Cats Complete Comeback, Upset No. 19 LSU

March 7, 2009

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BATON ROUGE, La.  -  The Kentucky Wildcats trailed 5-0 through four innings in the second, and then proceeded to find some offense of their own as they mounted an improbable 6-5 eight-inning comeback victory to upset No. 19/22 LSU Saturday evening. In the first game of the day, the Blue and White dropped a close 3-2 affair making tomorrow's game the series decider.

Down by three going into the top of the seventh, junior Molly Johnson came up with a huge single to start the inning in the lead off slot. Sophomore Meagan Aull followed with a walk to place each of the first two batters on a bag. In a spectacular display of heads-up base-running, Johnson was able to maneuver to third after sophomore Megan Yocke sent a ball right to the third baseman. The Tigers were unable to get their throw to the bag in time as the speedy Johnson slid in safely to load the bases on the fielder's choice.

With a single out on the scoreboard after a strikeout, junior Natalie Smith delivered the biggest hit of her junior campaign with a double that laced the right-field line to bring in the tying runs. She advanced to third when LSU attempted to catch Yocke at home. Freshman Brittany Cervantes kept things going with a walk in the six-hole to place runners on the corners. In a rather interesting string of events, LSU looked like they had caught Smith in a run-down as she lead off of third, but she was able to make it back to the bag before the tag which allowed Cervantes to move to second during the exchange. The Wildcats suffered another strikeout and then the inning ended with two runners on base with a pop-up to the shortstop.

"I thought Natalie's hit was probably one of the biggest in her SEC career," head coach Rachel Lawson said. "It's always nice to see somebody who has endured so much in her career come through with a hit like that."

Freshman pitcher Chanda Bell gets the victory after throwing two scoreless innings in relief. The freshman moves into 10 th place all-time in the UK record books with her seventh victory of the season. The right-hander also secured a spot in the charts with a combined 13 strikeouts on the day to bring her season total to 79.

Bell entered the game in relief in the top of the seventh and quickly made her presence felt. The right-hander retired the Tigers in order, sitting the first two batters down on strikes. She got the final batter to pop-up to her to end the inning and force the game into extras.

"Anytime a pitcher can come in and close the door like Chanda did really gives the team a lot of confidence," Lawson said. "She and Rachel Riley both did a great job of coming and shutting down a good hitting team in LSU to give us a chance to comeback."

Sophomore Annie Rowlands led off the top of the eighth with an infield single and Johnson laid down a sacrifice bunt and was able to reach on an error during the throw attempt to first. Both runners moved ahead a bag when the ball ended up pinned in the fence. Aull responded with a sacrifice fly to plate Rowlands and give UK its first lead of the game. Yocke grounded out to second base, but was able to advance Johnson to third during the at-bat. LSU's pitcher Casey Faile put a ball in the dirt and Johnson attempted to come home as the ball rolled around in the dirt. In a close play at the plate, Johnson was tagged out prior to tapping the plate ending the inning with UK clinging to a 6-5 lead.

"I thought this win was a total team effort," Lawson said. "It was definitely a tale of two teams. I thought LSU came out and took the momentum immediately. But, we picked it up and played the way we've been playing all season long and we were rewarded for our effort."

Johnson got on base to open the game. She took four straight balls to earn a walk and then swiftly stole second. Aull advanced the runner on a ground out to the shortstop, but UK continued its trend of being unable to push a runner across the plate as the next two batters lined out to end the inning.

With the Blue and White clinging to a one-run lead, LSU's first batter in the bottom half of the eighth flew out to Aull in center field. Bell got the Tigers' Kirsten Shortridge to sit down swinging, but the Tigers put a runner on base when a ball dropped in the infield in the middle of three UK defenders during the very next at-bat. With two outs, Bell surrendered back-to-back walks to load the bases. On a 2-2 count, Bell forced Morgan Russell into a groundout to third for the astonishing victory.

LSU took a commanding lead with a four-run third inning. The Tigers plated their scores on four hits, including a three-run home run to take the 4-0 lead.

The Blue and White had another opportunity in the fourth when Yocke drew a one-out walk. She moved to second when sophomore Samantha DeMartine sent a chopper to the pitcher and was able to get on base when the throw was unsuccessful at second. UK left two runners stranded with a pair of groundouts.

The home squad added another run in the bottom of the fourth with a sacrifice fly to increase its lead to 5-0.

Kentucky struck back in the top of the fifth frame behind a pair of two-out singles. Sophomore Annie Rowlands took a base by taking four balls to get things started. Johnson found a gap in left-center to keep things rolling and placing runners on first and second. Aull followed suit by laying down a single in shallow left field allowing Rowlands to round home to make the score 5-1 in favor of the home team.

In the visitors' half of the sixth, DeMartine earned a lead-off walk and freshman Allie Jest was inserted as a pinch runner. Jest moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Smith. Cervantes claimed a walk of her own and then the freshman duo converted on a double-steal effort placing runners in scoring position with just a single out. After a foul out by junior Destinee Mordecai, Jest scooted home on a wild pitch to make the score 5-2.

The victory marks the first upset of a ranked team since the Blue and White topped No. 6 Tennessee to open the SEC season in 2008. Johnson and Smith were important in that win as well as they scored the two runs for the 2-0 victory in eight innings last March.

In the opening game of the day, the Wildcats fell to LSU in a close 3-2 game. Bell tossed an impressive game to open her conference career. The right-hander charted 10 strikeouts in just her second loss of the season. However, a three-run fourth inning propelled LSU to the opening victory.

To open the first conference series Johnson began in the lead off slot and got drilled by a pitch in the left thigh to earn a base. She swiped her ninth stolen base of the season to move to second and then advanced to third when Yocke sent a deep fly ball into center field. UK left her stranded however, as the Blue and White ended the inning with a groundout to shortstop.

Kentucky scored its first run in conference play in the top of the second. Smith led off the inning with a single into center field to get on base. She then stole second and was able to move over to third when the Tigers' catcher's errant throw to get her out at second fell into right-center field. With a runner on third, Cervantes laid down a masterful bunt and Smith's swift base running allowed her to tap home to lift UK to a 1-0 lead.

Yocke started the top of the fourth with a single through the left side. DeMartine advanced the runner a base with a beautiful sacrifice bunt, and then Yocke moved to third with a stolen base. After a pop-up by Smith, Mordecai earned a base with a walk to place runners on the corners. Cervantes stayed alive during her at-bat with several foul-offs, but she would eventually fall on strikes to leave two base runners in the base paths.

In the home half of the fourth LSU plated three scores behind a pair of home runs to take a 3-1 edge.

The Wildcats responded with a run in the top of the fifth to inch closer at 3-2. Sophomore Annie Rowlands claimed a one-out walk to put a runner on and lead three straight batters to reach base. Johnson found a gap through the left side, and then the duo capitalized on a double-steal effort to place runners in scoring position. Aull took four pitches and walked to load the bases. The Tigers brought in a relief pitcher in Brittany Mack and she forced Yocke into a pop-up to the shortstop. Clean-up hitter DeMartine brought in Rowlands with a bases loaded walk. The inning ended on a groundout to the second baseman leaving three runners left on base with the final scoring margin already on the board.

The Wildcats and Tigers will meet for a final game on Sunday to decide the series. First pitch is set for 1:00 p.m. ET.

Live results of this weekend's action are available at UK's official homepage. Complete coverage of the UK softball team can be found at UKathletics.com .