LEXINGTON, Ky.– Following a program-record fourth-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, Kentucky softball coach Rachel Lawson has formulated a winning tradition in Lexington. Lawson has directed the Wildcats to appearances in postseason action in four consecutive years while also claiming 27 or more victories in four-straight seasons which also resonates as a program record.
Kentucky capped the 2012 season with a 30-30 record, upsets of 12 ranked opponents, a Lawson-best fifth place finish in Southeastern Conference action, a program-record six captured conference series, and a senior class who became the first class in school allure to tally a .500 record or better in each of their four seasons of play.
Here’s a look back at some of the accomplishments and season highlights from the 2012 season that firmly entrenched the Wildcats into a winning program.
The 2012 Senior Class
The 2012 senior class of Macy Allen, Chanda Bell, Brittany Cervantes, Ashleigh Gustafson, Rachel Riley and Erika Silence are the winningest class in school history with 136 career wins. The class is the only in school history to make postseason play in every season of its careers, and it was the anchor of the 2011 team that advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals. Each player contributed to the success of the program throughout the four years.
Allen was utilized in a multitude of fashions, but her career highlight is scoring the game-winning run in the victory over Michigan in 2011 that propelled UK to Super Regionals.
Bell is the only pitcher in school history to strike out 200 or more batters in each of her four years and caps her career as UK’s all-time leader in strikeouts and wins.
Cervantes left her mark on Kentucky’s record books with career marks in RBI and home runs. She is the only player in history to hit 10 or more long balls in each of her four seasons.
Gustafson’s first career hit came in three-run home run fashion in UK’s record-breaking 2011 season. The long ball ensured a win at Austin Peay on a date in which UK threw two perfect games.
Riley was a dual-threat for UK both in the batter’s box and in the circle. She knocked off 10 ranked foes in her career, and finishes among the top-10 in home runs.
Silence fueled one of UK’s marquee victories during her senior season. A three-run walk-off homer to defeat Arkansas propelled the Wildcats to winning ways during the SEC slate.
Continuing to Build a Winning Tradition
With a fourth consecutive march into the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats are among seven SEC schools and 27 throughout the nation to appear in four straight postseasons. Prior to Lawson’s tenure, Kentucky had never advanced to the field of 64 and had advanced to the SEC Tournament just twice before in school history.
Under Lawson’s guidance, the Blue and White have finished sixth or better in the grueling SEC in each of the last four years, while also charting an above .500 record in regular season action. UK’s RPI of 35 or better over the last four seasons has also helped push UK into the tournament. Coupling the wins with the strength of schedule, the Wildcats are entering the discussion as one of the best programs in the nation.
UK Softball Complex
With the Wildcats developing a winning tradition, the Big Blue Nation has followed. Kentucky has averaged more than 1,000 fans in each of the past two seasons at the UK Softball Complex. During the Super Regional run in 2011, Kentucky had more than 5,000 fans pass through the gates.
Fans in attendance have not been disappointed either, as the Wildcats own a 48-29 (.623 winning percentage) record in the friendly confines of the Complex. Kentucky has charted more home victories over the last four seasons than any in other four-year span in school history.
UK has also earned impressive series victories at home before the UK faithful. Here’s a breakdown of some records at home during those series:
2009 – 3-0 vs. Auburn, 1-1 vs. Tennessee, 3-0 vs. Mississippi State
2010 – 1-1 vs. Alabama, 2-1 vs. Arkansas, 3-0 vs. South Carolina
2011 – 2-1 vs. Tennessee, 3-0 vs. Florida, 1-0 vs. Louisville
2012 – 2-1 vs. South Carolina, 2-1 vs. Georgia, 3-0 vs. LSU
Toppling Ranked Foes
To become one of the best teams in the country, it is only logical that you have to beat some of the best teams in the country. The Wildcats have achieved just that in their rise among the nation’s best.
The Wildcats knocked off 10 or more ranked foes in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. Kentucky beat five top-25 ranked teams in 2010 to begin its climb.
During Lawson’s tenure the Wildcats have downed a total of 31 top-25 ranked teams including 19 opponents rated in the top 10. Among those the Wildcats have defeated include Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, LSU, Alabama, Michigan, Auburn, California, Arizona State, Ohio State and Notre Dame.
Kentucky has knocked off Florida six times, and both LSU and Tennessee five times while the squads have been ranked in the top 10. Florida has been rated in the top five in all six losses to the Blue and White.
School-Record Six SEC Series
Kentucky made its postseason push with the most impressive SEC run in the Lawson era. UK captured a school-best six series with wins against Auburn, South Carolina, Georgia, Ole Miss, Florida and LSU. Kentucky attained a school-record tying 15-13 mark in league play and finished in fifth for the first time under Lawson’s tutelage.
For the first time in school history Kentucky captured a series from Auburn on the Tigers’ home field. With the 2012 series win, UK charted its fourth series victory over Auburn. Rachel Riley tossed a complete game, allowing just five hits and providing two of her own in her ninth upset of a ranked foe in her career. Ellen Weaver had a difference-making bases-clearing double to make the final 5-2 score in favor of the Blue and White in the decisive win.
Kentucky claimed the series with South Carolina for the fourth consecutive season under Lawson. Kentucky has charted 2-of-3 in three of the four years and earned a sweep in 2010. UK exploded for 10 runs on 11 hits in the series-clinching win over the Gamecocks. It was the most runs scored in a series in 2012. UK Had four extra base hits including home runs from Riley and Brittany Cervantes.
Starting pitchers Chanda Bell and Lauren Cumbess combined to yield just one hit in 14 innings during two wins over Georgia to seal a conference series’ win against the Bulldogs for just the second time in school history. It was the first series win over UGA since 2000. Cumbess earned SEC Pitcher of the Week accolades with her first career no-hitter against the Bulldogs. She allowed just five base runners and struck out seven in the series-clinching win.
Kentucky won the series with Ole Miss for the fifth consecutive time (teams did not meet in 2011). It marks the longest streak of series wins against any conference team in program history. UK claimed the 2012 doubleheader with a 3-1 win in the opening game and an 8-0 (5) win in the nightcap. Griffin Joiner batted .800 in the series to lead the way.
For the second consecutive year, the Wildcats took a series from Florida. The Gators were ranked No. 5 in the nation in 2011 and fell to Kentucky via a sweep in Lexington. Kentucky then turned around in 2012 and took 2-of-3 from No. 2 Florida in Gainesville, Fla., becoming the only team to take a series from the Gators during the 2012 season. Bell led UK to the wins with a four-hit shutout in the opening win. It marked only the fourth time all season the powerful Gators had been shutout. In the decisive third game, she struck out a season-high 13 and yielded just one run en route to SEC Pitcher of the Week honors.
Kentucky then achieved something it had never done in program history. With a sweep of No. 22 LSU, UK took a series from the Tigers for the first time ever. The opening win of the series, a 4-3 eight-inning walk-off win, marked the first win over LSU in Lexington in program history. Bell and Cervantes led the way to the win. Cervantes hit .571 in the series with a pair of homers and drove in four en route to earning SEC Player of the Week accolades. Bell saved her best performance for last by pitching a no-hitter on Senior Day to secure the sweep. She earned NFCA National Player of the Week honors for her feat.
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