TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Junior Brittany Cervantes enjoyed a history-making day at the plate in leading the 24th-ranked Kentucky softball team to a 7-2 triumph over Florida State to claim the Garnet and Gold Tournament crown Sunday afternoon. Cervantes began the day by connecting for her third consecutive home run before charting a career-best four-hit day in pacing the Wildcat offense.
Cervantes rewrote the history books for Kentucky with a two-run homer in the top of the first. The two-run blast marked the third consecutive round tripper in as many at-bats for Cervantes, a feat never before achieved in program history. UK’s power hitter went yard in back-to-back at-bats in helping UK to a 9-1 victory over Georgia Southern on Saturday before opening today’s game with another long ball.
For the day the junior would go 4-for-4 with the homer and a trio of singles. She plated three of UK’s seven runs to lead the bats as Kentucky improves to 8-2 overall on the year matching its best start in program history with the 2010 squad. Florida State falls to 7-3 on the season with the loss.
Freshman pitcher Ellen Weaver earns her second career victory in as many starts for the Wildcats. She worked 5.1 innings of action and yielded just two runs on seven hits against one of the top teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Junior Chanda Bell entered in the bottom of the sixth and worked 1.2 innings of scoreless relief.
UK jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning despite leaving the bases loaded to end the frame. Senior Megan Yocke began the game with a single through the left side and then swiftly swiped second on a delayed steal to move into scoring position. Following a strikeout, Cervantes connected with a 3-1 offering and chucked it over the left field fence to lift UK to the 2-0 edge.
Senior Meagan Aull then laid down a bunt which Florida State was not expecting to reach base. Classmate Samantha DeMartine kept the one-out rally going with a single into left field and freshman Lauren Cumbess loaded the bases with a walk. However, UK would end the inning leaving more runs on base with consecutive strikeouts.
The Seminoles responded with a run in the home half of the first. Following an inning-opening strikeout, Tiffani Brown singled with a bunt to reach base. The speedy third baseman stole second to shift into scoring position before rounding to third during a routine grounder. Brown would tap home with a single into right field to make the score 2-1 in favor of the visitors.
Following a two-run first inning the Wildcats forced FSU All-America starter Sarah Hamilton to the bench in favor of Morgan Bullock to open the second stanza. The strategy quelled the UK bats as the Blue and White fell in order.
Florida State opened the bottom of the second with a leadoff single, but Weaver did a great job in forcing outs on the next three at-bats to end the inning.
Cervantes’ hot streak continued to lead off the top of the third. The California native’s homer streak ended, but she did reach for the fourth straight time by way of a hit with a single into center field. Aull then connected for her third consecutive hit with a single into right center to place two aboard to start the inning.
Following consecutive outs, including a force out to get the lead runner at third, Weaver sent a high pop-up to the middle of the infield that FSU’s third baseman lost in the sun enabling Aull to round home from second and keep the inning alive. Pinch hitter Rachel Riley delivered an RBI single that lofted just above the second baseman’s glove to increase UK’s advantage to 4-1.
Cervantes charted her fifth consecutive hit in as many plate appearances with a two-out single through the left side in the top of the fourth. UK would leave her aboard, however, with a deep fly-out to right field to end the frame.
Kentucky’s defense was at the top of its game in the bottom of the fourth. Freshman second baseman Emily Jolly made a sliding save on a grounder and then tossed the ball from her knees to DeMartine at first for the first highlight-reel play of the frame. With a 3-2 count, FSU’s Jen Lapicki drilled a low-flying ball into shallow right field and sophomore Alice O’Brien laid out for a diving snag to help Weaver sit the Seminoles down in order.
Senior Annie Rowlands opened the sixth inning with a single into left field. Jolly followed by reaching base with a hard chopper to short that FSU’s Ashley Stager fumbled allowing the first two batters to come aboard. Yocke loaded the base paths with no outs with her 13th walk of the season. With the Seminoles in a jam the home team opted to sit Morgan and turn to senior righty Lauren Varsalona.
Sophomore Kara Dill pushed Rowlands across home plate and advanced the runners a base with a grounder to short for the first tally of the inning. History continued for Cervantes with an RBI single up the middle for her fourth hit of the game and the sixth straight over the last two outings. The rally did not end there as Aull delivered an RBI sacrifice fly to plate Yocke from third and lift UK to a 7-1 advantage.
Florida State scored a run during the home side of the sixth to pull to within five at 7-2. The Seminoles began the inning with a leadoff single. Following a grounder to Cervantes at third, the home team posted consecutive hits to plate the run with two runners in scoring position. Kentucky then turned to its bullpen and brought Bell in for relief.
UK’s junior ace made her presence felt immediately by getting Lapicki to sit down on strikes. She then escaped the jam with a lineout to Cervantes to end the stanza.
Bell was perfect to conclude the game. She forced a foul-fly out to a charging Rowlands in left field before getting a pop-up to Cervantes at third. In fitting fashion, she would coral the final out by way of a strikeout to preserve the victory.