Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, May 6:
Softball: Chanda Bell
After having simply one of the best weekends of her career in leading the Wildcats to a series win at No. 2 Florida a week ago, senior Chanda Bell went and topped that performance by leading UK to a sweep of No. 22 LSU to become NCAA Tournament eligible and clinch the No. 5 seed at the SEC Tournament. The right-hander played a part in the circle in all three victories for UK. In the opening game of the series, she worked a complete-game eight-inning win, yielding four hits and striking out 10. It was the second consecutive game against a top-25 opponent she struck out 10 or more batters in the win. In the series-clincher, she was brought into the game in relief in the top of the seventh with runners on first and second and UK clinging to a one-run lead with one out. She promptly recorded outs against the only two batters she faced to earn her third save of the season and a UK-record breaking fifth of her career. She then saved her best performance for last. On Senior Day no less, Bell tossed a no-hitter to clinch a sweep of the Tigers. She worked all seven innings, striking out six and allowing just two walks. It was the fifth no-hitter of her career, but first of the season for the Indianapolis native. Following the weekend, she moves into third in UK's single-season record books for saves (3), fourth for strikeouts (194) and fifth for wins (16). With the two wins this weekend she becomes the first pitcher in program history to have 15 or more wins in all four seasons of her career. Furthermore, she became UK's first hurler to top 900 career strikeouts with 16 tossed this weekend to run her career total to 903. Finally, her ERA falls to a program-topping 2.48 for her career.
Softball: Brittany Cervantes
Senior Brittany Cervantes was a difference-maker in every at-bat in guiding UK to a sweep of LSU which marked the first-ever series win over the Tigers in program history. In Friday night's opening game with Kentucky trailing 3-0, Cervantes delivered a two-out two-run RBI double to bring UK within striking distance. In the bottom of the seventh and with two outs, Cervantes drilled a two-strike home run over the center field wall to tie the score at 3-3 and force extra innings. Kentucky would eventually win in the bottom of the eighth. In the second game of the series, she connected for her second solo home run in as many at-bats to drive in the game's first run in UK's 2-1 series-clinching win. Following the homer, she was walked twice to avoid her bat. In the final game of the series, Cervantes opened the game with a double - to mark all four hits in the series going for extra bases. For the weekend, she batted a team-high .571 and had four RBI. Three of those runs brought in came against the nation's leader in ERA in Rachele Fico who entered the game with a 0.90 ERA. With the tremendous weekend - Cervantes advanced in a number of categories in UK's record books. She now has the fourth-most single-season doubles (16) and home runs (12) and has drawn the third-most walks (32) in a season. Career-wise, she moved into second in slugging percentage (.580), third in total bases (363), fourth in doubles (42) and runs scored (146), sixth in assists (366) and seventh in career games played (228). She already owns UK career records in RBI and home runs and pushed those totals to 160 and 47, respectively.
Baseball: Corey Littrell
Corey Littrell led No. 3 Kentucky to a 2-1 win over No. 5 Florida, shutting down the high-octane Gators by taking a shutout into the ninth inning ... Littrell dominated, striking out five batters while allowing no walks against 32 batters, with the only damage allowed coming as a leadoff solo homer to start the ninth inning with UK leading 2-0 ... Littrell's eight-inning effort is a career high, improving his overall record to a team-best 7-0 ... Littrell has become a fixture on Sundays for the Wildcats, boasting a 7-0 record with a 2.30 ERA, 61 strikeouts to just 18 walks and a team-high 74.1 innings pitched.
Track & field: Keffri Neal
Ran a season-best 800m run at the Billy Hayes Invitational, finishing in 1:50.67.
Finished third in the 800m at the Billy Hayes Invitational.
It is the second-straight week that Neal has recorded a season-best time in the 800m.
Baseball: Michael Williams
Junior catcher/first basemen Michael Williams led UK at the plate during their three-games series against No. 5 Florida ... Williams hit .455 (5-for-11) during the week with one home run, two double, two RBI, 10 total bases and a .909 slugging percentage ... Williams shined in the ESNPU SEC Game of the Week, going 2-4 and drilling a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh to bring the game within one run ... In Sunday's 2-1 win over Florida, Williams went two for three, knocking his second double of the weekend ... On the year, Williams has hit .285 (43-for-151) with six doubles, two home runs, 15 walks and 26 RBI.
