March 25, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Approximately four hours and 30 minutes after the original start time of 4 p.m., No. 9 Tennessee (25-6, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) finally got to take to the diamond at the Lee Softball Stadium around 8:30 p.m., emerging victorious over Arkansas (18-11, 7-2 SEC), 9-0 (5 inn.).
The Big Orange offense banged out nine hits with freshman third baseman Jessica Spigner leading the way with a 1-for-2 effort at the plate, her team-high 12th homer of the season and three RBIs. The Santa Clarita, Calif., native is just one home run from tying Carrie Swinford (13 HRs - 1997) for the UT freshman single-season big fly record and stands only four HR's from equaling former Lady Vol All-American Tonya Callahan's single-season program standard of 16 established in 2008. She currently rates second on the Tennessee squad in RBIs with 35 through her first 31 collegiate contests.
Sophomore catcher Jen Lapicki continued her recent hot streak at the plate, knocking in three runs via a double during a four-run first inning. Freshman shortstop Ashley Andrews delivered a 2-for-2 performance with a RBI, while junior first baseman Tiffany Huff (1-for-2, two runs scored) and junior right fielder Nicole Kajitani (1-for-2) each knocked in a tally.
Freshman right hander Cat Hosfield improved to 18-5 overall by firing a three-hit shutout with four strikeouts. The blanking was her staff-best fourth of the year.
"That was a great win for us against a 7-1 Arkansas team," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "I believe this once again demonstrates the power of Florida and helps illustrate the level of competition across the board in the SEC. Arkansas is a good team who came to play tonight, but so did our kids. We got on the scoreboard early and often and had a great hitting night. It was great to see Jessica Spigner hit her 12th home run, and we were especially proud of Ashley Andrews who had a big RBI from the right side. Jen Lapicki continued her hot streak with a key double, and Cat Hosfield pitched very well."
Hosfield was dominant in her opening frame against the Razorbacks, registering strikeouts of left fielder Tori Mort and catcher Whitney Cloer as part of a quick one-two-three inning.
That set the stage for the UT offense as senior left fielder Lillian Hammond got things started with one out by being struck by an offering from Arkansas hurler Miranda Dixon. The Chattanooga, Tenn., native swiped second to reach scoring position with Tennessee RBI-leader Huff stepping into the batter's box. Facing a 0-1 count Huff ripped her 10th double of the year into left center field, allowing Hammond to score for a 1-0 lead. Spigner battled Dixon over an eight-pitch at-bat before drawing a free pass to join Huff on the base paths. Junior second baseman Erinn Webb got ahead in the count 3-0 before taking a called strike. After fouling off a pitch, Webb also walked, loading the bags with still only one retired. Following a Lady Vol strikeout, Lapicki delivered in the clutch with a hard ground double just past UA shortstop Brittany Griffiths, plating three more runs as the Big Orange raced in front by a 4-0 count.
Dixon became the `Backs initial base runner with one down in the top of the second on a single that raced just past a diving Webb at second. Hosfield battled out of a 3-0 hole against third baseman Amie Hubbard, inducing a routine pop-up to second base. The runner was left stranded as designated player Brittany Robison bounced out to a charging Webb, who tossed on to Huff to complete the routine play at first.
Andrews opened the bottom of the second with a perfect slap bouncer high to third base for a lead-off single. The speed game continued to thrive as Grieve slapped a chopper to third that she easily beat out for a base hit. On a throw to first from third baseman Hubbard on Grieve's bouncer, the ball was low and escaped for an error as Andrews raced into third. Grieve swiped second to reach scoring position, but was caught straying too far off the base on a blooper to center from Hammond, getting doubled off the bag for two quick outs. That killed the threat as Huff bounced back to the circle, ending a once promising frame with no scoring.
UT's 5-9 right hander continued her roll from the circle in the top of the third, upping her streak to five consecutive Razorback hitters retired with a one-two-three inning.
In the bottom of the third, a one out single by Webb, a Razorback error on a fielder's choice play at second and a walk to Lapicki loaded the bags for the Big Orange. Kajitani delivered a shot into the left center field gap and off the wall for a very long RBI single as Webb crossed making it 5-0. Andrews followed with a base knock back up the middle, scoring another Lady Vol for a six-run lead. On UT's single into center, Arkansas' Jessica Bachkora came up throwing, barely gunning down Lapicki at the plate for an important second out. Senior right fielder Danielle Pieroni ended the frame by popping up harmlessly in foul ground outside of first.
An error in the outfield by Tennessee opening UA's half of the fourth granted the Razorbacks their first base runner since the second inning. With left fielder Tori Mort occupying second, Hosfield struck out Cloer and induced consecutive routine ground balls from Kayla Johnson and Dixon to leave the runner occupying scoring position.
Hammond christened the bottom half of the fourth by bunting back to the circle and hustling down the line for a lead-off single. After a Huff walk put two on, Spigner blasted her team-best 12th homer of the year deep over the left field wall as UT moved in front, 9-0.
Needing a rally to avoid the run rule, Hubbard and Robison got Arkansas off to a good start in the top of the fifth with a single and a double, respectively. Hosfield uncorked a wild pitch to the backstop. Lapicki raced back to corral the ball, turned and threw to the pitcher covering home as she tagged out Hubbard for a big first out. Then Razorback first baseman Sandra Smith struck out and Griffiths grounded routinely to Spigner at third as UT posted its 25th win of the campaign.
No. 9 Tennessee will return to action on Sat., March 28th, at 1 p.m. hosting Mississippi State for a doubleheader. The Sports Animal (AM 990, 99.1 & 99.3 FM) is slated to radio broadcast all three games of the series with Chip Kain and Mickey Dearstone each spending time behind the microphone. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com via Gametracker.