Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Apr. 15:
Softball: Lauren Cumbess
In the series-clinching victory vs. No. 10 Georgia, sophomore pitcher Lauren Cumbess did the unthinkable. In just her second start in SEC action and against a top-10 ranked team with a .276 batting average and a .463 slugging percentage, Cumbess pitched her first career no-hitter. She limited the Bulldogs to a mere five base runners, with three reaching by way of a walk one on a hit by pitch and one on an error. She struck out seven in her second shutout win of the season. It marked the first no-hitter of the season for the Wildcats, and the first no-hitter against the Bulldogs since former Tennessee All-American Monica Abbott turned the trick in 2007. No UGA base runner advanced past second base in the game to add to her impressive performance.
Not only did Cumbess turn in the best pitching performance of the season for the Wildcats, she was equally impressive offensively for UK this week. She batted .471 for the week with a team-high eight hits and two doubles. Cumbess contributed in nearly every scoring inning for the Wildcats as she has found her stride and currently leads UK with a .409 average in SEC action. She had a career-high three-hit performance in UK's win over Arkansas, while also notching two hits in three other games this week.
Softball: Emily Jolly
Sophomore Emily Jolly had simply the best week of her career in helping lead the Wildcats to three SEC victories including taking two from No. 10 Georgia. Jolly logged a team-high .500 batting average with a 7-for-14 combined performance at the dish. She scored a team-high five times, drove in six runs and hit two homers and provided an offensive spark nearly every time the Wildcats needed one. In the opening victory over Arkansas, Jolly had a career-high three-hit performance which included a solo homer in the fifth inning. In the nationally televised victory over Georgia, Jolly plated the first run of the game with a sacrifice bunt before hitting a solo homer as an insurance run in the sixth inning. Jolly is currently on a career-long eight-game hitting streak. She also charted a perfect 1.000 fielding clip in splitting time between second base and center field for the Wildcats while logging 11 putouts and nine assists for the week. She played a part in eight of UK's 13 scoring innings this week.
Baseball: Corey Littrell
For the fourth consecutive weekend, Kentucky turned to Corey Littrell to start the finale of a series with the outcome of the set hanging in the balance ... Littrell delivered his fourth consecutive win, with his sixth quality start of the season, tossing 6.1 innings on short rest, allowing only one run with three strikeouts ... Littrell has paced the UK rotation in the Sunday spot all year, sporting a 6-0 record and a 1.95 ERA in nine starts, tossing 55.1 innings, allowing 14 walks and striking out 48.
Baseball: Thomas McCarthy
Senior third baseman Thomas McCarthy led UK during a four-game week at the plate, leading UK to its first series win at No. 9 Arkansas since the 2002 season, with UK snapping a nine-game home series winning streak of the Razorbacks ... McCarthy hit .471 (8-for-17) during the week with five doubles, three RBI, 13 total bases and a .765 slugging percentage ... McCarthy batted .462 (6-for-13) during the weekend series at Arkansas, with four doubles and three RBI ... McCarthy went 2-for-4 during a rivalry game with No. 19 Louisville, including his first double of the week ... In the series-opener at Arkansas, McCarthy went a season-best 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI ... In the second game of the series, McCarthy collected a pair of hits, including a double down the opposite-field line, sparking a UK comeback rally to even the series ... In the rubber-match win over Arkansas, McCarthy again ripped a double, leading off the inning that led to UK's two runs in the 2-1 win ... On the year, McCarthy has hit .319 (45-for-141) with 13 doubles, five homers and 23 RBI.
Men's tennis: Alex Musialek
Grabbed two singles wins over ranked opponents during the week, taking doen No. 38 Roy Kalmanovich and No. 94 Gonzales Austin. Has won five of his last six matches, including four against top-100 ranked players.
Men's tennis: Eric Quigley
Won both his singles matches on the week, defeating highly ranked foes in both matches. Started the week with a victory over No. 5 Dennis Nevolo, before taking down No. 34 Charlie Jones on Saturday. The victory over Jones sealed a undefeated regular season in conference play, ending 11-0 vs. SEC foes. It was also the decisive fourth point for Kentucky.
- Kentucky posted two impressive wins
over the week to conclude regular-season action, defeating No. 23 Illinois and No.
43 Vanderbilt. The win against Vanderbilt sealed the outright SEC Championship
for Kentucky, who went 11-0 in league play for the first time in school
- The victory over Vanderbilt
completes a nine-match winning streak to end the season for Kentucky. During
those nine matches, the Wildcats have defeated some of the best teams in the
nation, posting wins over six teams that are currently ranked in the
Intercollegiate Tennis Association's top 25.
- UK won both doubles points during
the week, moving to 17-0 this season when it wins the doubles point. Seniors Eric
Quigley and Alex Musialek, along with junior Anthony Rossi and sophomore
Alejandro Gomez went 2-0 in singles on the week.
- UK receives a first-round bye in the
SEC Tournament and will play the winner of LSU-Vanderbilt in the second round
Friday at 3 p.m. ET.
