Kentucky clinches road SEC series
Wildcats topple No. 2 Florida twice behind Bell's strong pitching
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Senior Rachel Riley's bases-clearing double led a four-run sixth inning to guide Kentucky to a series-clinching 5-1 victory at No. 2 Florida on Sunday afternoon. The Wildcats have now captured series wins against the Gators in each of the past two seasons. The series loss to the Wildcats is the first of the season for Florida, and the four-run victory is the largest by a Gator opponent in 2012.
Kentucky's offense came through with the four-spot in the sixth, but again senior pitcher Chanda Bell proved to be the difference for the Wildcats. She held the Gators to just one run in 14 innings of work in two victories in the series. In Sunday's win, she struck out 13 batters, the most strikeouts she has tossed in a Southeastern Conference series this season.
With the win, the Wildcats improved to 26-27 overall and 12-13 in SEC action. UK has now secured a spot in the SEC Tournament for a fourth consecutive season. Florida falls to 43-8 overall and 20-5 in league action.
Riley led a bevy of Wildcat hitters who had success in both Kentucky wins. She was 1 for 2 with the three-run double and walked twice. Junior Alice O'Brien went 3 for 3 and scored twice while junior Kara Dill logged a 2 for 3 day with an RBI, a run scored and a walk, while senior Brittany Cervantes went 1-for-3 with a sixth-inning RBI.
UK scratched the scoreboard in the top half of the third to grab the early advantage. O'Brien singled up the middle with one out to jump-start the inning and shifted into scoring position on a passed ball by the Gators' catcher. Cervantes then sent a chopper to first that nicked the first baseman's glove, placing runners on the corners. Dill delivered an RBI single into center field for the 1-0 Wildcat advantage.
Florida rallied for a score in the home half of the fifth to even the game at 1-1. The Gators loaded the bases with a pair of infield singles and a hit batter with nobody out. A sacrifice fly from Lauren Haeger plated the score. Bell escaped further damage by picking up her 10th strikeout of the game and induced an inning-ending pop-up to short.
Kentucky responded immediately with a four-run sixth inning to recapture the lead and go ahead 5-1. Sophomore Lauren Cumbess logged a four-pitch one-out walk to begin the rally. After the second out of the frame, O'Brien picked up her third hit of the game when she found a gap in right-center to place runners on the corners. Cervantes then delivered an RBI single that dipped just over the second baseman's head for the inning's first score. Dill then notched the second walk of the inning to load the bases to set the stage for Riley. The senior laced a bases-clearing double along the left field line placing the Gators into their largest deficit of the season.
In the bottom of the sixth the Gators were able to produce a two-out single into left center, but Bell wasted little time escaping the frame by notching her 12th strikeout of the contest.
Bell completed the win with three consecutive outs in the home half of the seventh. She notched a pair of fly-outs and her 13th strikeout of the game in the winning effort.