Baseball - The No. 3 Kentucky baseball team broke for finals and returned to action with a stiff test, hosting two-time defending Southeastern Conference Champion and College World Series participant No. 5 Florida in a three-game set. UK suffered losses in the first two games, before riding the dominating arms of Corey Littrell and Trevor Gott to a 2-1 win in the finale. - Kentucky returns to action on Wednesday, traveling to Bloomington, Ind., to face Indiana before returning home to host the final SEC series of the year at Cliff Hagan Stadium, welcoming Alabama Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET. UK will wrap up the regular season at Mississippi State the following weekend, before traveling to the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., May 22-27. - The Wildcats have amassed the fifth-most wins in program history, with their 15 SEC wins checking in third-most in program annals. UK lost its lead in the SEC for the first time in a span of eight weeks during the weekend loss to the Gators, as UK had led the conference standings for seven-consecutive weeks. UK sits a game back of the league lead, behind South Carolina (16-8) and LSU (16-8), a pair of team UK owns series wins against, with the Wildcats sweeping the Gamecocks. - UK has improved to 13-4 in one-run games, owning a 12-8 record against top-25 opponents and a 10-5 mark against top-10 foes. The Wildcats boast a 30-3 record in day games after posting the 2-1 win on Sunday vs. Florida, riding Littrell and Gott's pitching efforts. Softball - The Kentucky softball team concluded regular-season action with a sweep of No. 22 LSU this weekend to clinch the No. 5 seed in the SEC Tournament and become NCAA Tournament eligible. The Wildcats entered the weekend with a 4-13 record in one-run games and a 0-5 mark in league play. All three victories against the Tigers came with UK winning by just one tally. Furthermore, LSU had never lost a game in Lexington and had never dropped a series to the Wildcats in program history. - The Wildcats needed the senior trio of Chanda Bell, Brittany Cervantes and Rachel Riley to lead them to victory yet again. In the opening game of the series, Cervantes carved up the NCAA leader in ERA (0.90) in Rachele Fico for three earned runs including a two-run double and a two-out, two-strike solo homer in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings. - Bell worked the complete-game effort and struck out 10 in the win. On Saturday, Riley was the winning pitcher with Bell earning the save and Cervantes going yard in her second consecutive at-bat against the Tigers with a solo homer in the first frame. In the final game of the series, Bell notched the fifth no-hitter of her career while striking out six in the win. Cervantes was 1-for-2 with a double to mark all four of her hits in the series coming in extra-base fashion. - With the series win the Wildcats earn the fifth-seed in the tournament, marking their highest finish in the league under Rachel Lawson and the highest since winning the East in 2000. The 15-13 record in league play is the second-straight winning record against league foes and just the third in program history. Kentucky, with an RPI of 39 entering the weekend, became NCAA Tournament eligible by ensuring a regular-season record of above .500 (29-27) to mark the fourth straight season the Wildcats will cap the regular season with a winning record - a program record.
Men's tennis - The UK men's tennis team received an at-large selection into the 2012 NCAA Men's Tennis Tournament. Kentucky was selected as one of 16 host sites for the event, marking the fourth consecutive season the Wildcats will host the first and second rounds of the tournament. - UK, which is the top seed in the Lexington Regional and the sixth overall seed in the tournament, will be joined in Lexington by No. 27 Indiana (21-8), No. 37 Louisville (18-9) and No. 75 Radford (20-5). - The Wildcats are making their 23rd showing in the NCAA Tournament, including 18 of the last 19 years. This is the ninth time since 2000 that UK has hosted the first and second rounds, including four consecutive years. All of UK's NCAA appearances have come under Emery's direction.
Track and field - Seven UK student-athletes competed Friday at the Billy Hayes Invitational in Bloomington, Ind. - Freshman Keffri Neal ran a season-best 800m time of 1:50.67 to finish third overall. - Sophomore Matt Hillenbrand ran the second-best 800m by a UK runner all season, finishing fourth in the race with a time of 1:51.07. - The Billy Hayes Invitational is UK's final regular-season race of the year. The Wildcats will compete next in the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Baton Rouge, La., beginning Thursday.
Wednesday, May 9 Baseball at Indiana - 3:00 p.m.
Thursday, May 10 Softball vs. Georgia - 5:00 p.m. (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) Track and field at SEC Championships (Baton Rouge, La.) Friday, May 11 Men's tennis hosts Radford - 3:00 p.m. (NCAA Tournament) Softball vs. Alabama/Mississippi State - 5:30 p.m. (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) Baseball hosts Alabama - 7:00 p.m. Track and field at SEC Championships (Baton Rouge, La.)
Saturday, May 12 Baseball hosts Alabama - 2:00 p.m. Men's tennis hosts Indiana/Louisville - 2:00 p.m. (NCAA Tournament) Softball SEC Championship - 8:00 p.m. (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) Track and field at SEC Championships (Baton Rouge, La.) Sunday, May 13 Baseball hosts Alabama - 1:00 p.m. Track and field at SEC Championships (Baton Rouge, La.)
In the final home start of her UK career, Chanda Bell hurled a no-hitter against LSU to clinch a crucial series sweep. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
It would be awfully difficult to write a script more fascinating for this weekend than the way things unfolded in a three-game series with LSU in Lexington. But it would be impossible to match the ending.
