UK Softball: Continued Excellence in 2010

June 4, 2010

LEXINGTON, Ky. -

The Kentucky softball team began the 2010 season with high hopes and aspirations for continued success following its first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2009. Head coach Rachel Lawson and the 2010 squad delivered another impressive season to become the winningest team in school allure with a combined 66 victories in the last two seasons, its second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the school’s first national ranking in school history and a season full of individual highlights as well.

Lawson and the Wildcats posted a 32-27 overall record and a 13-15 clip in Southeastern Conference action in 2010. The 32 victories in 2010 matched with 34 tallied in 2009 boasts a total of 66 victories in the last two seasons – besting any other back-to-back season in school history by more than 15 victories.

On March 2 the Wildcats entered the ESPN/USA Softball poll with a national ranking of No. 23 in the country. It marked the first time in school history the Wildcats were among the nationally ranked squads. Kentucky finished sixth overall in the SEC standings and advanced to the SEC Tournament for the second straight year. UK tied the 2009 mark with 13 conference victories – the second most wins in league play in school history. The back-to-back appearances in the conference tournament were just the second time a UK team had achieved the feat after the 2000 and 2001 squads became the first to appear in consecutive tournaments previously.

The Wildcats knocked off four top-seven ranked squads this season – including three in SEC action.

•The Wildcats opened the season with a victory for the third consecutive year, this time in stylish fashion by knocking off the fifth ranked Arizona State Sun Devils, 5-2, on their home field. Three UK players blasted their first home runs of the early season and junior Annie Rowlands drove in three runs, two off of a home run to lead the way.

•Trailing by two runs going into the sixth inning the Kentucky offense finally found some rhythm and plated five runs to mount a terrific comeback and edge No. 5 Alabama, 5-4 in the nightcap of a doubleheader at the UK Softball Complex in early March. A five-run sixth inning ignited by home runs from Megan Yocke and Brittany Cervantes enabled the Blue and White to knock off its second top-five opponent of the season.

•Junior Samantha DeMartine smashed a two-run walk-off home run to help the Kentucky softball team upset No. 7 Georgia, 4-2, in the nightcap of a doubleheader at the UK Softball Complex at the end of March. The walk-off home run was the first of the junior's career and it marked the Wildcats' first game-ending play of the season.

•After suffering a nine-inning loss during a one-hitter a season ago to then ranked No. 1 Florida, sophomore pitcher Rachel Riley finally claimed her deserved victory as the Wildcats upset this year's No.3 Gators 5-3 in Gainesville, Fla., in April. Riley went the distance and yielded just six hits and three runs to one of the nation's best offensive teams. The Wildcat bats were alive registering 10 hits and handing Florida pitcher Ensley Gammel her first lost of the season. Kentucky had tremendous success in the middle of the order as five players registered two hits apiece.

Three year analysis under Coach Lawson

In a game dominated by statistics, Lawson has delivered improvement in every phase of the game in each of her three seasons at the helm of the UK program. Kentucky has become a balanced squad from the pitching circle to the batter’s box. Here’s a breakdown of UK’s dramatic improvements from 2008 through 2010.

Offense
•Batting Average: .255 (2008) - .264 (2009) - .269 (2010)
•Total Hits: 347 (2008) – 387 (2009) – 405 (2010)
•Home Runs: 20 (2008) – 39 (2009) – 42 (2010)

Defense
•Fielding Percentage: .945 (2008) - .958 (2009) - .966 (2010)
•Errors: 85 (2008) – 70 (2009) – 56 (2010)

Pitching
•Earned Run Average: 4.57 (2008) – 2.91 (2009) – 2.82 (2010)
•Shutouts: 2 (2008) – 9 (2009) – 11 (2010)
•Runs Allowed: 311 (2008) – 216 (2009) – 188 (2010)
•Opposing Batting Average: .307 (2008) - .244 (2009) - .223 (2010)

NCAA Tournament Experience

Kentucky made its second straight appearance at the NCAA Tournament. A season after making the first post-season run in school history, UK returned to Columbus, Ohio, as an at-large bid.

•UK is one of 37 teams to make the national tournament in consecutive seasons.
•The Wildcats are one of 27 BCS schools to post back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths.
•Kentucky is one of seven SEC schools to appear in the tournament in two straight seasons.
•The Blue and White earned seven victories against teams comprising the field of 64 throughout the season – including four nationally seeded squads.

Individual Honors and Highlights

Senior Molly Johnson became UK’s first four-time All-SEC selection in 2010. Johnson captured first-team All-Conference accolades for the second straight season. She was an All-SEC Freshman team selection in 2007 and a second-team member in 2008. Johnson teamed with junior Megan Yocke to become the first players in school history to earn All-SEC Defensive team honors.

Yocke was a second-team All-SEC selection for the second straight year. She was an All-SEC Freshman team honoree in 2008, marking three consecutive seasons she has been honored by the conference office. Both Yocke and Johnson were All-Southeast Region team members for the second straight season as well.

Furthermore, Johnson was tabbed a top-10 finalist for the prestigious LOWES Senior Class award. The award highlights four-year athletes who excel in her sport, in the classroom and in the community. Johnson was voted a second-team LOWES Senior Class team member.

The 2010 season had a number of individual highlights for many UK players including:

•Senior Amber Matousek tossed the second no-hitter in school history. Matousek posted a no-no in an 8-0 victory over Evansville in February.
•Senior Destinee Mordecai enjoyed the most prolific season of her career in her final campaign. Mordecai charted career-best numbers in batting average, hits, extra base hits, home runs and fielding percentage. She blasted six home runs this season and reached 10th all-time on UK’s career list with 10 long balls in a career.
•Senior Natalie Smith capped her career with over 200 career starts at second base and finished among UK’s all-time leaders in nine offensive categories.
•Sophomore Brittany Cervantes was named the SEC Player of the Week after leading UK to an upset of No. 5 Arizona State and hitting two home runs in a win over Western Michigan.
•Junior Samantha DeMartine hit UK’s long walk-off home run this season in a win over top-10 ranked Georgia. DeMartine had a record season with career-bests in batting average, doubles, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.
•Sophomore Chanda Bell struck out a single-season school record 288 batters. She now ranks second all-time in UK career history with 504 strikeouts. She trails the leader by just 46 strikeouts.
•Sophomore Rachel Riley was the winning pitcher in three of UK’s wins over top-10 ranked opponents. She achieved career-best numbers this season in wins, shutouts and strikeouts.

UKathletics.com provides the most up-to-date information regarding the Kentucky softball team and all of UK’s 22 athletic teams.