- Facing its toughest test in an
historically unprecedented season, No. 1 Kentucky baseball traveled to Baum
Stadium and won a series at No. 9 Arkansas last weekend for the first time
since 2002 and just the second time in the history of the program. UK won two
of the three games at Arkansas, also suffering a midweek loss to No. 19
Louisville during the four-game week.
- The Wildcats are continuing the best
start to a season in the history of the program, with its 11-4 opening through the
first half of the 30-game league schedule. UK's series win at Arkansas was the
first in a nine-game home series span for the Razorbacks, and UK's doubleheader
sweep on Saturday was the first allowed by Arkansas to one team since the 1996
- UK leads the nation in wins, sits
atop the SEC standings, own an 11-2 record in one-run games and a 9-4 record in
games against top-25 teams. The Wildcats have opened up the year with series
wins over No. 2 South Carolina, Tennessee, No. 18 Georgia, No. 10 Ole Miss and
No. 9 Arkansas.
- The Kentucky softball team charted a
3-2 week against Arkansas and Georgia to keep the Wildcats in the hunt for postseason
play. The series victory over the top-10 ranked Bulldogs is just the second
time in school history UK has taken a series from Georgia and first since 2000.
- The sophomore duo of Emily Jolly and
Lauren Cumbess were instrumental in leading the Wildcats. Jolly batted .500 with
a team-high five runs scored, six RBI and a pair of homers. Jolly played a part
in eight of UK's 13 scoring innings this week.
- Sophomore Lauren Cumbess put the
exclamation point on a tremendous pitching performance by UK's staff. Senior Chanda
Bell limited Georgia to just one-hit and one-run in the opening game of the
series. Cumbess topped her teammate with the first no-hitter of her career in
the series-clinching victory on Saturday. Cumbess allowed just five base
runners while striking out seven in the win. It was the first no-hitter for UK
since April of 2011 and the first thrown against Georgia since former Tennessee
All-American Monica Abbott turned the trick in 2007. In 14 innings of two wins
over the Bulldogs, UK pitchers limited Georgia to one hit and 11 total base
- Cumbess was also a spark offensively
with a .471 batting average and a pair of doubles. Senior Brittany Cervantes homered
three times in five games and has hit six in the last eight games for UK.
Track and field
- Keilah Tyson won the 200m dash at
the Border Battle Kentuckiana with a UK freshman record time of 23.68. Tyson's time
is the third fastest 200m in UK history and is her fourth UK freshman record.
- Terence Boyd had career-best marks
in the long jump and triple jump. Boyd's long jump of 24-04.50 is the fifth
best in UK history, and his triple jump of 50-00.50 is the eighth best in
- Kayla Parker won the 100m hurdles
with a career-best time of 13.72, the seventh fastest time in UK history.
Parker also had a career-best long jump mark of 18-08.75.
- Kentucky's 4x100m relay team of
Julie Nunn, Kayla Parker, Shiara Robinson and Keilah Tyson finished first with
a time of 45.28, the fourth-fastest in UK history.
- The women's tennis team faced No. 24
Vanderbilt for its last match of the regular season. The Wildcats fell to the Commodores,
- Freshman Stephanie Fox and sophomore
Misha Testerman grabbed a doubles victory for the Cats, defeating Megan Gorney
and Nelly Redeva, 8-5.
- The Wildcats will next travel to
Oxford, Miss., for the SEC Championships. As the 11th seed, they will face
6th-seeded South Carolina at 10 a.m. ET on April 19.
Tuesday, April 17
Baseball hosts Cincinnati - 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 18
Softball at Ole Miss (DH) - 5:00 p.m.
Thursday, April 19
Women's tennis vs. South Carolina -
10:00 a.m. (Oxford, Miss.)
Lauren Cumbess pitched a no-hitter in Saturday's series-clinching win over Georgia. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Lauren Cumbess had a tough act to follow. Facing No. 10/11 Georgia the day after fellow Kentucky pitcher Chanda Bell had posted a complete game one-hitter in a series-opening 4-1 victory, Cumbess would have had to do something pretty special to top her teammate.
"Special" doesn't even describe what Cumbess did on Saturday.
Facing off against a Lady Bulldog offense that was averaging 5.5 runs per game, the sophomore delivered her first career no-hitter in pitching the Wildcats to a series-clinching 4-0 victory. Cumbess allowed just five hitters to reach base - three on walks, one on a hit-by-pitch and one on an error - and struck out seven en route to her third win of the season.
"She did a great job with all of her pitches, but more importantly she had unbelievable command," UK head coach Rachel Lawson said. "She knew where she wanted to put the ball and she was able to do that. She really just thought the game through and was in control on the mound. Anytime you see an athlete in that kind of a zone, it's special."
Coaches live for days like the one Lawson had today. They work tirelessly to put their players in position to succeed and hope to be rewarded. Cumbess did that and more against Georgia.
"Lauren was amazing," Lawson said. "It was really her day today. We've certainly had no-hitters before and it's always special when you do that, but to do that against a team as incredible as Georgia really says how good Cumbess is and how much she's grown."
