AUBURN Ala. – Trailing by four runs heading into the fifth inning the Kentucky softball team mounted an incredible comeback to force extra innings and then went on to plate four scores in the top of the eighth to upset No. 18/21 Auburn, 8-4, on the road to begin a three-game series. Senior Brittany Cervantes and sophomore Emily Jolly both homered for the Wildcats in the game and played an integral part in the four-run eighth inning for the first victory over a ranked opponent this season.
With the win Kentucky improves to 14-15 on the season and 1-3 in Southeastern Conference action. Auburn falls to 23-8 overall and 2-4 in league action. Senior Chanda Bell earns her eighth victory of the season after tossing five innings of relief work and striking out seven batters.
Cervantes and Jolly both logged two hits to lead the Wildcat offensive effort. Cervantes drove in four runs and Jolly plated a pair. Junior Kara Dill was the other UK player to notch two hits in the win.
To open the eighth inning, sophomore Ginny Carroll singled up the middle and a misplay by the fielder enabled her to move all the way to third to place a runner in prime scoring position to ignite a UK rally. Junior Alice O’Brien’s double into right field plated the first score of the frame.
Following back-to-back outs, Jolly came up huge again with a single into left field to bring O’Brien around to score. She was able to move to third on a junior Kara Dill single into left-center. Dill moved to second on the relay to third to attempt to get Jolly. Cervantes then delivered a two-run single up the middle to give UK a commanding 8-4 advantage.
Bell wasted little time in ending any hopes of a comeback by the Tigers as she registered three quick outs including two strikeouts to cap off the win for UK.
With the home team Tigers leading by a 4-0 score, UK’s offense ignited for three runs in the top of the fifth all with two outs. Jolly began the rally with her third career homer over the center field wall. reached base with a single through the left side gap and then Cervantes connected on a 2-2 offering and smoked it over the left field wall for the 4-3 score.
Senior Rachel Riley continued the rally with a double into left field, but Auburn brought in Angel Bunner who promptly ended the rally by getting a grounder back to her to end the inning with pinch runner and the tying run in Sarah Frazer still on second.
Kentucky’s offense continued to shine in the sixth as UK brought in a run to tie the score at four apiece. Carroll opened the frame by reaching after getting hit with a pitch. She’d advance two bases on a pair of wild pitches. With Carroll now on third, sophomore pinch hitter Emily Gaines delivered the game-tying RBI-single into right field.
Following the second out of the inning, Jolly placed an additional runner on base when she too was hit with a pitch. The inning ended with both runners still on base and the score tied.
Auburn struck first in the home half of the first for a pair of unearned runs to grab a 2-0 edge. The leadoff batter reached on a Wildcat error and then shifted a bag on a sacrifice bunt. The first run came in on a double into left field with the second run coming on an infield groundout.
Both pitchers quieted the bats in the second inning with neither team able to place a runner on base.
Jolly was the first Wildcat to reach base with a two-out walk in the top of the third. UK, however, would leave her aboard on first with the inning coming to close on a foul-out to third.
Auburn plated two more scores in the home half of the third. After allowing a one-out walk, Auburn delivered with a two-run homer from Elizabeth Eisterhold to add to its lead.
In the top of the fourth, freshman Griffin Joiner and Carroll logged consecutive two-out walks to get a bit of momentum going for the Wildcats. Sophomore Ellen Weaver then roped a single through the right side, but it struck Carroll in the base paths unfortunately resulting in the final out of the stanza for UK.
A pair of walks coupled with a fielder’s choice on a sacrifice bunt enabled the Tigers to load the bases in the home half of the fourth. Bell entered in the inning in relief and escaped the jam by recording her second strikeout of the inning to end the frame without allowing Auburn to add to its advantage.
Bell worked around a one-out single in the home half of the fifth to keep the Wildcats within striking distance and down just one run. The right-hander quickly dispersed of the Tigers with a three-up and three-down inning in the sixth.
After UK fell in order in the top of the seventh, Auburn got its leadoff on base with a single. UK quickly picked up an out with a terrific caught-stealing play from Dill and Joiner. Another single promptly placed another runner aboard, but she would get no further as Bell picked up two quick outs to force extra innings.
The teams will resume its three-game series with the second contest slated for Saturday and a 2 p.m. ET first pitch.
For continuing coverage of the 2012 UK softball season log on to UKathletics.com.