Softball Begins 2011 Campaign at FIU Classic
Feb. 9, 2011
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Following back-to-back 30 win seasons the Kentucky softball team will begin the 2011 campaign at the Florida International Combat Classic Feb. 11-13. UK will face Ohio State, Florida International, DePaul, North Florida and Memphis in Miami this weekend. First pitch with Ohio State is set for 4 p.m. ET, Friday, Feb. 11.
The Wildcats return 12 letterwinners and seven starters from a team that advanced to the NCAA Regionals for the second consecutive season. Senior Megan Yocke leads the way for the returners after earning preseason All-SEC accolades. Yocke is a .311 lifetime batter and excels at all phases of the game. Seniors Meagan Aull and Annie Rowlands lead the returning players in the outfield, while senior Samantha DeMartine and junior Brittany Cervantes return in the infield.
The pitching tandem of Chanda Bell and Rachel Riley has combined for more than 50 of UK's last 66 victories in the circle. Bell is known for her blazing power, while Riley is a two-way threat in the circle and at the plate.
Kentucky has a talent-rich freshman class to join the steady newcomers. UK welcomes eight newcomers to the squad this season, including highly-touted Emily Jolly and Emily Gaines who were named Kentucky state Players of the Year in 2010. Kentucky will also have two of the top pitching prospects join the rotation in Lauren Cumbess and Ellen Weaver. Both players are also dual-threats and will contribute offensively as well.
The goals for the Wildcats remain unchanged for coach Rachel Lawson and her squad. UK is aiming for a third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament and a Super Regional bid. The Wildcats would also like to top the 30-win mark for an unprecedented third straight year - a feat that has never been achieved in UK allure.
Ohio State enters the weekend ranked in the top 25 in both major NCAA polls coming in at No. 24 in the ESPN poll and at No. 22 in the USA Today selection.
The Buckeyes return 11 letterwinners and four starters from an NCAA Regional team a season ago. The Buckeyes have claimed a victory in each of the last two seasons to knock Kentucky out of the NCAA Tournament in Columbus, Ohio.
Junior shortstop Alicia Herron headlines the returners for the Big 10 squad. Herron was recently named to the Player of the Year watch list after leading Ohio State in multiple categories last season, including batting average (.415), at bats (171), hits (71), doubles (15), triples (3), RBIs (50) and total bases (128).
Like the Wildcats, Florida International begins the season receiving votes in both polls to begin the year. The Golden Panthers captured a berth in the NCAA Tournament following a 17-7 record in the Sun Belt Conference a season ago.
Florida International returns 12 letterwinners and six starters from that team including reigning SBC Player of the Year Ashley McClain.
McClain led the conference in RBIs (tied) and doubles, while her 71 hits ranked second and her 12 homers ranked third. A two-time SBC Player of the Week, McClain set FIU single-season school records with 56 RBIs and 17 doubles last season while also recording a batting average of .378, a mark which ranked fourth in the Sun Belt and third on the FIU single-season charts.
Continuing the challenge for the Wildcats to open the season, is DePaul who also is garnering votes to begin the season in the preseason polls. The Blue Demons were slated to finish second in the Big East this season, behind preseason pick Notre Dame.
DePaul, an NCAA Regional team from a season ago, returns 12 letterwinners and five starters from that team including Big East Rookie of the Year Bree Brown.
Brown earned a 17-6 record in her first season while charting a 2.50 ERA. The right-hander tossed 202 strikeouts on the year while limiting batters to a .212 batting average on the season. In addition, she threw a no-hitter against Rutgers and a one-hitter against Syracuse.
The North Florida Ospreys capped the 2010 season with a 23-31 overall record and an eighth place finish in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
The Ospreys return three starters and five letterwinners from a season ago. Senior Caroline Torre leads the returning players for the Ospreys. Torre was a second-team All-Atlantic Sun Conference performer from a season ago.
Torre started 51 games and led the Ospreys in batting average (.291), RBI (25), on-base percentage (.352) and had one of the highest fielding percentages (.979) on the team. She also paced the team with 11 multi-hit games and six multi-RBI games.
The Memphis Tigers round out the competition for the Wildcats at the FIU Combat Classic to begin the season. Memphis charted a 25-26 overall record and an 8-15 mark in Conference USA action in 2010. Memphis returns eight starters and 16 letterwinners from that squad, however.
Junior outfielder Lelani Bernardino was named to the C-USA Preseason All-Conference Team to lead the returning players.Bernardino has played in every game since arriving as a freshman in 2009. She is tied for third in Memphis history with four career triples, and third all-time with 17 sacrifice hits.
Live stats and complete coverage of the Wildcat softball team at the FIU Combat Classic can be found at UKathletics.com.
UK's Complete Schedule at the FIU Combat Classic
Feb. 11 (Fri.) Kentucky vs. Ohio State, 4 p.m.
Feb. 11 (Fri.) FIU vs. Kentucky, 8 p.m.
Feb. 12 (Sat.) Kentucky vs. DePaul, 6 p.m.
Feb. 12 (Sat.) North Florida vs. Kentucky, 8 p.m.
Feb. 13 (Sun.) Memphis vs. Kentucky, 11 a.m.