Though no Lady Bulldogs managed a base hit, Cumbess' afternoon was far from uneventful, as she stranded runners in four of the final five innings.
The most serious threat came in the fourth inning, when Kristyn Sandberg led off by breaking up what was then a perfect game with a walk. Cumbess would retire the next two batters, but not before Sandberg advanced to second on a passed ball. She would then move to third base when Brittney Hubbard reached on an error by Bell at first base. With runners on first and third, Cumbess buckled down and struck out Gracie Goulder.
"When situations like that come up, I just try to stay focused on the pitch at hand and the batter at hand, because I can't really change if I walk somebody or hit somebody," Cumbess said. "I try to focus on what I'm doing at the moment and I trusted myself and my defense behind me no matter what."
To Lawson, the fourth inning was just the best example of the approach that carried Cumbess through.
"She went batter by batter," Lawson said. "If there was a walk or something, she didn't let it accumulate. She was able to set aside any sort of distraction by the people on base and just really put the ball where she wanted to and attack that next hitter."
With all the deserved praise coming her way, Cumbess was quick to deflect credit to anyone but herself. First, she looked to Lawson, who Cumbess said called a beautiful game from the dugout.
"She mixed in all my pitches really well and we kept the batters off balance," Cumbess said. "We mixed in pretty much everything today."
Then, Cumbess looked to her teammates.
"It's a lot easier as a pitching staff to go out there with confidence knowing your team has your back whether they're going to make a great play on the field or they're going to come in and get a hit for you,"
Coming into the season, Cumbess was supposed to be a key cog in a pitching staff that would rank among the SEC's best. The pitchers have been good - UK has a team ERA of 2.94 - but not spectacular as many expected them to be. However, much of that had to do with a defense that was error-prone early and an offense that struggled to score runs. Knowing they had to carry the load, the pitchers found themselves putting an inordinate amount of pressure on themselves. With the offense and defense now rounding into form, the staff is living up to its billing, evidenced by Bell's and Cumbess' gems.
"The pitchers are more comfortable on the mound because they're more relaxed and throwing their pitch as opposed to before," Lawson said. "If they made one mistake on the mound, they felt like the game was going to be over. That's a tough position for a pitcher to be in. Now that the entire team is really zoning in and playing better, it's allowed the pitching staff to focus on what they should be focusing on, which is just executing the pitch."
The result is that Kentucky is playing its best softball of the season. The Wildcats have won five of six games to move to 21-22 on the season and 8-8 in conference play in the follow-up to their record-setting 2011 season. Though UK still has work to do to ensure a fourth-straight NCAA Tournament berth, this bunch has done something none of its predecessors have done since 2000: win a series against Georgia.
"The series win means a lot, because to beat Georgia, a team that really handled us pretty easily the year before, it's something new for us (during Lawson's tenure)," Lawson said. "We've beaten Georgia, but we've never won a series, so it just shows the program's continuing to get better."
Sweeping the series with a win in Sunday's 1 p.m. finale would be nice, but not nearly as nice as reaching the .500 mark when it looked early in the season like UK never would. The Wildcats still have their goals of winning the SEC Tournament and advancing deep into the NCAA Tournament in front of them, and they owe to their unwillingness to quit on each other.
"Even when things weren't going well, they continued to work hard, they continued to be a team," Lawson said. "Everybody took it as their responsibility to do their thing better. They've been working hard over the past month and it says a lot about their resiliency. When most people would have thrown in the towel, they continued to work on their individual game and try to play hard for each other."
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Apr. 8:
Softball: Brittany Cervantes
Senior Brittany Cervantes exploded offensively for the Wildcats during a critical SEC series this weekend. Cervantes batted .500 against South Carolina while blasting three home runs, scoring five times and driving in four runs in helping UK keep pace in the hunt for the SEC Tournament. Cervantes, UK's career home run leader, had struggled early this season with finding her offensive rhythm and had hit just two home runs in her first 36 games this season. She then became the first UK player this season to hit home runs in three consecutive games - also a career-best for UK's all-time power leader. Cervantes batted in the leadoff spot this weekend and in the rubber game with the Gamecocks on Sunday, she watched the visitor's plate two runs in the top half of the first and answered with her second leadoff homer of the series to jump-start UK's offensive effort en route to plating 10 scores for the first time this season against league competition.
Gymnastics: Caitlyn Ciokajlo
Had a strong showing for Kentucky on uneven bars, posting a career-high tying 9.875 on the event at the NCAA Regional. The high mark placed the junior in fifth place overall at the event.
Baseball: Austin Cousino
Centerfielder Austin Cousino continued to pace the top offensive unit in college baseball atop the batting order, leading UK to a series win over No. 10 Ole Miss and a midweek win over Dayton during a four-game week ... Cousino hit .412 (7-for-17) with four runs, three doubles and three RBI, adding two walks and stealing a base ... In the series opener vs. Dayton, Cousino went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs, a double, a walk and an RBI ... In the series opener vs. Ole Miss, Cousino added a double and a walk , also collecting a hit in the second game of the set ... In the series-clinching win on Sunday, Cousino went 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI, including a rally-sparking leadoff single in the late innings ... On the year, Cousino leads UK in nearly every category, including average (.365), runs (35), hits (50), doubles (13) and steals (seven), adding one triple, five homers and 27 RBI ... The 2011 Baseball America first-team high school All-America selection has reached base safely in 31 of his 32 career games and is currently riding a five-game hitting streak, reaching base safely in nine straight.
