Softball Closes Out Regular Season at South Carolina

May 1, 2009

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Southeastern Conference tournament bound Kentucky softball team will close out the 2009 regular season with a series at South Carolina this weekend. UK and the Gamecocks will play a doubleheader Saturday and a single game on Sunday. First pitch both days is set for 1 p.m. ET.

Kentucky (29-19, 11-13) clinched a spot in the tournament with a three game sweep of Mississippi State last week. UK currently sits in the sixth seed for the tournament and can still move up as high as fourth in the seeding. The Wildcats will make their third appearance in the tournament in school history and first since 2001 next week in Knoxville, Tenn.

But, up first Kentucky faces a South Carolina team that is not mathematically out of the hunt for the final spot in the conference tournament. UK will also be looking to finish about .500 in the league with three wins in South Carolina. That feat has only been done once before in school allure.

The Wildcat offense was on fire last week against the Bulldogs in that defining sweep. UK accounted for six home runs in the series--including a pair of grand slams. Junior Molly Johnson batted .697 for the weekend with four extra base hits and six runs scored. For her efforts the junior shortstop was tapped the National Player of the Week by USA Softball. She was also the SEC's Player of the Week.

Freshman pitcher Rachel Riley was tabbed the SEC Freshman of the Week for her contributions in the victories. Riley posted a 3-0 week on the mound which included a win over in-state foe Eastern Kentucky. She yielded just a 0.74 ERA with no extra base hits in 19.0 innings of work. She also got it done at the plate with two home runs and one of Kentucky's grand slams.

Sophomore Megan Yocke and freshman Brittany Cervantes were slightly overlooked behind the performances of Johnson and Riley, but UK head coach Rachel Lawson knows how important Yocke's and Cervantes' roles were as well.

"It's exciting to have so many different players have huge contributions in a game and in a series like we had against Mississippi State," said Lawson. "These are signs of a championship team and I'm really proud of our effort. This team now knows that they can come back from any situation and continue to make things happen."

Yocke had a tremendous weekend for Kentucky going a combined 5-for-7 with six RBI and four runs scored. Cervantes totaled five hits, two of which were home runs and added a double to go along with five RBI for the series. Cervantes' most important hit of the series came on a walk-off two-run home run in the seventh inning of the third game to clinch the sweep.

South Carolina enters the weekend with a 20-22 overall record and a 5-19 clip in the conference. The Gamecocks have not been mathematically ruled out of contention for the final spot in the conference tournament, but they will need to pull off a sweep of the Wildcats and get a lot of help from other teams to earn a spot.

The Gamecocks are led by Ashton Payne at the plate who is batting .304 for the season and Jill Semento has totaled 21 RBI. Audrey Broyles is the ace of the pitching staff with a 10-12 record.

Stay tuned to UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date information about the UK softball team.