Cervantes and Dill Provide Veteran Leadership to Infield

Feb. 4, 2012

Senior Brittany Cervantes and junior Kara Dill lead the Wildcats' 2012 infield which is comprised of a steady mix of savvy veterans and talented newcomers.

Cervantes splits time at third base, catcher and first base as a three-year starter that has already etched her name as one of UK's all-time most explosive offensive threats with a school-record 35 home runs. Dill is a sure-handed shortstop that anchors the lineup with clutch at-bats and speed on the base paths.

"I continue to be impressed by the resiliency that our infield displays on a daily basis during practice," UK coach Rachel Lawson said. "Cervantes and Dill have done a great job providing steady leadership as the younger players have worked diligently to catch up to the speed of the game played in the SEC."

Sophomore Emily Jolly who started 46 games at second base in her freshman season will see action both in the infield and the outfield in 2012. Between the three veterans the trio has earned more than 200 starts in their careers combined.

"What we need to do with a young infield is we need to learn from each pitch, to each play, to each at bat," Cervantes said. "We need to keep the girls focused and for them to gain the knowledge of what is going on to better their game."

Kentucky has a slew of talent fighting for an opportunity. Senior Ashleigh Gustafson notched a flawless fielding clip in limited action a season ago at second base. The sophomore class of Lauren Cumbess, Emily Gaines, Aubrey Lamar and Krystal Smith can all emerge as every day starters for Lawson's group. Cumbess saw action at first base as a freshman, with Lamar seeing time at third and Smith at second. Redshirt freshman Sarah Frazer is available for game action in her second season with the program.

"Smith, Gustafson and Lamar were steady contributors in the fall and we are looking to them to solidify the infield," Lawson said.

Freshman Griffin Joiner, an all-state catcher, and a talented newcomer will share time with Cervantes behind the plate and also see action at first base.

"Joiner has done a great job stepping in both behind the plate and at first base," Lawson said. "She is not only talented, but possesses all of the intangibles. Once Griffin becomes comfortable competing at the collegiate level, I believe she will be one of the best young softball players in the nation."

Despite a lack of game-experience, Lawson has a bevy of ability to exploit in a multitude of lineups. In addition to Cervantes and Dill, having the entire pitching staff returning in 2012 also provides a calming effect to the infield.

Cervantes is likely to shift into the leadership role vacated by four-year starter Megan Yocke. Cervantes can anchor the infield whether she is at third, first or sitting behind the plate, and looks to Yocke as the epitome of a leader.

"Ever since I got here a big personal goal of mine is to be like Megan Yocke because she is the definition of a leader, of a rock behind the plate if I am catching or even if I am at third it does not matter because you want to be that rock on the field and that is what I want to do," Cervantes said. "So, I just want to make sure to stay strong every game, if we are winning or losing we need to play 110 percent every pitch."