TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – For an unprecedented fourth consecutive season the Kentucky softball team is among the field of eight at the Southeastern Conference Tournament set to kick off Thursday morning in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on the campus of the University of Alabama.
The Wildcats emerged from the conference slate with the fifth-best record in league action at 15-13 after earning a school-record six SEC series won. UK will take on fourth-seeded Georgia at approximately 5 p.m. ET with the game set to air live on ESPNU. The Wildcat-Bulldog game is the third of the day at Rhodes Stadium which is expected to host record-breaking crowds for the league tournament this weekend.
Kentucky (29-27, 15-13) is riding a wave of incredible momentum after capping off the final two weekends of the season in stylish fashion.
UK first traveled to No. 2 Florida two weeks ago and claimed the series by winning Friday’s and Sunday’s contests to earn the series for the second consecutive season against the Gators. The two losses at home for UF accounted for half of the losses the Gators surrendered all season at home.
Kentucky then capped off regular season action by sweeping No. 22 LSU at home on Senior Weekend. UK had never taken a series from the Tigers in school history, and won all three contests by one run despite entering the series with a 0-5 record in league play in one-run games.
The senior trio of Chanda Bell, Brittany Cervantes and Rachel Riley proved the difference for the Wildcats over the final two weeks.
Cervantes paved the way offensively with a team-high .563 average, three home runs, two doubles, six runs driven in and a 1.250 slugging percentage. The senior homered in the opening win of the Florida series, and then knocked in a solo homer with two-outs and UK down a run in the home half of the seventh to force extras in the opening game against the Tigers.
Riley had the bases-clearing double to propel the Wildcats past the Gators in the series finale, and then has also garnered a 1.24 ERA and a win in the circle in the last two series.
Bell has been on a tear over the course of the final two weekends en route to earning consecutive SEC Pitcher of the Week accolades. She has posted a 0.94 ERA with 37 strikeouts compared to just seven walks in 29.2 innings of work en route to a 4-0 record and a save. She’s limited batters to a mere .155 average and yielded just 15 total hits. In the series-capping win over LSU she saved her best performance for last by tossing her fifth-career no-hitter to conclude the regular season in style.
Kentucky will open the conference tournament against No. 11/11 Georgia. The Bulldogs have won six of their final 10 games to conclude regular season action.
UK and Georgia met in Lexington April 13-15 with the Wildcats capturing two of three games from the Dawgs behind incredible pitching from Bell and sophomore Lauren Cumbess. Bell opened the series by limiting Georgia to just one hit, and Cumbess followed with her first career no-hitter to claim the series. Georgia fired back on Sunday to salvage the series with a 4-3 win in the finale. The series win for UK over the Bulldogs was just the second in program history with the last to come in 2000.
All-SEC performer Kristyn Sandberg leads the offensive effort with a .360 batting average and 17 homers on the season. Freshman Paige Wilson is utilizing a .327 clip and has driven in 43 on the season.
In the circle, Erin Arevalo leads the pitching rotation with a 1.47 ERA and a 22-6 overall record. She’s struck out 234 on the year and is limiting opponent batters to an impressive .180 batting average.