Softball: Griffin Joiner
Freshman Griffin Joiner led the Wildcat attack at the plate in a crucial series victory over South Carolina. Joiner led the team with a .444 average on the week, score three times, walked four times, drove in three runs and doubled twice while stealing her second base of the season. Joiner's three-RBI day against the Gamecocks in the series-tying win marks a new career-high as well as the three walks she drew in the game. Joiner's development at the plate has been a key for the Blue and White as she was one of just two players to tally a hit against No. 12 Louisville in a midweek contest. Behind the plate as UK's catcher she caught two of the three base stealers in their attempts against the Gamecocks, adding to her repertoire.
Baseball: Luke Maile
Junior Luke Maile continued to pace the NCAA's leading offense during a four-game week, leading Kentucky its fourth consecutive series win to open conference play, with a series victory over No. 10 Ole Miss ... Maile collected a staggering 20 total bases in four games, launching three homers and three doubles with six RBI, batting .471 (8-for-17) ... The catcher extended his seven-game hitting streak during the week, starting with a two-homer game in UK's midweek win over Dayton, including a double and four RBI ... In the series-opener vs. Ole Miss, Maile collected a pair of run-sparking doubles in a 3-2 win, scoring both runs, including the go-ahead tally in the late innings ... In the series clincher, Maile put UK on the board with a solo homer to even the game, going 2-for-4 with two runs ... In the second game vs. Ole Miss, Maile collected a single ... On the year, Maile has hit .341 (42-for-123) with nine doubles, nine homers and 26 RBI, stealing seven bases.
Baseball: Alex Phillips
Senior left-handed reliever Alex Phillips was a workhorse for the UK bullpen during a four-game week, pitching on Friday and Sunday to win and save UK's two series-clinching victories over No. 10 Ole Miss ... In the series opener, Phillips came on in relief of starter Taylor Rogers, tossing 3.1 shutout innings, striking out three to pick up the win ... On Sunday, with UK facing its third consecutive rubber match, Phillips worked three innings just two days after his first three-inning workload, allowing one run to pick up the save ... Phillips has been a major force for a stout UK bullpen on the year, appearing in 14 games with a 5-0 record and a 2.01 ERA, totaling two saves in 31.1 innings.
Men's tennis: Eric Quigley
Quigley was the star of the weekend for Kentucky, winning both of his singles matches to increase his impressive record to 10-0 against SEC foes. The native of Pewee Valley, Ky., defeated two highly ranked foes during the week, including No. 15 Artem Ilyushin and No. 19 Nik Scholtz. Quigley's win over Scholtz was the match clincher in its win over Ole Miss.
Baseball - Kentucky completed its first series win over Ole Miss since the 2008 season, as the Wildcats won the set over a blistering-hot Ole Miss club that entered the weekend fresh off a series win over consensus No. 1 Florida. UK posted a 3-2 win in the opener, suffered a 9-3 loss in the second game, before riding a strong pitching effort from Corey Littrell to a series-clinching win on Sunday, 8-3. - UK has opened up the 2012 season with a 30-3 mark, the best start to a season in school history, leading the NCAA in wins and pacing the conference atop the standings for the second consecutive week. - UK's 9-3 start to conference play is also a program best, with UK running up a school-record 21-game home winning streak earlier in the year and a program-best 22 game winning streak to open the season, the second-longest streak in the storied history of the SEC. UK now owns a 7-2 record against teams ranked in the top 25, with UK also boasting a 9-1 record in one-run games in 2012.
Men's tennis - Behind a dominating performance in singles action that included a come-from-behind effort from senior No. 7 Eric Quigley for the decisive fourth point of the match, UK clinched a share of the SEC regular-season title with a 5-2 win over No. 14 Ole Miss on Sunday. UK began the weekend with a 6-1 win over No. 10 Mississippi State. This is the first SEC title since UK won the overall SEC Championship in 1992. - Quigley was the star of the weekend for Kentucky, winning both of his singles matches to increase his impressive record to 10-0 against SEC foes. The native of Pewee Valley, Ky., defeated two highly ranked foes during the week, including No. 15 Artem Ilyushin and No. 19 Nik Scholtz. Quigley's win over Scholtz was the match clincher vs. Ole Miss. - The two wins over the weekend takes Kentucky's record against top 25 teams this season to 9-3, while UK has earned 29 wins over top-25 teams since the start of the 2009 season. UK also continued to perform well at home, boosting its home record to 58-10 since the start of the 2009 season.
