ Brittany Cervantes went 1-for-2 with a double and a walk to cap off an incredible series at the dish. The Chatsworth, Calif., native batted a team-high .571 with all four hits going for extra bases during the series. She also drove in a team-leading four RBI including three in the win on Friday night.
Freshman Griffin Joiner drew a 12-pitch walk with one retired in the bottom of the sixth inning to get the Wildcats’ rally started. After a Ginny Carroll groundout that advanced Joiner to second, junior Alice O’Brien slapped a single through the middle of the infield.
Despite LSU second basemen Allison Falcon made a tremendous diving stop to keep the ball in the infield, UK third base coach Kristine Himes waved in Joiner who scored from second. The run was Joiner’s 20th of the season, and O’Brien’s 14th RBI. The tally would be the only score the Wildcats would need with Bell dealing a near-flawless game.
Bell retired the first 12 LSU batters in the game before hitting Falcon to begin the top of the fifth. Falcon was pinch ran for by Alex Boulet, who was promptly thrown out trying to steal second by Joiner on the 2-6 putout.
In the top half of the seventh, Cervantes made a spectacular catch in foul territory, jockeying with the top of the dugout while reaching over the padding that lines the top of the net and recorded the opening out of the inning. Falcon hit a ball deep in the hole at short, which was fielded cleanly by junior Kara Dill who threw onto sophomore Lauren Cumbess to get the second out of the inning. LSU’s Ashley Langoni struck out swinging to end the game and clinch the no-hitter.
“They (the senior class) are a special group, and I can’t say enough about how incredible they are as people.” Lawson said.
Kentucky had a prime scoring opportunity in the home half of the first to kick off the game. Cervantes led off the inning with a double down the left field line that was her fourth hit of the series. Dill went to first on a hit by pitch and both batters advanced to second and third after a wild pitch by Fico. Fellow senior Rachel Riley then drew a 16-pitch walk to load the bases with nobody out. Fico would then retire the next three batters in order to leave all three UK runners on the base paths and preventing the Wildcats for striking first.
Kentucky will begin its postseason run next weekend 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 No. 4 seeded Georgia Bulldogs. 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.