Needing a series sweep over the Tigers to guarantee an above-.500 record for the regular season, senior pitcher Chanda Bell toed the rubber for her final appearance in the circle at the UK Softball Complex. Opposing one of the best pitchers in the country in LSU's Rachel Fico, Bell would not be upstaged.
Bell recorded the fifth no-hitter of her career Sunday in front of a full house to clinch the fifth overall seed in the upcoming SEC Tournament with a 1-0 victory. For Bell, she couldn't imagine a better way to cap off an emotional Senior Day.
"This was the best weekend ever," Bell said. "And I think it was better that it was Senior Weekend and we needed these wins... and it just couldn't have been any better."
Not only was the no-hitter impressive, but it was much needed when facing one of the nation's stingiest pitchers.
Kentucky had a great opportunity to get to Fico in its first at-bat. Senior third baseman Brittany Cervantes, as she has all weekend, got things going with a leadoff double to left field. Fico would then load the bases with still no outs in the inning. But as a true ace is wont to do, she battled back to get two strikeouts and a fly out to lead the runners stranded.
Though they knew they missed a great opportunity, Kentucky head coach Rachel Lawson said her team remained optimistic.
"We weren't deflated," said Lawson. "When you have a season full of ups and downs, you get so used to when things don't go your way, you're pretty resilient. So we're a pretty resilient group, and it was definitely not ideal to go down after having bases loaded with nobody out, but we've been in those situations so many times that it wasn't as nerve-wracking as I think it was for other people who haven't been in that situation 15 times."
And the Cats continued to battle at the plate despite the lack of success they were experiencing against Fico. They worked the LSU starter into deep counts all day long, including a 16-pitch at bat by senior Rachel Riley in the first inning.
Both pitchers were cruising after the first inning until the fifth inning. Bell allowed her first base runner of the game when she hit LSU's Allison Falcon. Immediately Tiger's head coach Beth Torina lifted Falcon for pinch runner Alex Boulet. Boulet tried to swipe second base on the very next pitch, but Griffin Joiner gunned her down to end LSU's mini-threat.
Kentucky finally began to put things together in the sixth inning when Joiner coaxed a one-out walk. Joiner advanced to second on a Ginny Carroll come-backer that served as a sacrifice bunt. Alice O'Brien strolled to the plate with an opportunity to drive in the game's first run. O'Brien made contact and placed a perfectly hit ball slowly up the middle. An aggressive call by third base coach Kristine Himes sent Joiner, who was running on the pitch, home as Falcon dove up the middle to stop the ball. Falcon's valiant effort came up short as the throw was off line as Joiner slid home safely for the go-ahead run.
O'Brien had a notion before her game-winning hit that something good was on the way.
"Griffin was going on the pitch," said Lawson. "And O'Brien in the at-bats before was like, 'I'm seeing the ball, I just got to stay behind it and I got to put it up the middle.' So, she had actually planned that two innings before her last at-bat. So for her to be able to do that is really hats off to her focus and her determination to make it happen."
The rest was up to Bell, who would only need that lone run. And did she ever deliver.
Bell recorded a perfect seventh inning, including blowing away the last batter of a game for her sixth strikeout on the day. It was a familiar, yet still incredible feeling for the senior righthander who has accomplished so much in her four season's at Kentucky.
"I thought I jinxed myself a few times because I knew I had a no-hitter going on," said Bell. "So with that in my head, I knew right away. And I knew (Ashley) Langoni was one of their best hitters, so just being able to get her out, especially on a strikeout, was just a great feeling."
Bell defied the proverbial no-hitter jinx Sunday and propelled the Wildcats to the fifth seed in the SEC Tournament. While Kentucky will head to Tuscaloosa, Ala. next week to try to improve their NCAA Tournament resume, Sunday was all about this impressive senior class. Bell and Cervantes, along with fellow seniors Rachel Riley, Erika Silence, Macy Allen and Ashleigh Gustafson were Lawson's first recruiting class at UK. There's no question that this special group of players have left their mark on a rising Kentucky softball program as the winningest class in school history.
"It's great because what people don't realize is Riley and Cervantes were my first two recruits at Kentucky," said Lawson after the game. "So even though I've been here for five years, that's pretty special. And this whole group, we've been through the whole thing for four years together. They're a special group and I can't say enough about how incredible they are as people, in the classroom, in the community, and on the ball field.
"We're going to miss them, but they've given us a lot to build on, and I'm really excited for the future they've built for us."
Senior Brittany Cervantes and Chanda Bell helped lead UK to a 2-1 victory over LSU on Saturday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Up until Friday, the Kentucky softball team had never even defeated Louisiana State University at the UK Softball Complex. Until Saturday, they had never taken a series from LSU. After Saturday's 2-1 victory, Kentucky has accomplished both.
And it could not have come at a better time.
Kentucky (28-27, 14-13 SEC) came into this weekend needing a series win to ensure a record of at least .500, the minimum for eligibility for the NCAA Tournament. They have now taken the first two, which will afford them the luxury of needing just one win in the SEC tournament to maintain the .500 status.
