Posts from Friday, April 24
Blue/White live blog
Posted at 2:05 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
If you can’t make it out to the Blue/White Spring Game on Saturday, be sure and join Cat Scratches for a live blog of the game.
We’ll have in-game updates, some analysis, statistics, commentary and more, and fans can send in their questions and comments throughout the game. The annual Blue/White Spring Game is scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. at Commonwealth Stadium. We’ll have the blog fired up about 15 minutes prior to the start.
Riley pitches Wildcats back into contention and on the verge of history
Posted at 12:42 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
When the girl with the golden arm went down with a leg injury in early April, the once promising season for the softball team could have crumbled below them.
Riding the record-breaking pitching of freshman Chanda Bell, the Wildcats appeared to be in the driver’s seat for their third Southeastern Conference Tournament berth in program history and first since 2001. But it’s never that easy.
Before UK could book its ticket to Knoxville, Tenn., site of the 2009 SEC Tournament, UK was blindsided. Bell, the team’s unquestioned ace and biggest reason behind the best start in program history, was out for the foreseeable future with a leg injury.
With her gone, the season and future appeared bleak.
“Chanda was a huge part of our success early on,” UK Coach Rachel Lawson said. “Anyone who can win as much as she can and get as many strikeouts as she can in our sport, it’s huge. It could have been a major downer for us.”
Any other year, it likely would have been. With a barren roster of talent over much of its infant history, an injury to one of its best players would have been nothing short of devastating for the UK softball team.
Without question, this year is different.
When Bell went down, they didn’t panic. Were they worried? Sure, just a little bit. But they kept it together. Veteran Amber Matousek pitched in with a couple of solid outings in mid-April to keep the Wildcats breathing, but the Wildcats started to slide without their ace.
And then freshman Rachel Riley came out of nowhere.
After struggling her first several outings – her ERA was as 10.95 as late as April 8 – Riley suddenly turned it on and put the Wildcats back on stable grounding. She got the start against Tennessee in the second game of a doubleheader on April 8 and picked up a complete-game win.
She followed that up with one of the best pitching performances in school history. Facing top-ranked Florida, it looked as if UK was outmatched without Bell. Not so fast. Riley stifled the Gator batters all afternoon, and was just a UK run away from a no-hitter. She pitched eight innings of no-hit ball until Florida finally mustered a hit in the ninth for a 1-0 extra-inning win.
The Bowling Green, Ky., native followed that by giving up just one earned run at Alabama before tossing a shutout in a win over Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday. She also belted her first home run against the Colonels.
What could have been a devastating blow was suddenly an afterthought.
“She eliminated any doubt,” Lawson said. “Once Rachel got on the mound and she started to do so well, the hope started to pick up and they didn’t think they had to wait out Chanda’s injury. We just continued with the business of winning softball games.”
With the help of Riley’s pitching and the resiliency of the Wildcats, UK (26-18, 8-13 SEC) is on the verge of clinching an SEC berth this weekend against Mississippi State (doubleheader Friday starting at 4 p.m.).
Without Riley, the SEC Tournament very well might have never happened. She was brought to UK as both a pitcher and infielder. The righty dominated the high school scene, tallying a 45-6 career record, and she led Greenwood High School to back-to-back state championships as a junior and senior, but she struggled to find that dominance on the collegiate level.
Then, after a bullpen session with Lawson in early April, she pulled it together.
“I looked at her and just made a very blunt comment and said, ‘You didn’t go after it hard enough,’ ” Lawson said. “She was being so careful and didn’t want to make a mistake and then I think it just got to the point where she was like, this is ridiculous, I’m just going to go out and pitch my game and whatever happens, happens.”
Playing for the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth and with the possibility of Bell coming back – Lawson said she is day-to-day and could return for the postseason – there is an unprecedented excitement surrounding the program right now. The possibility of having a one-two tandem like Bell and Riley is downright scary for opposing teams.
But that’s just speculating. Even if Bell doesn’t come back, UK appears to be on firm ground again. Thanks to Riley’s clutch pitching and the continued hitting of the UK offense, the Wildcats are on the cusp of history.
“We’re a very good team, but (making the tournament) would solidify in our players’ minds that they really are a good softball team and one that deserves postseason play,” Lawson said. “That’s why we put in all the long hours and hard work.”
Meeks to throw out first pitch
Posted at 11:59 a.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
We know Jodie Meeks can hit a shot. Now it’s time to see if he can throw a strike.
Meeks, a junior guard at Kentucky, has agreed to throw out the first pitch at the Louisville game next week. Meeks will toss out the first pitch on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Cliff Hagan Stadium for the annual rivalry game.
Dodson signs with Kentucky
Posted at 10:54 a.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Junior-college standout Darnell Dodson has officially signed with Kentucky and will play basketball for the Wildcats for the 2009-10 basketball season. More details to come on the homepage.
Posted at 10:37 a.m. EDT - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Mark Story of the Lexington Herald-Leader writes that next year's NFL Draft should include more Wildcats.
Brett Dawson of the Louisville Courier-Journal has a story on Ricky Lumpkin.
The Kentucky Kernel's Nick Craddock writes about Jared Lorenzen's return to Lexington.
Metz Camfield of the Kernel previews the Blue/White Spring Game.
The Kernel's Sam Ranard reports that the softball team is on the verge of making the Southeastern Conference Tournament and his colleague Jon Hale provides some commentary.
Former Wildcat Rajon Rondo poured in another big night in the playoffs.
Rondo sprained his ankle during the game but said he is fine.
Chris Low of ESPN.com says that Trevard Lindley is a silent assassin.