Gymnastics - UK concluded the season with a fifth-place showing at the NCAA Champaign Regional behind a team score of 194.750. - The Wildcats saved the best performance of the night for last, scoring a team score of 48.95 on uneven bars. Junior Caitlyn Ciokajlo led the way for Kentucky with a career-high tying 9.875, which ranked her fifth overall at the meet. - UK seniors Storey Morris and Whitney Rose ended their collegiate careers with strong showings at the event. Morris posted a team-best 9.825 on balance beam and a 9.8 on both vault and bars, while Rose tied a season best score on bars with a 9.775. Softball - The Kentucky softball team earned a crucial series victory over South Carolina this weekend at home to improve to 5-7 in Southeastern Conference action and remain in the hunt for a spot in the SEC Tournament. - Kentucky was led by the hot-hitting of senior Brittany Cervantes and freshman Griffin Joiner. Cervantes batted .400 for the week, including .500 against the Gamecocks. Cervantes hit homers in all three games against South Carolina, while scoring five times and driving in four runs. Joiner led the offensive unit with a .444 average for the week. She notched a pair of doubles and three runs driven in to help the Wildcat cause. - Senior Rachel Riley also boasted the Wildcat attack with a .400 average and a pair of homers. She was vital in her pitching performance as well. Riley tossed her first shutout of the season in the series-tying victory. She went the distance and struck out five in the win. Senior Chanda Bell earned the other victory in the circle for UK while striking out 10 in a complete-game series-clincher on Sunday. Women's tennis - Women's tennis grabbed its first SEC victory of the season over Mississippi State, posting a final result of 5-1. - In singles play, Jessica Stiles defeated 113th-ranked Alexandra Perper at the No. 1 singles slot, 6-7 (3), 6-1, 1-0 (10). Khristina Blajkevitch also found herself in a tight match as she defeated Olesya Tsigvintseva 2-6, 6-2, 1-0 (8). Caitlin McGraw and Stephanie Fox also grabbed singles victories for the Cats. - UK next faced No. 16 Ole Miss and fell 7-0. Freshman Edmee Morin-Kougoucheff put up a valiant effort in singles play, falling just short of Erin Stephens at the No. 3 singles slot, 6-7, 4-6.
Men's golf - Men's golf finished 13th at the Gary Koch Invitational, its final tournament of the regular season. - Junior Joseph Barr led Kentucky with a final score of 8-over-par, tying for 38th. - It was the second time this season Barr had the best or tied for the best tournament finish on the team.
Women's golf - The University of Kentucky women's golf team finished 13th at the 2012 Bryan National Collegiate. - Junior Heather Lott finished the weekend in a tie for 35th at 11-over-par 227. - Junior Betsie Johnson led Kentucky with eight birdies on the weekend.
Track and field - Competing at the Florida Relays, junior Shiara Robinson recorded the seventh-best time in the 400m hurdles in UK history with a 1:00.85. - Sophomore Julie Nunn ran the 10th fastest 400m dash in program history, clocking a 55.71. - Freshman Keilah Tyson continued her impressive rookie campaign, missing out on her UK freshman record in the 100m by just 0.01 seconds. - Junior Luis Orta finished fifth in the 5,000m with a time of 14:09.47, while sophomore Allison Peare finished fifth in the 800m. Upcoming schedule
Tuesday, April 10 Baseball hosts Louisville - 6:30 p.m.
Brittany Cervantes has taken over UK career home run and RBI records during her senior campaign. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics)
The 2011 season for the Kentucky softball team was a year of records, achievements, and program firsts. The 2012 season has been a little more trying.
Kentucky (15-16, 2-4) is sitting a game below .500 after posting 40 wins in its run to a Super Regional that was ended by Cal, ranked No. 1 in the nation this season. Needless to say, it hasn't been easy.
It hasn't been a disaster either; in fact, things are starting to look quite bright for the Wildcats. In a year where UK lost several key components of that Super Regional team, the youth and inexperience is starting to season as spring has brought some heat to this year's bunch. Meanwhile, the veterans are doing their best to teach them the UK way.
"I think it starts with us playing our game and doing what we've done the last three years," says senior pitcher Chanda Bell. "Just helping them seeing what the SEC is all about. Whether it's encouraging them or showing them what to do."
Kentucky head coach Rachel Lawson believes that her players are starting to come around as more and more players begin to contribute.
"Luckily we have a great pitching staff and solid defense," said Lawson. "Anytime you lose players who have started four straight years, you know, that experience is invaluable. But I knew that Emily Gaines and Lauren Cumbess and Ellen Weaver, they've really stepped up, and you've seen that this past weekend. Krystal Smith has done an awesome job as of late, and they're getting the experience they need at a great time in the season."
If the past weekend is any indication, then things are starting to fall into place and this team is looking to make a little history of its own. Kentucky took a weekend series over No. 18 Auburn on the road, winning the first two games only for Auburn to salvage the finale with walk-off victory. It was just the fourth time in program history that UK had defeated the Tigers in a series.
"I hope it's a turning point," said Lawson about their series win over Auburn. "I saw it coming. We've had great moments all year. It's just every great moment was followed by something less than ideal. So we just really put it together."