The focus coming into Saturday's match up was just that: Saturday.
"It's not a cliche, we really are a one pitch at a time mentality," said Kentucky head coach Rachel Lawson. "Because I think when you get too inundated with the big picture, you just don't perform well, so we're just, believe it or not, our team's just having fun and enjoying the moment and trying to make it last as long as we can."
And they have performed well. Friday night, they faced the NCAA earned run average leader in Rachele Fico who entered the game with a 0.90 ERA. They scored four runs (three earned) and came up with a much needed 4-3 victory in eight innings behind the pitching performance of senior Chanda Bell.
Today, Lawson handed the ball to another senior in Rachel Riley. With her turn in the circle, Riley knew the importance of Saturday's game.
"I think we needed it," said Riley. "We've been working all year and we're trying to make it to postseason, so any win we can get is good."
But the significance never wavered Riley's approach. In order to be at her best, she would have to treat it just like any other outing.
"It was the same as any other day," said Riley. "I was just going to go out there and throw my game, and hopefully it would be O.K."
She was better than O.K. Riley gave up six hits and a walk, but limited the Tigers to just one run in 6.1 innings. It could have been worse, though.
Kentucky had some shaky play in the field early, but buckled down as the game progressed as the Wildcat defense turned in a few gems. Second baseman Emily Jolly started a brilliant 4-6-3 double play just pitches after getting banged up on a pick-off attempt at first base. Late in the seventh inning, Kara Dill saved a run when Simone Heyward stole third base. Griffin Joiner's throw to the base seemed doomed for left field before Dill snagged it out of the air to hold the runners.
"It was huge," said Lawson of the stellar UK defense. "Ginny Carroll came in, made a nice catch. Jolly is so tough, she came in, she had a tough play. But Kara Dill, as far as I'm concerned is our defensive MVP. She made so many great stops today. And then that stop today in the seventh inning pretty much saved the day for us."
Not only did Carroll come in and make some nice defensive plays, but it was her bat that did the most talking. Carroll started the day as the designated player but moved into the left field in the middle of the game. After preserving the 1-1 tie in the field, she instantly gave Riley a 2-1 lead with a solo home run in the fifth, the second of the day surrendered by LSU pitcher Brittany Mack.
"Mack is such an outstanding pitcher," said Lawson. "You're not able to string many hits together, so even though we didn't have a lot of hits, the ones we did have went pretty far. So, anytime you play somebody like her, that's awesome."
The first home run allowed came off the bat of Brittany Cervantes, her 12th of the year, which gave Kentucky the early 1-0 lead to leadoff the bottom of the first inning. It was the second straight at-bat that Cervantes had gone deep, going back to her game-tying home run Friday night.
Riley went back out to the circle to try and seal the deal in the top of the seventh. But she could only manage one out while allowing two runners to reach base. With Bell already loose, Lawson called on her ace for the final two outs. Bell recorded a pop out and a groundout to close the game for her third save of the year.
It was a huge performance from the two senior pitchers.
"(Riley) was incredible," said Lawson. "To be able to keep them to so few hits was tremendous. And then for Chanda to come in to shut down the top of the order the way she did was also key for us."
The 2-1 win Saturday makes for a tremendous opportunity for Kentucky. Win Sunday, and UK greatly improves their chances of making the NCAA Tournament. For that to happen, these seniors, as they've done all weekend, will have to come through at the UK Softball Complex one last time. It would be quite a way to go out.
"This is a huge weekend for us," said Lawson. "First, it's senior weekend this weekend. So anytime your seniors can perform like ours have this weekend, it's huge. But more importantly we have a good RPI. And really, for us to have a good shot at postseason we need to be above .500. So every win right now is crucial."
A little after noon on Friday, John Calipari and the national champion Kentucky Wildcats will board a plane to Washington, D.C., for a tour of the White House and visit with President Barack Obama. We will be live tweeting the trip from @UKAthleticsNews, but there will likely be a hiatus in our coverage during the tour and visit itself. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can watch the proceedings:
ESPNU's SportsCenterU Special: Kentucky at the White House (begins at 5 p.m.)
After the stop at the White House has concluded, look for post-event coverage here and on Twitter, including stories, video and photos.
Now, here are a few more notes to kick off your Oaks Day:
-Baseball mounted a comeback Thursday night against No. 5 Florida, but it fell just short in a 5-3 loss, Kentucky's fourth in five games. The streak is the Wildcats first extended stretch of things not going their way, but head coach Gary Henderson and his players believe that, with final exams finally coming to an end and their track record of bouncing back from series-opening losses, they won't have any trouble rebounding. LHP Jerad Grundy (4-1, 4.29 ERA) will start game two, which begins at 7 p.m. at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Neil Price will have the radio call on the UK IMG Network while CSS will televise the game. If your cable provider does not have CSS, ESPN3 will be live streaming the game here.
