New season, new complex for UK softball



By Tyler Spanyer | KernelSpanyer

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Following a 2012 campaign that saw UK softball reach a fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance, UK head coach Rachel Lawson and the 2013 Cats are looking to compete for both the SEC championship and the national title.

“For us there’s really only one place for us to go, which is the World Series,” said Lawson at softball media day Monday. “It’s actually a lot harder to win the SEC Championship than it would be to go to the World Series, but those are our two goals for this season.”

The big story of the year for UK Softball is about the new facilities that have been under construction since the end of the 2012 season.

Upgrades to the UK Softball Complex can be seen from Alumni Drive and even with construction yet to finish, the complex looks like it will become one of the premier facilities in the SEC.

“It is going to be state-of-the-art,” Lawson said. “It is going to provide us with an opportunity to train at the highest level possible.”

The stadium will hold about 1,500 fans and include an all-new press box, with additional seating along the foul lines. The facility will break in its new season by hosting the 2013 SEC Tournament, which is considered the best conference tournament in the country.

The Cats will be hoping to continue its postseason appearance streak into 2013. Unfortunately for the Cats, they graduated arguably the best pitching rotation in school history, Chanda Bell and Rachel Riley, and the program’s all-time home run leader Brittany Cervantes.

“I think Lauren (Cumbess) is one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached,” Lawson said. “We had such a good rotation last year that we were able to play her on the field, so actually she’s a well-kept secret.”

Junior pitcher Cumbess comes into the year as the No. 1 pitcher and newly named captain for the Cats. Cumbess has been busy this summer preparing herself to better her performance in a 2012 season in which she posted the second best ERA in single-season school history (1.99).

“I am excited for the new stadium,” Cumbess said. “Over the summer myself and eight other girls stayed here and we all just pushed each other all summer.”

Cumbess is joined in the captain role by senior infielder Kara Dill and senior outfielder Alice O’Brien. Dill, who was selected to the All-SEC Second team last season, led last season’s team in batting, hit for .351 and had a school record 15-game hitting streak to boot. Dill also had her share of defensive plays in 2012, highlighting her .903 fielding percentage.

When asked about comparing last year’s team with this year’s team, Dill said, “I think we have a lot more depth this year. Last year we were individuals. We were hitters and base runners, but we weren’t a collective group on offense. This year I think we have that.”

The Cats begin their 2013 season in Arizona, competing in the Kajikawa Classic this weekend. UK will face off with the Golden Bears from California on Friday afternoon, with first pitch set for 1:30 p.m.