While the series was big for the team, what's impressive was that they did it without third baseman Brittany Cervantes getting her fair share of hacks at the plate. Lawson said that Auburn did their best to pitch around Cervantes after she had led the Cats to a comeback win in the series opener with two hits, including a two-run home run, and four RBI.
It was a big game for Cervantes who has found hard luck at the plate this year. She blasted just her second home run of the season in the fifth inning of Friday's game, something that she's done quite frequently throughout her career.
Just over a week earlier, Cervantes hit a game-winning home run, her first of the season to defeat North Carolina State 7-6, breaking the school record with her 36th career dinger. It was an important accomplishment for the senior that put her in special yet familiar company.
"I think it's a pretty big accomplishment," said Cervantes. "I'm pretty sure those records were set by Molly Johnson, who's our assistant coach now, and as you know is on the USA team. She's a phenomenal player. So the fact that I'm even level with her, I think, is an accomplishment in and of itself."
Cervantes also passed Johnson on her way to the school record in RBI with 141, a record that was previously held by Leslie Kwiatkowski.
Where UK has struggled this season has been in their lack of middle of the order bats like Cervantes to give them enough offense to win games. With her team working on special drills at practice focused on driving the ball, Lawson said that she expected a bit of a drop off offensively coming into the season.
"We've been hitting the ball, but we haven't been driving the ball," said Lawson. "And a lot of it just deals with learning the pitchers on the other teams. And then also it deals with just having the confidence in the box to really just sit on the pitch you're looking for and drive it."
With the struggles at the dish, the pressure has mounted on the mound. Bell says that her and the pitchers have felt a need to make the few runs they are spotted stick.
"The pressure's always there," said Bell. "I think it's a little more pressure trying to make it so that if we get one or two runs across, we have to be able as a pitching staff, keep their runs off."
After their performance in Auburn, Bell feels confident that the offense will support the pitching staff going forward, beginning on Wednesday with a showdown against No. 11 Louisville (27-0). First pitch will be at 6 p.m. at the UK Softball Complex.
"I think our bats were great this weekend," said Bell. "Even though we lost the third game, we still had lots of runners and lots of hits, so I think it's definitely a turning point for us."
Where did the offense come from? And why the sudden change in demeanor? Bell attributes it to a team meeting called by captains Cervantes and Rachel Riley a couple of weeks ago. It appears now their words are starting to "kick in."
While Cervantes says "they have a target" on their back, Lawson agrees that the success of 2011 has brought out the best in their opponents. But Lawson also says this team needs to remember who they are to get back to where they want to be.
"If anything else, it just kind of reminded us what kind of a team that we are," said Lawson of their success in Auburn. "That we're a well balanced team that can play defense, we can score runs, and we're tough on the mound. I think we forgot that for a while, and I think it was just a reminder of how good we are, and that we are capable of being a top-25 program."
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, March 25:
Gymnastics: Holly Cunningham
Sophomore Holly Cunningham posted the highest individual score for Kentucky at the SEC Championships with her career-high tying 9.85 on vault. Has now posted a 9.8 or higher on vault in nine of her last 10 meets.
Softball: Griffin Joiner
Freshman Griffin Joiner was her continued steady-self offering the Wildcats a .300 batting clip and a pair of crucial RBI in helping clinch a series over No. 18/21 Auburn. Joiner gave UK a 1-0 lead in both of the final two games of the series with the Tigers. In Saturday's game the lead would be one UK would not relinquish en route to earning a series win over the Tigers for just the fourth time in school history. Her sacrifice fly in the final game of the series proved to be UK's lone scoring of the game and it was a lead UK held until Auburn mounted a two-run bottom of the seventh rally to salvage a sweep. Joiner's presence at catcher cannot go unnoticed. She logged a perfect 1.000 fielding clip while notching 28 putouts and four assists. Runners attempted to steal on her a mere three times, and she successfully turned the play in all three attempts not allowing any runners to advance a base on her watch. Her success rate discouraged additional attempts as teams opted for sacrifice hits and hit-and-runs.
Men's tennis: Alex Musialek
Became the 14th player in school history to record 100 singles wins with his come-from-behind win over No. 82 Roberto Maytin of Baylor. The native of Dax, France, earned the historic win in a three-set thriller over No. 82 Roberto Maytin at No. 2 singles. After dropping the first set 3-6, Musialek dominated the second set 6-1 and then rolled in the third set 6-4 to grab the win.
Baseball: Alex Phillips
Senior southpaw Alex Phillips had a pair of strong relief outings in helping the Wildcats extend their NCAA-leading 24-1 record with a series win at Tennessee and a midweek win at Cincinnati ... In game two of the series at UT, Phillips entered the game after a rain storm had halted play on Sunday, working the final 4.1 shutout innings to post a win to even that series ... In a midweek win at UC, Phillips entered when the steady UK bullpen was allowing six runs to make the contest tight ... Phillips immediately got UK out of any trouble to lock the save down with two innings and two strikeouts ... On the year, Phillips owns a 3-0 record and a 2.11 ERA in 10 relief outings, tossing 21.1 innings, allowing only 12 hits and five walks, striking out 19, with a .190 opposing batting average.