-The other UK team in action this weekend is playing a huge series against No. 22 LSU. As Ryan Suckow wrote about in a feature from earlier this morning, UK softball is playing with its back against the wall, needing to take at least two of three from the Tigers to climb back to .500 and remain in contention for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. Head out to the UK Softball Complex to take in the action.
-Anthony Davis sure has a lot of cool stuff going on in his life. He's the player of the year and a national champion. He is about to meet the President and become the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft and now he has a chance of becoming an Olympian. Davis has been selected as a finalist for the 2012 USA Basketball Men's National Team. He will attend a training camp from July 6-12 in Las Vegas, Nev., with the 16 other finalists, among whom 12 will be selected for the final roster that will look to win Team USA's second straight gold medal at the London Olympics.
Brittany Cervantes and Chanda Bell (center) are part of a six-member group of seniors that will play its last home games this weekend. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
After a surprising series victory over No. 2 Florida last weekend in which the Wildcats took two-of-three games, the Kentucky softball team has put itself in a position where it controls their postseason destiny.
Louisiana State comes in, another ranked opponent at No. 22, with the Wildcats needing to, at the very least, take the series from the Tigers. Kentucky (26-27, 12-13 SEC) is projected as a bubble team at the moment, and would likely need a .500 record or better to make the NCAA Tournament.
While last year's team at the same point in the season was a lock for the field, Kentucky's postseason hopes hinge on the final games of the schedule. And while the pressure mounts, this team is enjoying the chase for a postseason berth.
"This team loves to compete," said Kentucky head coach Rachel Lawson. "We've never made anything easy, especially this senior class. They've never made anything easy over the last four years. So to be able to end on such a push is actually fitting for them."
Lawson, of course, said that jokingly. But other than last season, it hasn't always been easy for this group of seniors. That's why it's only right that they go out this way, grinding and making one last push for the NCAA Tournament. That final push begins Friday at 6 p.m. at the UK Softball Complex.
"I think they love the limelight," Lawson said. "They love playing on the national level. They love the SEC. I mean they love everything there is about Kentucky and softball. So I think from that perspective, it's kind of fun to see if they can get it done."
Senior pitcher Chanda Bell expressed a similar sentiment about this team making a late-season surge. Of course, it was Bell who mowed down Florida Gator hitters twice this past weekend, getting wins on Friday and again on Sunday to seal the series victory. Her performance over the weekend garnered SEC Pitcher of the Week honors.
It hasn't been all smooth sailing for Bell this year. After a fantastic 2011 season in which she went 15-8 with a 2.24 ERA, Bell's season started slowly thanks to an injury she sustained at the beginning of the season. As of late, however, it appears she's gotten back into the groove.
"Coach was doing a great job of mixing all my pitches," said Bell. "I've added a couple of pitches this year, and just the fact we were able to mix some different pitches in there, and not being predictable helped a lot."
Lawson complimented Bell for the way that she's come back and battled this season, noting that she has been rock-solid the last few weekends. Bell now has her numbers back to where she is used to seeing them, sitting at 14-10 with a 2.61 ERA for the season.
And if Bell's been the key to the pitching lately, fellow senior Brittany Cervantes is responsible for kick-starting the offense. In a similar situation, Cervantes struggled to get back into last season's form.
After belting 35 home runs in her first three seasons as a Wildcat, Cervantes didn't hit her 36th until the 26th game of the season. The 36th home run gave her the all-time record at UK, and since then, Cervantes has been on a tear.
The senior third baseman leads the team with 10 home runs and has since been moved to the leadoff spot in the lineup in an attempt to get the offense going. Though it was a bit unnatural for her at first, Cervantes is relishing the role as the team's table setter.
"Actually, I'm not the most comfortable in the leadoff spot. I wasn't, but now I'm totally fine with it," said Cervantes. "I kind of want to set the tone for the game. Even though there's high expectations for it, I feel comfortable in the leadoff position. And I think I've finally turned it around."
And it's important that she has. The resurgence of these two seniors has come at an opportune time.
With possibly just a few games left in their careers, both Bell and Cervantes feel a bit of urgency to perform well this weekend to set themselves up for the best possible position to find a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
"Well we know it's a pretty big weekend; we need to take two out of three," said Cervantes. "A sweep would obviously be ideal. These games are pretty important, obviously because we need them, but it's also the senior weekend. We want to go out and bang 'em in our last home games. We can't go in tense, but I think we need to have the same demeanor we had when we went into Florida."
Bell was passionate in talking about making the postseason in her final year, regardless of how much pressure was involved. She wants this badly.
"I want to go to postseason so bad," said Bell. "Knowing that we need to take two, we really need to take three this weekend. It's a lot of pressure even though we do have nothing to lose right now."
There's no doubt the pressure will be high, as are the stakes. Knowing that, Bell has the utmost confidence, as she should after her performance last weekend, that she can come up big again this weekend.
