Dill's Walk-Off Single Completes Dramatic Rally to Down UT
March 13, 2011
LEXINGTON, Ky. Sophomore Kara Dill connected with a bases-loaded walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th inning to pace the 23rd-ranked Kentucky softball team to a dramatic come-from-behind win over No. 7/8 Tennessee, 5-4, Sunday at the UK Softball Complex. The win over the Lady Vols propels the Wildcats to a series win over its border state rival for the first time since 2000.
Junior Rachel Riley began the 10th inning rally with a one-out single through the right side. Senior Samantha DeMartine then sliced a ball through the left side to place two runners on base. Following a strikeout, Tennessee opted to intentionally walk senior Megan Yocke who had previously blasted the tying three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh to force extra frames to set the stage for Dill.
UK's shortstop sent a chopper through the right side and in the process nicked Yocke on her way to second. The umpires initially ruled the ball hitting Yocke was runner's interference, but after deliberating with UK coach Rachel Lawson and Tennessee's Ralph Weekly, it was determined Tennessee's second baseman was in front of Yocke and had a chance to make a play on the ball before it struck UK's base runner. The ruling enabled pinch runner Ellen Weaver's score to be the decisive winning run.
With the victory, Kentucky improves to 16-4 overall on the season and 2-1 in Southeastern Conference action. Tennessee falls to 20-4 overall and 1-2 in league play. The two wins over Tennessee marks the first time since 2000 the Wildcats have captured a series against the Lady Vols. That season UK swept all four meetings between the squads.
"It's great anytime you can beat such a good team that is coached well and has such outstanding players," Lawson said. "Winning this series is a testament to the amount of work our players have put forth. This is just another step for us to try and get to where we want to be. I couldn't be happier with how we answered back after yesterday (10-0 loss). It was a total team effort."
Junior pitcher Chanda Bell entered in the fourth inning and tossed six innings of relief work to earn the victory and improve to 6-2 on the year. Bell tossed 10 strikeouts and allowed just two hits in her outing. It marks the 27th time in her career she has struck out 10 or more batters in a game.
At the plate, freshman Emily Jolly was clutch with a 3-for-5 performance which included her first career home run in the sixth inning to begin the charge for the Blue and White. Yocke was 2-for-4 and reached base on six occasions with a pair of walks to her day. Dill, senior Meagan Aull and sophomore Alice O'Brien all posted two singles. Trailing 4-1 and going into its last at-bat in the bottom of the seventh, O'Brien led off the stanza with a single into right field to begin the late rally. Riley reached on a fielder's choice when the Lady Vols opted to get the lead runner at second. DeMartine was struck with a pitch to place runners on first and second. Jolly then followed her sixth inning homer with a single up the middle. The Wildcats attempted to stretch the play and sent pinch runner Ginny Carroll home to try and get a tally, but Tennessee's Kelly Grieve gunned her down denying the home squad of a run.
One of UK's best clutch-hitters in program history, Yocke delivered another monumental hit for the Wildcats. With a 3-1 count, she ripped her fifth home run of the season over the left-center wall to knot the score at four apiece to send the game into extra innings.
UK had a terrific opportunity in the bottom of the ninth to pull off the upset. Jolly picked up her third consecutive hit with a single through the left side to open the stanza. The Lady Vols opted to walk Yocke to put two runners aboard. Dill had a fielder's choice and Jolly was out at third to once again get the lead runner. Tennessee then chose to intentionally walk junior Brittany Cervantes to load the bases with just one out. UK, however, could not push across the winning run as the Wildcats suffered back-to-back inning-ending outs.
Tennessee had its best chance in the extra frames when leadoff batter Raven Chavanne singled up the middle and then promptly stole second to advance a runner into scoring position. Bell quieted the visitor's bats with consecutive strikeouts of the second and third batters in the lineup. Following a walk, Bell forced Shelby Burchell into a foul-out to Cervantes at third to escape the jam.
The Lady Vols began the scoring in the opening inning by plating three runs on four hits to take the early 3-0 edge. Kentucky's pitching and defense was incredible from that point forward as UK did not allow a hit from Tennessee until Kelly Grieve's solo home run in the top of the seventh to stretch the lead to 4-1.
Jolly had the first bit of offense for UK in the sixth with the first round tripper of her career. She joins O'Brien as the two Wildcats who struck for their first career long balls in the season's opening SEC series.
Following UK's dramatic come back in the bottom of the seventh, Tennessee was geared up to respond to the showing in the top of the eighth. However, UK's junior left fielder Erika Silence made perhaps two of the best defensive plays of the season for the Wildcats to quell any hopes for the Lady Vols. Tennessee's leadoff batter sent a high-flying deep ball along the left field line and Silence snagged the ball while crashing into the wall for the first highlight-reel catch. Following a strikeout, Silence was forced to make a long run to snag another ball in foul territory to end the inning and bring the crowd to its feet.
The Wildcats will return to the road for its next two SEC series. UK is set to travel to Fayetteville, Ark., on Wed., March 16 for a doubleheader beginning at 5 p.m. ET. Kentucky will stay on the road and travel to Baton Rouge, La., for a three-game series March 18-20 against LSU.
Complete coverage of the Wildcat softball team all season long can be found at UKathletics.com.