GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Behind a dominating pitching performance from senior Chanda Bell and a home run from classmate Brittany Cervantes, Kentucky earned a 2-0 upset of Southeastern Conference-leading and No. 2-ranked Florida on Friday. The win is the sixth against a top-25 ranked team this year for the Wildcats.
Bell shutout the Gators in a complete-game effort while striking out eight in her 13th win of the season. The scoreless effort by the home team was just Florida’s fourth of the season.
“Chanda really was tremendous tonight,” UK coach Rachel Lawson said. “To hold a team like Florida scoreless and to only give up four hits was the reason we were able to win this game.”
Cervantes blasted her team-leading 10th home run of the season to become the first player in UK allure to belt 10 or more long balls in a season during every year of her career. She would go 2-for-2 on the day which included a single and a walk.
With the victory Kentucky improves to 25-26 overall on the year and 11-12 in league action. Florida falls to 42-7 and 19-4 within the SEC.
UK plated both of its scores in the top half of the third for the only runs of the game. Cervantes smacked a two-out solo homer over the left-field wall for the first tally of the frame. Kentucky produced another score when junior Kara Dill was able to move all the way to second on an erroneous throw by Florida’s shortstop. Senior Rachel Riley then delivered an RBI single into right field to give the Wildcats a lead they would never relinquish.
Bell yielded a bunt-single to Michelle Moultrie to open the home half of the first. Freshman catcher Griffin Joiner hooked up with sophomore second baseman Emily Jolly to catch Moultrie on the base paths. It marked just the third time all season Moultrie had been caught stealing. Bell then retired the next two batters she faced for a quick 1-2-3 frame.
After Kentucky dropped in order in the second frame, the Gators notched a two-out single in the bottom half of the inning. Bell wasted little time escaping the jam by inducing an inning-ending groundout to Jolly.
Florida threatened in the home half of the third when the leadoff batter reached on an error by the Wildcats. After a sacrifice shifted the runner into scoring position, UK looked to be in danger. An infield single by Moultrie was mishandled by UK, but a heady play by Jolly saw the runner at second attempting to come all the way home and Kentucky successfully caught the runner. The final out of the frame came when Moultrie ran into Dill at short on an infield ground ball.
The Wildcats dropped in order in the top of the fourth and the Gators placed a runner aboard thanks to a one-out walk. Bell sat the next two batters down she faced to get out of the jam and preserve the 2-0 lead for the visitors.
Cervantes reached base for the third time in the game with a two-out slicer into right field in the top of the fifth. UK would end the inning with her still aboard on a fly-out to shallow left field.
Bell made quick work of the bottom of Florida’s order in the home half of the sixth including picking up two strikeouts to run her total to five for the game.
The visitors suffered a 1-2-3 inning in the top half of the sixth. Florida then notched a one-out bloop single into left field, but again Bell stood her ground and retired the next two batters she faced to escape the inning without allowing any further damage.
Kentucky had success early in the top of the seventh when sophomore Ellen Weaver opened the frame with a four-pitch walk. Freshman Sarah Frazer then roped her first career hit into right field to place two aboard. A grounder to third marked the first out of the inning. UK then suffered an uncharacteristic double-play with a fly-out to center and a base runner leaving early attempting to tag-up.
Bell closed out her dominant performance with a game-winning 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the seventh. The game closed with the senior right-hander tossing her eighth strikeout of the game in the winning effort.