"I always feel like I perform better when the pressure's on, it's really fun," said Bell. "I don't really get nervous in pressure situations. I always seem to do a little better, I think. So hopefully our team can too."
Kentucky will no doubt fell the pressure. And they do have to play well this weekend or risk having to run the gauntlet in the SEC Tournament next weekend to nab a postseason berth. But there was pressure last weekend too. Lawson says that no matter how much is at stake, it is important that her team stays focused and have fun playing the game no matter the outcome.
"I think having those two wins against such an awesome opponent, I think it gives you a lot of confidence that if we can bring our 'A' game this weekend, I think they know they can end up on the winning side of things," said Lawson. "On the other hand, it was just fun. They play the best when they're fun and they let the game come to them. I think they've just had a great time with it, and I hope we can take that attitude against LSU."
Baseball - The Kentucky baseball team suffered its first Southeastern Conference series defeat of the year last week, falling in a rubber match on Sunday at the hands of defending conference champion Vanderbilt, also dropping a midweek game at No. 20 Louisville. UK breaks for final exams and returns to action on Thursday, hosting No. 1 Florida in a three-game series at Cliff Hagan Stadium. - Kentucky sits in a three-way tie atop the conference standings, joining Western Division leader, No. 3 LSU and No. 4 South Carolina. UK has three conference weekend meetings remaining, hosting No. 1 Florida and Alabama, and traveling to Mississippi State. The Wildcats own league series wins over South Carolina, LSU, No. 10 Ole Miss, No. 9 Arkansas, No. 18 Georgia and Tennessee. - The UK series with Florida will pit the Wildcats against the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the nation, with the Gators setting a Baseball America record with seven members of the preseason All-America team. Florida will face UK at Cliff Hagan on Thursday in the ESPNU Thursday Night SEC Game of the Week at 7:30 p.m. ET, following College Baseball Live on ESPNU. On Friday, the series will resume at 7 p.m. ET and conclude on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. - The Wildcats have been paced by an offense that ranks among the SEC leaders in nearly every offensive category, batting .309 with 94 doubles, 48 homers and 312 runs scored. Individually, freshman Austin Cousino owns a .348 average with 18 doubles, one triple, eight homers and 37 RBI, stealing 10 bases. Luke Maile has hit .329 with 10 doubles, 11 homers and 43 RBI, stealing nine bags. Thomas McCarthy has hit .323 with 15 doubles, five homers and 26 RBI, while outfielder Zac Zellers has hit .310 with eight doubles, five homers and 18 RBI. Freshman A.J. Reed has a .302 average with nine doubles, three homers and 39 RBI, while Cameron Flynn owns a .286 mark with nine homers and 30 RBI.
Softball - The Kentucky softball team charted a 3-1 week, which included a series-upset of No. 2 Florida in Gainesville this weekend. It marked the second consecutive season the Wildcats have captured the series from Florida, and it was the first series this season the Gators had dropped in conference play. - The tremendous week was led by the senior trio of Chanda Bell, Brittany Cervantes and Rachel Riley. Bell picked up both victories in the Florida series working 14.0 innings and allowing just one run. She struck out 21 batters, including a season-high 13 in the series-clincher. For the weekend, she struck out 10.5 batters for every one she walked. - Riley batted .500 for the week which included the game-winning bases-clearing double in the series win over Florida. She also pitched UK to a victory in the midweek contest with Morehead State striking out seven and giving up just three hits. - Cervantes led the bats with a .583 week which included hitting what would become the game-winning solo homer in the opening win of the Florida series. With that long ball she became the only UK player in school history to hit 10 or more homers in all four seasons of a career. - With the wins over Florida, the Wildcats also guaranteed themselves a spot in the SEC Tournament for an unprecedented fourth consecutive year.
Track and field - Freshman Keilah Tyson finished second in the Women's 100-Meter Dash Championship at the Penn Relays on Saturday, clocking the third fastest 100m dash in UK history and the fastest ever by a freshman. - Senior Luis Orta finished fourth in the men's 3,000m steeplechase with a career-best time of 8:47.52. Orta's time is the second-fastest steeplechase in Kentucky history. - Sophomore Andrew Evans won the Men's Discus Throw Championship by six inches at the Penn Relays on Friday, throwing 185-06/56.56m. - Senior Jennifer Svoboda finished fifth in the Women's Shot Put Championship on Thursday at the Penn Relays, throwing a season-best mark of 50-10/15.49m.
Thursday, May 3 Baseball hosts Florida - 7:30 p.m.
