Feb. 15, 2009
ORLANDO, Fla. - No. 11 Tennessee (9-1) completed its stay at the UCF Early Bird Tournament in Orlando, Fla., with a perfect 5-0 record after rolling past Villanova, 9-4, on Sunday morning. Included in the successful run were triumphs over North Florida, UT-Arlington, UCF, No. 25 Kansas and the Wildcats.
The big shot of the game for Tennessee came off the bat of junior second baseman Erinn Webb. The Hemet, Calif., native tripled in three runs as part of a six-tally third inning while going 2-for-3 at the plate with two runs scored. Sophomore center fielder Kelly Grieve wrapped up a staggering performance on the weekend with a 3-for-4 effort versus Villanova with three stolen bases, two runs scored and a RBI. During the UCF Early Bird Tourney, the Asheville, N.C., native hit .611 (11-of-18) overall with two doubles, six steals, and a half dozen runs scored. Junior catcher/first baseman Tiffany Huff added six more RBIs during the event to raise her team-best season total to 21. Freshman slap-hitting shortstop Ashley Andrews tallied a .429 batting average (6-of-14) over the five-game stay with two steals, a triple and a RBI. In all Tennessee swiped seven bases against Villanova and were a perfect 14-for-14 on steals during the event.
Sophomore pitcher Ashton Ward improved to 3-0 on the season by firing 3.1 innings of relief, allowing just one hit while striking out three. Freshman Cat Hosfield started the game and permiited four earned runs on four hits in 3.2 total frames before re-entering the match-up in the seventh to pick up the first save of her collegiate career.
"This was another solid win for our team," Lady Vol co-head coach Karen Weekly said. "The whole weekend was filled with good competition that put our young squad in high-pressure situations. That experience will only benefit us down the line as we head into league play and the postseason. It was good to see Erinn Webb get on track offensively. Our team needs her to perform up to her potential to achieve our goals. Ashton Ward pitched some great innings for us to get her third win. Ashley Andrews continued her incredible play at short and made great strides with the bat during the event. We were fortunate to play as well as we did with two of our top three hitters struggling this weekend."
By virtue of a strikeout of Villanova lead-off hitter Danielle Maricle and a pair of groundouts, Hosfield roared through the Wildcat line-up one-two-three in the top of the first, bringing the Lady Vol offense to the dish.
Grieve and senior left fielder Lillian Hammond made solid contact opening the bottom half of the first but flied out to center. Huff drew a two out free pass from Villanova right handed pitcher Caitlyn Delahaba, but a strikeout left the runner stranded.
With Hosfield firmly in control from the circle through two innings, Burchell began the bottom of the second by beating out an infield single. With one retired and the count at 1-0 to sophomore catcher Jen Lapicki, freshman pinch runner Holly Baker swiped her first collegiate base to reach scoring position. Unfortunately, consecutive strikeouts ended the scoring opportunity with the scoreboard still reading 0-0.
VU designated player Christina Botkins became the initial Wildcat base runner of the contest by ripping Hosfield's first pitch of the third inning through the left side of the infield. First baseman Eryn Teague hit into a fielder's choice as freshman third baseman Jessica Spigner corralled the sphere, turned and cut down the lead runner at second. With one down in the frame, right fielder Tessa Braga also bounced to third as Spigner made the only play available, nabbing Braga at first as Teague improved into scoring position. A wild offering on a 1-2 pitch allowed the base occupant the chance to advance to third. Maricle battled Hosfield over an eight-pitch at-bat before being struck by an inside pitch placing runners at the corners. On the next offering from Hosfield, Maricle took off for second while Teague raced to the plate on a delayed double steal. Webb cut the throw from Lapicki but her throw home was just late as the runner slid in safely for a 1-0 Villanova lead. A walk and consecutive RBI singles from Jess O'Boyle and Meghan Morese brought two more across as the Wildcats nabbed a 3-0 advantage. On a 2-2 pitch shortstop Jackie Dempsey hit a slow roller just up the third base line that came to a dead stop in front of Spigner for an infield hit as another tally hit the board. Now faced with a four-run deficit, Tennessee co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly summoned in Ward in relief of Hosfield in dire need of the third out in the frame. UT's 6-0 right hander performed her job perfectly from the circle, inducing a pop out into foul ground from Kristi Burlin as the inning finally came to a close.
