No. 7 Cal Escapes Wildcats with 1-0 Opening Game
May 28, 2011
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Despite a stellar pitching performance from junior Chanda Bell, the Kentucky Wildcats dropped a 1-0 decision to seventh-seed California in the opening game of the best-of-three series in Lexington, Ky., in front of a school-record crowd of 1,717 fans donned in Blue and White. Bell worked a complete-game effort escaping multiple jams and fanning eight Golden Bear batters in a tough-luck loss.
Kentucky falls to 39-15 on the season with the loss, just the third all season long in the friendly confines of the UK Softball Complex. Cal improves to 43-10 on the season with the win. UK will need to capture a pair of victories tomorrow to advance to the Women's College World Series.
"I think that the crowd was great," UK coach Rachel Lawson said. "I think that it helped us. If anything, I think that it helped us in the situations where we did make a mistake and they had runners on and I think the crowd really helped Chanda (Bell) stay in the game and helped put pressure on their hitters. Actually, I think the crowd helped keep the score down to 1-0, which really helped give us a chance to win. The crowd was a big plus for us today."
The Bears got a one-out solo home run from Frani Echavarria in the bottom of the fourth inning for the lone tally of the game. The 2011 Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year, Jolene Henderson, stymied the Wildcat bats limiting UK to just one hit and allowing two more base runners in the contest.
This marked the first time since a 6-0 loss to Louisville on March 23, 2011 that UK had been shutout. Kentucky has posted at least one score in 28 consecutive games.
Senior Megan Yocke provided the spark for UK reaching base in two of three at-bats. The senior singled in the third inning and reached by way of an error with a sharp chopper to second that was mishandled in the sixth. Sophomore Alice O'Brien also got on board with a four-pitch walk.
Kentucky had its best chance of scratching the scoreboard in that third inning with both Yocke and O'Brien finding a way on base. O'Brien opened the stanza with the base on balls. She shifted to second on an Emily Jolly grounder back to second. Yocke's two-out single into shallow left field placed runners on the corners. Junior Kara Dill lined a shot down the third base line, but Cal's Jace Williams' robbed the designated visitors of a score with a spectacular snare.
Bell was fabulous for the Blue and White keeping UK within striking distance throughout the entire contest. She faced base runners in scoring position in each of the opening two innings, but closed the door in both instances with a pair of strikeouts to bring the raucous crowd to its feet.
With the Bears clinging to a one-run edge, the designated home team threatened to add to its advantage in the fifth. Following an inning-opening out, Jamia Reid reached on a fumble by a UK defender. A single along the left field line enabled both runners to shift into scoring position with just one-out. Bell was at her best in the pressure-cooked situation. She forced a fly-out in shallow left field to a charging Annie Rowlands. UK's left fielder quickly chucked the ball to the plate to keep the lead runner from advancing home. Bell then induced a fly-out to Meagan Aull in center for the final out of the stanza.
Yocke teamed up with junior Brittany Cervantes for a terrific defensive play in the third. Reid earned a single up the middle and then shifted to second on a grounder back to the pitcher. In a steal attempt, the quick-footed Reid took off for third. After snagging a strike from Bell, Yocke zipped a ball to third in time for the out. It marked just the fifth time all season Reid has been caught on the base paths as the junior tops the squad with 29 stolen bags on the year.
Kentucky looked to begin to find some late-game rhythm rivaling its heroics in the upset of No. 10 Michigan in the Regional contest. Aull, Jolly, Rowlands and Cervantes all sent sizzling liners to the outfield, but Cal's defenders were in perfect position and did not allow any ball to find the grass.
The NCAA Lexington Super Regional will continue on Sunday, with first pitch of game two set for 1 p.m. ET at the UK Softball Complex and the third, if necessary game, slated to begin following the second contest. The games will be televised live on ESPN, with Mark Neely (play-by-play) and Jennie Ritter (color) calling the action.
The game will also be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network, with Dick Gabriel (play-by-play) and former Arizona All-American Jenny Dalton-Hill (color) voicing the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
In addition, fans can follow an extensive live blog of the games on UKathletics.com, with Eric Lindsey detailing the action.
Follow along with the UK softball team all season at UKathletics.com, the official website of Kentucky Athletics.