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, April 29:
Softball: Chanda Bell
Senior Chanda Bell simply had the best pitching performance of the season during the most critical stages of the year for the Wildcats. With UK needing to stay close to .500 for the season for any post-season hope, UK traveled to No. 2 Florida who had not yielded a single SEC series this season. Bell opened the series as UK's starter and pitched a four-hit shutout of the Gators - only the fourth time all season Florida had been shutout. She struck out eight in the contest and gave up just one walk. After Florida evened the series on Saturday, UK turned to its senior right-hander in the rubber game. Bell simply was masterful; she struck out a season-high 13 batters and gave up just one run to the powerful Gators. Three times in the game she struck out the side. The 13 strikeouts tossed against Florida was the second-highest total of the year for any pitcher. She walked just one batter in the contest and for the weekend struck out 10.5 batters for every one she walked. The Gators stranded eight in the game including four in scoring position and every time it appeared Florida would threaten, Bell stood her ground and escaped the jams. For her career, she now sits a mere 13 strikeouts away from recording 900 for her career. She's the only pitcher in UK history to throw 150 or more strikeouts in each of her four seasons.
Track & field: Raymond Dykstra
Finished fourth in the men's javelin throw championship at the famous Penn Relays.
Threw 229-10 in the javelin at the championship at the Penn Relays, which would be the second-best javelin mark in school history (he currently holds the top mark).
Track & field: Andrew Evans
Won the men's discus championship at the famous Penn Relays with a throw of 185-06/56.56m.
Has led the Wildcats all season, currently holding the seventh best discus mark in UK history (188-10).
Track & field: Luis Orta
Ran a career-best time in the men's 3,000m steeplechase.
Ran the second-fastest time in the men's 3,000m steeplechase in school history.
Finished with the third-fastest time in his heat amongst collegiate athletes.
Was competing in arguably the most competitive distance running meet in the country.
Softball: Rachel Riley
Senior Rachel Riley provided both an offensive spark as well as one in the pitching circle to help lead the Wildcats to a series-upset of No. 2 Florida as well as earning a non-conference win over Morehead State. Against the Eagles, Riley tossed a complete-game win, striking out seven and giving up just three hits while also going 2-for-3 at the dish in an all-important win. In the opening game of the Florida series she drove in a run with a slicing single to give UK a 2-0 lead in the third inning. In the second game of the series, she notched another hit while also working 5.0 innings of relief and giving up just one earned run and striking out four. In the rubber game between the squads, Riley delivered the game-winning sixth-inning bases-clearing double to propel UK to a 5-1 upset of the Gators. It marked just the first time this season Florida has dropped a conference series, and the four-run margin was the largest win of the season for a Gator opponent. With four RBI this weekend, Riley has now driven in a career-high 30 RBI as well as logging a career-best 44 hits. Her 11 strikeouts tossed on the week runs her season total to a career-best 73. With three walks this week, Riley has now moved into UK's all-time top-10 list for career walks.
Track & field: Jennifer Svoboda
Finished fifth in the women's shot put championship with a season-best mark of 50-10 at the famous Penn Relays.
Threw a season-best mark in the shot put (50-10/15.49m).
Has led the Wildcats all season in the shot put.
Track & field: Keilah Tyson
Broke the Kentucky 100m dash freshman record for the second time this year.
Her time of 11.48 in the 100m dash is a career-best and the third best in school history.
Finished 1st in her heat in the 100m dash at the famous Penn Relays.
Finished 2nd in the 100m dash championship at the Penn Relays, running a UK freshman record in the process.
Has the fastest 100m time among freshmen in the SEC, and the eighth fastest overall.
Has set four freshman records at Kentucky, including two this outdoor season (100m dash and 200m dash).
Ran the second leg in Kentucky's first-place 4x100m relay team in the second final of the event.
Ran the final leg in Kentucky's seventh-place 4x200m relay team that advanced to the championship.
On Monday night, Ann Armes (volleyball), Luis Orta (cross country/track and field) Eric Quigley (men's tennis), Rachel Riley (softball) and Keyla Snowden (women's basketball) received the most prestigious individual award the CATSPYs has to offer: Mr. and Miss Wildcat. The award is given for given for all-around excellence in athletics, academics, character and service. Above is the video that introduced them.
Baseball - With No. 1 LSU coming to Cliff Hagan Stadium, No. 2 Kentucky won the series over top-ranked LSU with wins in the second and third game of the series. Kentucky's series win is the first over a No. 1 ranked team in the modern era of the program, with the Wildcats producing record crowds during the three-game set. - UK leads the nation in wins, sits atop the SEC standings and owns a 12-3 record in one-run games and an 11-5 record in games against top-25 teams. The Wildcats have opened up the year with series wins over No. 2 South Carolina, at Tennessee, at No. 18 Georgia, No. 10 Ole Miss, at No. 9 Arkansas and No. 1 LSU. The Wildcats are off to the best start to a season in the over 100-year history of the program, with its SEC start the best in program annals. - The Wildcats have been paced by a team offense that leads the conference in nearly every category, hitting .316 as a team, with a .488 slugging and a .403 on-base percentage, belting 47 homers in 41 games and stealing 36 bases. Individually, freshman centerfielder Austin Cousino leads UK with a .351 average, with a league-leading 17 doubles, seven homers and 34 RBI, stealing nine bases.
