UK blanks No. 2 softball in opener
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 12:12 a.m.
Coming into this weekend's three-game set with visiting Kentucky, the No. 2 Florida Gators had not lost any of their previous eight league series, winning five of them by sweeps.
They'll need to take the last two games vs. the Wildcats to keep that streak alive.
Kentucky rode the arm of Chanda Bell to a 2-0 win in the series opener Friday night as the Wildcats' senior right-hander out-dueled UF sophomore ace Hannah Rogers before a Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium crowd of 1,192.
“There's no panic and no reason for concern,” UF head coach Tim Walton said. “Quality pitching does that to you, especially with some young, inexperienced hitters in there who haven't seen her (Bell) a whole lot. She's good, and she's done that to us a lot over the last three years.”
Each pitcher allowed just four hits in tossing a complete game, but the Wildcats (25-26, 11-12) were able to plate a pair of runs in the top of the third inning, while UF (42-7, 19-4) suffered back-to-back shutouts for the first time this season.
Florida had split a doubleheader with LSU in its last outing Tuesday, winning the opener, 2-1, in eight innings before dropping the nightcap, 1-0.
On Friday, senior Brittany Cervantes, Kentucky's leadoff batter, stroked a two-out, solo home run — her team-leading 10th of the year — on a 1-0 pitch from Rogers in the third for the first run.
The Wildcats added an unearned run on a UF throwing error and Rachel Riley's RBI single to make it 2-0.
That was more than enough for Bell (13-10), Kentucky's career strikeout leader who fanned eight UF batters en route to picking up the win while Rogers (25-4) was tagged with the loss.
“I tried to do my best,” Rogers said. “They just came out and they outplayed us. They hit when they needed to hit and just did the little things like that. I just tried to keep the runs to a minimum so my team could have a chance.”
Over the last three games, UF has scored just two runs while Gator batters have struck out 27 times.
“It's just pitching,” Walton said. “It's kind of what I expect when you're facing some of the best pitching in the league, and that's what it is. The last stretch of our season is against the top tier of pitching, not only in our league, but in the country.”
“We're facing tougher teams,” said senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie, who was 2-for-3 and had half of Florida's hits. “It's probably a little bit of a combination of both good pitching and we just have too many people who aren't hitting right now.”
The Gators will try to even the series today at 1 p.m. It will be Senior Day, and UF will be honoring one of its all-time greats in Moultrie, one of 10 finalists for the 2012 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. The pregame ceremony is set to begin 30 minutes prior to today's game.
“I just hope we play better for her and help her finish her career out,” Walton said. “That's my biggest concern. She's going to play ball no matter what. She's done a lot for our program.”