With Villanova having gotten Tennessee's full attention with their four-spot, Andrews tried to get the Lady Vol offense untracked opening the bottom of the third. The Tumwater, Wash., native delivered a lead-off single to second base to christen a scoring threat. Grieve followed with her ninth hit of the weekend by beating out a slow roller back to the circle. With runners at first and second and still none retired, Hammond laced a 1-1 offering from Delahaba just over the second baseman and into short right center, loading the bases for the meat of the UT batting order. Huff ripped a shot to second that O'Boyle managed to knock down before throwing on to first for an out. On the play Andrews raced across the dish from third, cutting the deficit to 4-1. Spigner followed by drawing a five-pitch walk to re-load the bags with Burchell stepping into the box. The freshman from Columbia, Tenn., battled Delahaba to a 3-2 count before taking ball four in the dirt to force in Tennessee's second run of the contest. Webb also worked the count full before driving a Delahaba pitch down the line to right that landed just on the fair side of the chalk for her seventh career triple. That blast cleared the bases and granted the Lady Vols a stunning 5-4 lead. Lapicki lifted a fly ball to short left that was dropped by Maricle for an error as Webb scored from third with UT's sixth tally of the frame. A double play on a line drive off the bat of Andrews ended the inning, but not before the Orange sent 10 hitters to the plate in scoring six runs via four hits, three walks and an error.
After the offensive fireworks from both teams in the third, Ward settled things down for the Orange & White in the top of the fourth. With a light rain falling at the UCF Softball Complex, Villanova's Botkins and Teague both grounded out to short, while Braga got caught looking at strike three on the outside corner.
Opening the bottom half of the fourth, Grieve continued her torrid offensive production by legging out a double on a slow roller that traveled through the infield and into right center. With one retired in the frame, Huff ripped a shot back to the circle that ricocheted off Delahaba for a base hit placing runners at the corners. The base running duo pulled off a delayed double steal as the cut attempt went awry with O'Boyle getting over late from her second base defensive position, granting Tennessee a 7-4 advantage.
Ward set down the Wildcat offense in order in the top of the fifth, and Webb got things started again for the Big Orange offense in the bottom half with a lead-off single down the right field line. A stolen base and a wild pitch from Delahaba advanced the runner to third, granting Lapicki the chance to drive her in via a sacrifice fly to center. Andrews added a two-out single into left, and Grieve followed with her third hit of the contest to plate the runner as the lead grew to 9-4. That forced a change in the circle as Villanova summoned in Megan Hord in relief. The speedster at first swiped both second and third to up her success rate to 3-for-3 on steals in the game and 9-for-9 for the season. Hammond dropped a roller to short and almost beat the throw to first, but was called out to leave Grieve stranded 60 feet from paydirt.
Having just three more outs to rally, Villanova's Botkins tried to get an attack going with a lead-off single up the middle in the top of the seventh. A failed fielder's choice that resulted in an error on the UT infield placed occupants at first and second with still no one retired. That forced the Weeklys to bring back Hosfield in the circle to attempt to stem the Wildcat momentum. The move paid immediate dividends as the 5-9 right hander forced pinch hitter Molly Manning to pop-up to Andrews at short and then K'ed Maricle for two quick outs. O'Brien represented VU's last chance and she extended the contest with a walk to load the bags for O'Boyle. The hitter stepped in and bounced back to the circle as Hosfield made the play to wrap up the game.
The Big Orange will return to action on Thurs., Feb. 19th, at the prestigious Cathedral City Classic in Cathedral City, Calif., against Loyola Marymount. First pitch for the late night contest is slated for 8:30 p.m. PT/11:30 p.m. ET. Periodic voicemail updates will be recorded on the Lady Vol Hotline at 865-974-8700 (select box #6).