Baseball: J.T. Riddle
Sophomore second baseman J.T. Riddle had a clutch week in helping No. 2 Kentucky to a midweek win at Cincinnati and a series victory at Tennessee ... Riddle's clutch hitting led UK to the series win over the Vols, UK's first in Knoxville since the 2008 season and helped the Wildcats improve to a nation-leading 24-1, including a 5-1 mark in SEC play ... After the Wildcats suffered their first loss of the year in the series opener on Friday night to snap a 22-game winning streak, Riddle's bat paced UK to the series-evening win in game two, batting 3-for-4 with three RBI, a homer and a triple ... In the series finale, a seven-inning game, the two teams were locked in a scoreless pitching duel in the top of the sixth when Riddle smacked a double off the wall in leftfield to score the go-ahead and game-winning run ... In a midweek win at UC, Riddle scored a pair of runs and added an RBI single ... In addition to his contributions at the plate, Riddle has played stellar defense at second base, with his instincts, range and arm strength helping the UK defensive unit rank second in the SEC in fielding ... On the year, Riddle has hit .318 (28-for-88), with five doubles, one triple, one homer and 18 RBI, with his 23 runs scored ranking eighth in the league.
Softball: Rachel Riley
Senior Rachel Riley was flawless in her two starts and two victories this week in UK's impressive 3-1 weekend including taking a series from No. 18/21 Auburn for just the fourth time school history. Riley earned the decisive-series clinching victory over the Tigers with a complete-game effort. She worked 7.0 innings yielding just one earned run and limiting Auburn to a mere five hits. She struck out four in the win. The win marked the ninth of her career over a top-25 ranked opponent and the first in her senior campaign. She also contributed offensively with a 2-for-4 day at the dish which was her sixth multi-hit outing of the season. In UK's non-conference victory in front of her hometown of Bowling Green, Ky., on the campus of Western Kentucky, Riley again worked a complete-game. She struck out six batters and allowed just five Hilltopper hits. She also logged a 1-for-4 day at the plate in the UK victory. With 10 strikeouts this weekend, Riley moved into fifth place on UK's all-time career strikeout list. With two wins she also becomes just one of three pitchers in school history with 35 or more career wins.
Baseball: Chandler Shepherd
Right-hander Chandler Shepherd made his first career road start at Big East foe Cincinnati on Wednesday, posting his second career win ... Shepherd worked a career-long 5.2 innings, allowing five hits and two runs, striking out two ... Shepherd worked five shutout innings and came out for the sixth inning in an effort to extend his pitch count, with the Bearcats scoring two on a triple ... On the year, Shepherd has appeared in five games with four starts, posting a 2-0 record and a 3.15 ERA, in 20 innings, walking five and striking out 11.
Men's basketball - Kentucky advanced to its second-straight Final Four on the heels of an 82-70 win over Baylor in the Elite Eight on Sunday. - Anthony Davis notched his 19th double-double on the season and fifth in the postseason. He finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while adding six blocks and two steals. - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist led the Cats in scoring with a team-high 19 points. Doron Lamb (14) and Terrence Jones (12) also scored in double-figures with all of Lamb's points coming in the second half. Jones also added nine rebounds and a career-high six assists. - Kentucky is averaging 88.0 ppg in its four NCAA games. Women's basketball - The Wildcats earned their second trip to the Elite Eight in the last three years after hot shooting from beyond the arc vs. Gongaza. UK hit 12 3-pointers, most ever by UK in an NCAA Tournament game, including a season-high tying five treys from senior Keyla Snowden. - Snowden led UK with 17 points off the bench, while reserve forward Samarie Walker posted her second straight double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Junior All-America candidate A'dia Mathies and Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year Bria Goss followed with 15 and 10 points, respectively. - Connecticut native and sophomore guard Kastine Evans also was a huge factor on the boards as she grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds. - Their 28 wins tie the school record set in 2009-10 when the Cats also advanced to the Elite Eight. UK has now won 25-plus games for three consecutive seasons for the first time ever.
Baseball - The second-ranked Kentucky baseball team completed a four-game week on the road with three wins, including a series win at Tennessee and a midweek win at Cincinnati. - The Wildcats will return to action on Tuesday with a midweek game vs. Western Kentucky at 6:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium, before traveling to No. 17 Georgia for a three-game set, starting Friday at 7 p.m. ET at Foley Field. - Kentucky (24-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) is off to the best start to a season in program history with its 5-1 start to conference play its best since 1992, when UK opened 7-0. - The Wildcats had their record 22-game winning streak snapped on Friday night at UT, before responding to claim the final two games to win the series for the first time in Knoxville since the 2008 campaign.
