March 15, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Lady Vol co-head softball coach Ralph Weekly achieved a milestone on Sunday afternoon at the Lee Softball Stadium by picking up his 900th career victory as No. 6 Tennessee (23-3, 2-0 SEC) finished off a dominant doubleheader sweep of South Carolina (12-9, 0-7 SEC) with a 9-2 victory.
The Big Orange banged out 10 hits in the triumph, led by freshman third baseman Jessica Spigner's 2-for-4, two-RBI effort and her 10th homer of the season. The Santa Clarita, Calif., native currently stands just three homers from tying the single-season school HR record established back in 1996 by former Lady Vol Carrie Swinford. Junior Nicole Kajitani also got in on the power show as the diminutive right fielder blasted a three-run bomb to right center during UT's six-run third frame. Sophomore catcher Jen Lapicki hammered her third big fly of the year while going 2-for-3 with two runs scored. Freshman designated player Shelby Burchell added two hits in three at-bats with her third double of 2009.
Senior left hander Danielle Pieroni improved to 3-0 from the circle by allowing two runs on five hits while striking out four in five innings. Freshman hurler Cat Hosfield punched out two Gamecock batters over two hitless frames in relief.
"I thought our offense played exceptionally well all day long today," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "Our defense was good about 90 percent of the time, and our pitching showed improvement. Overall, I thought this was a good day for the Lady Vols."
Neither team got much started offensively until the top of the second as South Carolina catcher P.J. Fulmer led off the inning with a single. A sacrifice bunt advanced the runner into scoring position, and designated player Audrey Broyles K'ed for the second out. On the first pitch she received from Pieroni, S.C. third baseman Lindsay Walker ripped a potential run-scoring single into center. Grieve charged the ball, scooped it up and fired a strong throw to the plate. The toss traveled right to Lapicki, who was standing just off to the third base side of the plate. The Oldwick, N.J., native leapt towards the dish and tagged out Fulmer to conclude the inning.
After playing a role in the big defensive play in the top half, Lapicki made an impressive contribution with her bat in the bottom of the second. Ahead in the count 2-0 with one retired, she hammered a long drive deep over the wall in left, granting Tennessee a 1-0 lead. Burchell added a single, but was wiped out via a failed stolen base attempt. Kajitani walked, but freshman shortstop Ashley Andrews grounded to short, bringing the inning to a close.
The top of the Lady Vol order got a scoring opportunity underway in the bottom of the third as Grieve led off with a single through the left side. The Asheville, N.C., product was quickly joined on the base paths by Hammond after she was struck by a pitch from S.C.'s Krystle Robinson. Huff delivered a single to center, scoring Grieve as the lead expanded to 2-0. With the runner taking off for second, Robinson uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Hammond to score and Huff to end up occupying third. Junior second baseman Erinn Webb eventually delivered an RBI groundout to second base as Tennessee improved its advantage to 4-0. Lapicki singled and then Burchell doubled as the scoring assault continued with two on and two retired. That brought an end to the day in the circle for Robinson as South Carolina head coach Joyce Compton summoned Kelsey Goodwin into the contest in relief. Kajitani greeted her rudely by bombing her first homer of the season deep over the right center wall, plating Lapicki and Burchell for a 7-0 lead.
South Carolina's Laura Mendes broke up the shutout bid with one out in the top of the fourth as her blast down the right field line stayed just fair for a solo home run. Pieroni responded to her first real adversity of the contest by inducing consecutive infield pop-ups from catcher P.J. Fulmer and shortstop Evan Childs.
Tennessee got that run back in the bottom of the fourth as a Huff walk and stolen base was cashed in via a two-out single through the left side off the bat of Spigner. Webb followed with a base knock into left and Lapicki walked, packing the bags for Burchell. The Columbia, Tenn., native worked the count to 1-1 before grounding sharply back to the circle. South Carolina's Goodwin made the tough grab and tossed on to first.
Broyles christened the Gamecock half of the fifth with a lead-off single back through the middle. Walker worked the count to 3-1 against Pieroni before lining towards first base. Huff made a back-handed grab while leaping to her right and managed to tag out pinch runner Sam Arbaugh to record a stellar unassisted double play. Pinch hitter Jacqueline Weatherbee lined to Spigner at third as the inning concluded with the score still 8-1, UT.
Needing a big inning to get back into the contest, South Carolina got a rally going in the top of the sixth as center fielder Adele Voigt singled to center. A first pitch ball to left fielder Lauren Lackey brought an end to Pieroni's day in the circle as Hosfield entered in relief. Lackey walked and both runners advanced up 60 feet into scoring position via a wild pitch. With one out in the frame, first baseman Laura Mendes hit into a fielder's choice at short as Andrews nabbed the bouncer and tagged out a runner between second and third. A run crossed on the play as the Gamecocks lessened their deficit to 8-2. That was all S.C. would get, however, as Hosfield punched out Fulmer for the third retirement of the frame.
Spigner added her 10th home run of the year with two outs in the sixth to up the count to 9-1, Tennessee. With that big fly the Santa Clarita, Calif., native climbed within just three bombs of tying former Lady Vol Carrie Swinford's freshman school-record total of 13 HR's established back in 1996. Just in comparison, Tonya Callahan, UT's all-time home run leader, tallied 11 HR's during her outstanding 2005 freshman campaign.
From there it was just up to Hosfield to slam the door. The Murfreesboro, Tenn., native struck out Childs, handled a grounder back to the circle from Broyles and got Walker to fly out in foul ground down the left field line to conclude the contest.
Next up, No. 6 Tennessee hosts MTSU in a Wed., March 18th, tilt at Lee Softball Stadium. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m. ET. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com via Gametracker.