Football - The Kentucky football team held its annual Blue/White Game Saturday evening at Commonwealth Stadium. The first teamers, who went by Kentucky on the scoreboard, won 35-28 over the second team (Wildcats). The first team outscored the second team 35-14 overall, as the Wildcats were spotted 14 points as part of the spring game format. - Quarterback Maxwell Smith led Kentucky to victory, totaling 353 yards on 29-of-45 passing and two touchdowns. - Wide receiver Demarco Robinson led Kentucky's receiving corps with nine catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns. The Wildcats' leading receiver was tight end Anthony Kendrick with three catches for 40 yards and one touchdown. - On defense, linebacker Tyler Brause was the Wildcats' leading tackler with seven, while linebacker Avery Williamson charted a team-high eight tackles, including two for loss and one sack for the Kentucky squad.
Men's tennis - The sixth-ranked Kentucky men's tennis team made its second consecutive appearance in the Southeastern Conference Tournament finals over the weekend before falling to fourth-ranked Georgia in the title match. This was Kentucky's third all-time appearance in the final match. - Kentucky defeated No. 43 Vanderbilt and No. 13 Ole Miss to advance to the finals. The win over VU was Kentucky's 25th of the season, helping UK surpass the 25-win mark for three consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. - Senior No. 3 Eric Quigley led Kentucky with a 2-0 record in singles action, helping him break the school record for most wins in a single season with a 47-6 record this year. Kentucky junior Anthony Rossi and sophomore Tom Jomby were named to the SEC All-Tournament team after the final match.
Softball - The Kentucky softball team traveled to the state of Mississippi for a five-game road swing. UK began the week well with a sweep of Ole Miss, which marked the fifth consecutive time the Wildcats had earned a series from the Rebels. - Both senior pitchers in Chanda Bell and Rachel Riley earned victories, while freshman Griffin Joiner led the bats with an .800 average against the Rebels. - Mississippi State took all three against UK during the weekend series, winning all three outings by just one run each game. The final two wins came in walk-off fashion.
Track and field - Junior Luis Orta finished ninth in the 3,000-meter run at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif., running the third-fastest 3,000m run (8:49.45) in school history. - Sophomore Brandon Bagley ran a career-best time in the 400m hurdles Saturday, clocking in with a 53.93 to finish third. - The women's 4x100m relay team finished first with a time of 45.62, Andrew Evans won the men's discus with a 176-02 and Terri-Ann Grant won the women's high jump at 5-10.50. - Jennifer Svoboda threw a season-best mark in the women's shot put with a mark of 50-08.75.
Women's tennis - The women's tennis team traveled to Oxford, Miss., for the SEC Championship. The 11th-seeded Wildcats faced 6th-seeded South Carolina in the first round of the tournament. - In doubles play, the 82nd-ranked team of Jessica Stiles and Caitlin McGraw took on No. 37 Dijana Stojic and Jaklin Alawi in a highly-competitive match. UK mounted a late comeback to hold off Stojic and Alawi from taking match-point on multiple occasions, holding the score at 7-6. Ultimately, Stojic and Alawi were able to barely edge out Stiles and McGraw to take the 8-6 win and the doubles point. - In singles play, multiple Wildcats found strength in their second set. Unfortunately, the late surges were not enough to grab the singles wins. South Carolina secured its win as the No. 4 and No. 5 matches ended simultaneously to give the Gamecocks a 5-0 victory. Women's golf - The University of Kentucky women's golf team placed ninth at the 2012 SEC Championship. - Senior Ashlee Rose led the Wildcats, finishing in a tie for 12th at 14-over-par 230. Rose led Kentucky with 35 pars, the second most by an individual on the weekend. - Junior Betsie Johnson finished in a tie for 29th at 21-over-par 237.
Men's golf - Kentucky finished seventh at the SEC Championship, going 6-under-par in the final three holes to finish at 26-over-par total. - Joseph Barr and Stephen Powers led UK, tying for 19th at 4-over-par. - Kentucky's final team score of 868 was its second-best score at the conference tournament since 2006.
Tuesday, April 23 Softball hosts Morehead State - 4:00 p.m. Baseball at Louisville - 6:00 p.m. Thursday, April 25 Track and field at Penn Relays (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Friday, April 26 Softball at Florida - 6:00 p.m. Baseball at Vanderbilt - 7:30 p.m. Track and field at Penn Relays (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Saturday, April 27 Softball at Florida - 1:00 p.m. Baseball at Vanderbilt - 3:00 p.m. Track and field at Penn Relays (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Sunday, April 28 Softball at Florida - Noon Baseball at Vanderbilt - 2:00 p.m. Track and field at Payton Jordan Invitational (Palo Alto, Calif.)