UK softball off to best start in program history

By Chandler Howard

Days after achieving its first national ranking in team history, the UK softball team continues to add to its resume.

UK (14-5) is off to its best start through 19 games since the program began in 1997. Following a 3-2 weekend at the Buzz Classic in Marietta, Ga., the Cats have bested the 2007 season in which they opened with 13 wins.

“Getting off to such a great start helps to build our confidence going into conference play,” senior shortstop Molly Johnson said. “It doesn’t necessarily give us any leeway to have a bad series, but it definitely helps to build our poise.”

Johnson, regarded as a top national player entering the season, continues to guide UK offensively. On Friday, she set a school record by notching her 47th career double.

The Cats did fall 6-3 to No. 8 Georgia Tech on Saturday. Though the team had opportunities to overcome the deficit, the Yellow Jackets’ three home runs were enough to prevail over the then-23rd ranked Cats.

“Overall, we feel good about the Buzz (Classic),” UK head coach Rachel Lawson said. “Our defense was tough and we put up more power numbers offensively, which was a goal of ours.”

Sophomore pitcher Chanda Bell engineered a 2-1 record over the weekend’s action, improving to 8-2 on the season. Bell also compiled 29 strikeouts, giving her 110 in 10 games.

“When the defense only has to come up with 10 to 11 outs on their own it allows us to be tough,” Lawson said. “(Bell) does a great job of striking people out when runners are in scoring position. It is comforting knowing we have such a dominant pitcher in the circle.”

Though UK has dropped out of the top 25 in the national rankings because of the previous two losses, the Cats remain focused on the task of regaining a position amongst the nation’s best programs.

“We have competed against great ranked teams so far and, unfortunately, fallen short most of those times,” senior outfielder Destinee Mordecai said. “We need to come out strong now and prove that we deserve to be called an elite team.”

The Cats are now preparing to face the Louisville Cardinals in their home opener Wednesday. Louisville will also enter the game at 14-5 on the season, ranked No. 20 in the nation.

Mordecai has seen six bouts of the UK-Louisville rivalry through her years with the team. The program has been preparing for the rivalry match and waiting for the opportunity to exact revenge on the Cardinals, who swept UK last season, Mordecai said.

“We are all going to come out with a lot of intensity at home,” Mordecai said. “We will bring our best game and we expect to see theirs. We have to use the energy the crowd provides us.”