Wildcats Come Back to Claim Series With a Two-Run Sixth
April 10, 2010
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Perfect execution off of the bat of Megan Yocke and flawless base running from Molly Johnson propelled Kentucky past South Carolina, 4-3, with a pair of runs in the sixth inning in a comeback effort to capture the series win Saturday afternoon. Yocke executed a suicide-squeeze and the speedy Johnson came home for the go-ahead run after the Blue and White trailed 3-1 through four and a half innings of play.
Kentucky improves to 24-16 overall and evens its Southeastern Conference record to 9-9. South Carolina falls to 10-29 overall and 0-18 in league action. With the two victories over the Gamecocks in today's doubleheader, the Wildcats have now captured the series over their SEC rival in two consecutive seasons. This also marks the second straight SEC series the Blue and White has obtained after taking two games at Mississippi State a week ago.
Sophomore Rachel Riley improves to 9-6 overall in the circle with a tremendous pitching effort for the Wildcats. The right-hander set a career-high with seven strikeouts in the game bettering her previous mark of six in a single outing. She went the full seven innings and allowed just four hits on the afternoon.
"Anytime you can begin the game with five straight strikeouts like (Rachel) Riley did that really helps the defense relax," UK coach Rachel Lawson said. "I can't say enough about her performance today."
At the plate, Johnson went 2-for-3 with a pair of runs and was 5-for-6 in the two games today. Kentucky totaled seven hits in the second game as a unit.
Down 3-1 going into the home half of the fifth the Wildcats plated a run to pull to within one run behind Riley's play at the plate. With a pair of outs already registered, Samantha DeMartine began the rally with a single up the middle. Meagan Aull then reached base on a walk to place two runners aboard. Riley sent a screamer towards the second base bag and the South Carolina shortstop made an outstanding grab. She thought her easiest play was to tag the second base bag and beat a speedy Aull to the base, however she could not convert and Riley reached on a fielder's choice. The heady base running of pinch runner Macy Allen proved the difference, as Allen kept her head down and continued to run on the two-out hit-and-run. Allen, also quick on her feet, rushed from second all the way home to score during the play at second bringing UK to within one at 3-2.
After allowing a runner in the top of the sixth on what became a meaning-less double, Kentucky rallied for two runs in the home half of the frame to recapture the lead and make the final margin of 4-3.
Freshman Alice O'Brien began the rally when she reached base on a one-out hit by pitch. She was plucked by the pitch on her outside hip to get a runner aboard from the No. 9 slot. Johnson delivered her fifth hit of the series to place two runners on base with a single into left field. Natalie Smith kept the rally going with a single through the left side and O'Brien was able to tap home on the play while Johnson moved to third setting the stage for Yocke. The junior catcher who had charted eight sacrifice hits on the season delivered again. She knocked down a perfectly placed ball that rolled about five feet in front of the plate allowing Johnson to quickly slide home for the winning run.
"I thought we did a great job offensively in game one," Lawson said. "South Carolina did a good job at stopping us in the second game, but Megan Yocke was able to come through for us with a perfectly executed bunt."
Riley struck out the side to open the game. Johnson picked up her fourth hit of the series with a single into right field, but then was caught attempting to steal second. With two outs on the scoreboard, Yocke singled along the right field line and DeMartine reached on a throwing error by the South Carolina shortstop. The inning ended with UK leaving runners on base with a fly out to deep left field.
UK's right-hander tossed two more strikeouts and did not allow a base runner in the second. Kentucky's Kara Dill reached on a walk in the bottom of the second, but the inning ended with her left on the base paths.
South Carolina reached base for the first time in the game thanks to an erroneous fielding mistake by the Blue and White in the top of the third. Riley retired the next two batters to prevent South Carolina from taking advantage of the miscue.
The Wildcats scratched the scoreboard first with a run in the home half of the third. Johnson reached base when she was plucked with a pitch and Smith followed when South Carolina's second baseman muffed a grounder. Yocke shifted the runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. After a pop-up to the shortstop, Aull plated Johnson when she drilled a ball that nicked the pitcher's leg giving the Wildcats a 1-0 victory.
Riley equaled her career-high strikeout total in a game when fanned her sixth batter of the game in the top of the fourth. Another error by the Wildcats allowed a base runner with two outs, but Riley quieted the threat with the strikeout.
South Carolina claimed its first lead of the series with three runs in the top of the fifth to take a 3-1 advantage. The Gamecocks plated their scores on three hits and a UK fielding miscue to capture the advantage.
The third game of the series on Sunday will air live on ESPNU - the first of two Sunday games on the network for the Wildcats this season. First pitch is set for 2:04 p.m. ET with Beth Mowins and Michele Smith on the call.
For the most up-to-date information on the UK softball team please visit UKathletics.com.