Kentucky dumps No. 7 Tennessee
Sophomore O’Brien hits first two career home runs in win
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Sophomore Alice O'Brien connected with her first two career home runs to guide the 23rd-ranked Kentucky softball team to a dramatic 9-6 upset of No. 7 Tennessee on the opening night of Southeastern Conference action at the UK Softball Complex. O'Brien lofted her second long ball of the game to ignite a five-run sixth inning for UK to pull off the upset.
With the victory, Kentucky improved to 15-3 overall on the season and 1-0 in league action. Tennessee falls to 19-3 (0-1 SEC) on the year.
Junior pitcher Rachel Riley worked 4.0 innings of relief and earned the victory with four strikeouts and yielding just one earned run. Riley's win against the Lady Vols marks the fifth win against a top-10 ranked foe in her three-year career.
"I thought (Rachel) Riley did a great job in relief. Tennessee had a really good game plan for Chanda Bell to start the game," UK coach Rachel Lawson said. "Riley really was able to come in and keep them off balance. I have to say hats off to our offense especially Alice O'Brien. What she did in her first career SEC start is really special."
O'Brien led three Kentucky players with a pair of hits. The sophomore from Middlesboro, Tenn., drove in three runs off of her round trippers. Junior Brittany Cervantes delivered a 2 for 3 night with a pair of runs scored and an RBI. Senior Meagan Aull also charted two hits, drove in a score and tapped home as well. In all the Wildcats racked up 11 hits against Tennessee. The Lady Vols used its entire pitching staff to attempt to fend off the UK bats.
Trailing by a run, O'Brien began the sixth-inning rally with her second home run of the night. She lofted a ball toward the left field fence with the ball striking the top portion of the wall and then ricocheting over the fence for the round tripper.
Riley helped her own cause with a double over Kat Dotson's head in right field to continue the offensive onslaught. Following an unassisted ground out to first base, senior Megan Yocke singled to the shortstop to place runners on the corners. Sophomore Kara Dill connected for a single into center to plate Riley. Cervantes followed suit with a single up the gut plating Yocke. Dill was able to round home to score with Tennessee's center fielder making a throw to third and Cervantes shifted all the way to third during the play. Kentucky's swift base running paid off as Aull brought Cervantes home with a bloop-single over the third baseman's mitt for the final tally of the five-run frame.
Kentucky struck first with two runs in the home half of the second to take the 2-0 edge. Senior Samantha DeMartine drew the fourth UK walk in the early going to place the leadoff batter aboard. With a runner on base, O'Brien connected for a two-run shot over the center field fence for her first career home run.
O'Brien's two home runs in a single outing ties a school record for homers in a game. Cervantes achieved the feat earlier this season and in all the mark has been set 15 times in UK's history.
Tennessee immediately responded to UK's advantage with a four-run third frame. The Lady Vols plated their scores on a trio of hits including a triple by Lauren Gibson.
The visitor's lead did not hold for long, as the Wildcats quickly evened the score with two runs during the home side of the third to knot the score at four apiece.
Cervantes reached on a one-out walk to place a runner on the base paths. Aull caught the Lady Vols' defensive unit off guard and reached on a bunt single. Freshman Lauren Cumbess then delivered an RBI single through the left side. Aull shifted to third and Cumbess advanced to second during the relay home to attempt to get Cervantes at the plate. With both runners in scoring position, DeMartine tied the score with a grounder to second base giving Aull enough time to scoot home.
Tennessee grabbed its first lead of the contest at 5-4 with a tally in the top of the fifth. The Lady Vols benefited from a UK miscue allowing the leadoff batter to advance on a muffed catch. Dotson delivered an RBI triple for the score.