Gymnastics - Behind an impressive performance on vault, where the Wildcats posted one of their highest team scores of the season with a 49.0, the UK gymnastics team finished in fifth place out of seven teams, tying the best finish in school history at the Southeastern Conference Championships. - Kentucky posted an overall team score of 194.350 at the event to defeat No. 10 Arkansas and No. 15 Auburn. The fifth-place finish for Kentucky ties the best finish in school history. UK finished tied for fifth out of seven teams in 2002, while its best finish at the event was fourth out of six teams in 1996. - UK ends the season with a Regional Qualifying Score of 195.49, which is the second-highest in school history. Kentucky earned the high RQS after its best three-meet sequence in school history, where it posted a 195.875 or higher in three consecutive meets.
Softball - UK earned a 3-1 week with a non-conference road victory at Western Kentucky before capturing its first SEC series of the season by taking two-of-three from No. 18 Auburn. - Senior pitcher Rachel Riley tossed two complete-game victories including the decisive series-clinching win over Auburn. The win over the Tigers marked the ninth career win over a top-25 ranked team for Riley and she also notched her sixth multi-hit game in the win. - Kentucky had a slew of terrific offensive performances over the weekend with senior Brittany Cervantes, junior Kara Dill, sophomores Ginny Carroll, Lauren Cumbess, Emily Gaines, Emily Jolly and Ellen Weaver all converting crucial at-bats into runs for the Wildcats.
Men's tennis - The seventh-ranked UK men's tennis team continued its unblemished mark in SEC action with two league wins over the weekend. Kentucky defeated No. 19 Auburn 4-0 before its 4-1 road win over No. 61 Alabama on Sunday. - UK has now won sixth consecutive matches to start SEC play, which is the Wildcats' best start in league action since the 1988 team went a school-best 8-0. Overall, UK has defeated 13 teams that are currently ranked in the ITA top 61, including five teams that are ranked in the top 25. In league play, the Wildcats have defeated No. 11 Florida, No. 19 Auburn, No. 26 LSU, No. 32 Arkansas, No. 40 South Carolina and No. 61 Alabama. - UK won doubles in both matches, moving its record to 12-0 when it wins the doubles point. Senior Alex Musialek led UK in singles, becoming the 14th player in school history to win 100 career singles matches.
Swimming and diving - The men's swimming and diving teams concluded their seasons at the 2012 NCAA Championships in Seattle, Wash., finishing in 21st, accumulating 35 points. The finish was the highest since the 2009-10 season. - Tyler Reed recorded fifth-place finish, swimming a school-record 42.60 in the 100-freestyle. Reed also swam a 1:34.96 in the 200-free, posting an 11th-place finish. - Greg Ferrucci finished in the top-15 in all three diving events, racking up an 11th-place finish in both the one and three-meter springboard, while finishing 15th on the tower.
Women's tennis - Women's tennis traveled to No. 64 Auburn and fell, 5-2. Junior Jessica Stiles and freshman Stephanie Fox excelled in singles play, defeating both of their opponents. Marni Venter and CeCe Witten also grabbed a doubles win for the Wildcats. - Kentucky hosted tough opponent No. 14 Alabama at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Complex on Sunday. Witten and Venter once again put on a strong performance in doubles, but could not grab the win. Fox provided fierce competition for Alex Clay at the No. 4 singles slot but narrowly fell, 7-6, 4-6, 1-0 (5). Ultimately, the Cats fell 7-0, to the Crimson Tide.
Men's golf - The men's golf team got off to a fantastic start Sunday in the first round of the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate, shooting a team score of 3-under-par 285, tying for the first round lead. - Kentucky was led by freshman David Snyder, junior Joseph Barr and sophomore Cody Martin, who each find themselves in the top 10. Snyder carded a 2-under-par 70 and is tied for second, while Barr and Martin each shot 1-under-par 71s and are tied for 10th.
Monday, March 26 Men's golf at Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate (Awendaw, S.C. )
Tuesday, March 27 Baseball hosts Western Kentucky - 6:30 p.m. Women's basketball vs. UConn - 7:00 p.m. (Kingston, R.I. ) Men's golf at Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate (Awendaw, S.C.)
Wednesday, March 28 Softball hosts Louisville - 6:00 p.m.
Thursday, March 29 Track and field at Texas Relays (Austin, Texas)
Friday, March 30 Women's tennis hosts Georgia - 5:00 p.m. Men's tennis at Georgia - 5:00 p.m. Softball at Tennessee - 6:00 p.m. Baseball at Georgia - 7:00 p.m. Track and field at Texas Relays (Austin, Texas)/Yellow Jacket Invitational (Atlanta)
Saturday, March 31 Softball at Tennessee - 2:00 p.m. Baseball at Georgia - 4:00 p.m. Men's basketball vs. Louisville - 6:09 p.m. (Kingston, R.I.) Track and field at Texas Relays (Austin, Texas)/Yellow Jacket Invitational (Atlanta) Sunday, April 1 Women's tennis hosts Tennessee - Noon Men's tennis at Tennessee - 1:00 p.m. Softball at Tennessee - 1:30 p.m. Baseball at Georgia - 2:00 p.m. Women's basketball vs. TBD (Denver)