Wildcat Softball win two in NCAA Tournament

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Behind a balanced offensive attack and flawless defense the Kentucky softball team pulled off a 4-2 comeback win over Brigham Young to advance to the Championship series with host Ohio State Friday night at New Buckeye Field. Trailing by two runs heading into the fourth inning Kentucky would go on to score four unanswered runs to tally its second clutch win of the afternoon.

Kentucky (34-22) captured two wins today after falling to BYU in the opening game yesterday to survive and advance to the Championship series Saturday. Kentucky and No. 11 Ohio State will meet at 1 p.m. ET. Should UK win that game, the teams would meet for a second game immediately following that contest. Kentucky needs to sweep Ohio State to move on to the Super Regionals.

It was a total team effort for the Blue and White in the night cap. Freshman pitcher Chanda Bell went the distance on the mound and picked up a single-season school record 19th win on the mound. Bell tossed five strikeouts and yielded just two runs in the win.

Offensively, sophomore Meagan Aull paced the squad with three hits, a run and an RBI. Freshman Brittany Cervantes added a solo home run and six Wildcats registered at least one hit.

"Any time you can play another day it is special," said Kentucky coach Rachel Lawson. "The team did a great job of adjusting today. We came out and played our game in both wins, so I'm really happy that they didn't carry yesterday's loss over into today's games. I thought Chanda (Bell) did a phenomenal job on the mound in game two and Rachel Riley was her usual steady self in game one. I'm just really proud that they played their game today and we're really looking forward to being a part of the Championship tomorrow."

To open the first inning UK got a base runner on when junior Natalie Smith drew a one-out walk. The junior, however, would end the inning in a steal attempt when BYU gunned her down at second base.

Bell retired the side to open the game defensively for the Wildcats. She forced back-to-back pop-ups and then Angeline Quiocho into a foul out to sophomore Megan Yocke behind the plate.

Aull gave UK a chance for an early lead in the top of the second. Aull found a gap in right-center and earned an extra base with her speedy feet. She shifted to third on a groundout, but the Wildcats left her stranded with a grounder back to the pitcher.

BYU plated two runs in the bottom of the second to capture a 2-0 lead. Bell allowed the first runner to reach base when she plucked her with an inside pitch. After yielding a sacrifice bunt and then sitting down a batter on strikes, Stephanie Hopkins chased a pitch upstairs and connected with a two-run home run over the left field fence for the first scores of the game.

Kentucky missed out on another opportunity in the top of the third stranding two runners. Sophomore Annie Rowlands led off the stanza with a single that split the left side and junior Destinee Mordecai reached base on four straight balls. Smith advanced both runners a bag with one out when she sent a sizzling grounder to first base. The inning ended when BYU's first baseman fielded a ball just inside fair territory and tapped the bag unassisted.

The UK defense buckled down in the top of the third after Smith recorded a spectacular diving snag to start the inning. Mordecai and Rowlands both contributed terrific running grabs after Bell gave up a bunt single to keep the runner from advancing.

Cervantes ignited a UK rally in the fourth with a lead off solo blast over the left field fence. Her home run is a team-best 10th of the season. Kentucky then charted back-to-back singles through the right side from Aull and sophomore Samantha DeMartine. Aull was able to get to second on a fielding error by the right fielder and DeMartine's hit allowed her to round home and tie the score at two apiece.

"It was nice to see Meagan Aull break out today," Lawson said. "In the last few games she hasn't been that comfortable so it was nice to see her dig in and get some big hits for us today."

BYU notched a one-out double that nicked off the top of the wall in left field, but Bell was able to escape the inning without allowing any further damage. She forced the next two batters into a pop-up and a fly-out to end the inning unscathed.

Kentucky went ahead with a run in the top of the fifth to take a 3-2 lead. Yocke and Cervantes drew back-to-back two-out walks to place runners on base. Aull delivered with her third hit of the game to drive in Yocke from second with a single up the middle. DeMartine got a hold of a ball on the first pitch she faced and it first looked like it might really give UK a boost, but it fell into the centerfielder's glove about two feet shy of the center field wall.

Bell retired the side in the bottom of the fifth. The freshman right-hander picked up consecutive strikeouts and then forced a fly-out to end the inning and preserve a UK lead.

The Wildcats fell in order in the top of the sixth still clinging to a one-run lead. UK's defense was stellar in the bottom of the sixth. BYU opened with a leadoff single and then they moved the runner over a bag with a sacrifice bunt. Kentucky elected to intentionally walk clean-up hitter Jessica Purcell who has 83 RBI on the year. With just one out and two runners aboard, Bell was at her best. The freshman forced back-to-back fly outs to end the inning without allowing the runners to move any further.

Kentucky added an insurance run in the top of the seventh. Junior Molly Johnson led off the inning with a double into left-center to get a runner in scoring position immediately. Her heads up base running allowed her to steal third and Smith brought her in with an infield single that nicked off the pitcher's glove for a 4-2 advantage.

BYU sat down in order in the bottom of the seventh with a fly-out, a strikeout and a pop-up to Johnson at shortstop to advance the Wildcats into the Championship series.

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