Cervantes’ homers spark softball series win



UK softball head coach Rachel Lawson’s Cats (18-21, 5-7 SEC) found the offensive spark they’ve been longing for during their weekend series win over the South Carolina Gamecocks (23-18, 3-11 SEC).

The Gamecocks started the series Friday night firing on all cylinders. South Carolina senior Kaela Jackson hit a bases-clearing double, then was brought home on a two-run homer by sophomore Chelsea Hawkins to center field, putting South Carolina in front 5-0.

UK senior Brittany Cervantes drilled a solo home run to deep center to give the Cats their lone run of the game.

Sophomore pitcher Ellen Weaver was pulled following her first tough first inning in favor of her older counterpart, Chanda Bell.

The Gamecocks continued to score despite the pitching change.

In the top of the second, senior Evan Childs hit another two-run Gamecocks homer.

The game’s final runs came across the plate in the top of the fifth on senior Molly Bossart’s two-run homer, giving South Carolina a 9-1 win.

A new day brought a shift in momentum. Now it was time for the Cats to hit their fair share of deep balls.

Like the Gamecocks on Friday, the Cats struck early.

Brittany Cervantes led off with a walk in the first inning. Junior Kara Dill followed her walk with a sacrifice bunt that turned into an error, which put the two base runners on second and third.

A walk of senior pitcher Rachel Riley loaded the bases, and freshman Griffin Joiner drew a walk to bring in Cervantes for the 1-0 lead. All base runners were left stranded to end the inning.

UK’s lead extended in the second with a two-run homer by Cervantes that score sophomore Emily Jolly who reached by way of a single earlier in the inning.

Sophomore Lauren Cumbess extended the lead to 4-0 with a single in the bottom of the third.

Rachel Riley connected on her fifth homer, and 22nd RBI when she went deep to left-center in the fourth inning.

The Cats scored for a fifth consecutive inning after Griffin Joiner drove in her second and third RBI of the day on a single that scored Cervantes and Dill to give the Cats a 7-0 lead, which would also be the games final score.

With the drastic change in their offense from once day to the next, head coach Rachel Lawson believed the team “took a much better approach at the plate (Saturday).”

But, it was the first shutout victory of the season by Rachel Riley that impressed the Cats’ coach.

“Riley was outstanding on the mound today,” Lawson said. “She did a great job of locating her pitches. To have five strikeouts is great. She got people out in key situations and was great all day.”

Upon taking win one from the Gamecocks on Saturday, Lawson said, “We are going to enjoy this win today and take this momentum into tomorrow.”

And use that momentum on Sunday they did, but not before the Gamecocks could strike first.

A leadoff solo home run by junior Gamecock Samie Garcia gave South Carolina a 1-0 lead in the first. A RBI-double then put them ahead 2-0 before UK got their first attempt at the plate.

The Cats’ three run first began with Brittany Cervantes third home run in as many days.

Rachel Riley’s success continued as she reached base with help of a single following her fellow senior. Griffin Joiner moved her to third with a double before being joined by Emily Jolly on a bases loading walk.

Lauren Cumbess connected for a single to drive in two of the runs for a 3-2 UK lead.

Kara Dill tacked on two more runs in the fourth with a double to left-center after Jolly, Cumbess and Cervantes reached with help from errors and a walk for the latter.

Another home run by Garcia cut the UK lead to 5-3 in the top of the fifth.

In the home half of the inning, UK struck again.

A pair of singles by Griffin Joiner and Emily Jolly loaded the bases after junior Alice O’Brien was walked, giving way for Lauren Cumbess to drive in the game’s sixth run on a single.

Freshman Kara Howard picked up her first career RBI moments later when she earned a walk with the bases still loaded. The final run of the inning came on a sacrifice fly by sophomore Emily Gaines for the 8-3 UK lead.

The offensive explosion by the Cats came to a conclusion with UK taking a 10-3 advantage in the sixth thanks to a solo homer by Rachel Riley and a wild pitch pushing O’Brien across home plate.

South Carolina plated two more runs in the top of the seventh before Chanda Bell secured the 10-5 series-clinching win.

“Obviously our offense came out swinging today which is awesome because with them scoring so early in the first inning and then Brittany (Cervantes) to come up in such a big way really jump-started our offense,” Rachel Lawson said. “For us to be able to answer back really set the tone for the rest of the game for us, and then our offense just kept rolling.”

The Cats host Arkansas on Wednesday at the UK Softball Complex as part of a double-header. Game one is slated for a 4 p.m. EST opening pitch and game two tentatively scheduled for a 6 p.m. start.