No. 9 Tennessee Drops Sunday Slugfest to Miss. State, 10-6

March 29, 2009

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A 10-hit offensive attack and an outstanding day at the plate by junior second baseman Erinn Webb weren't enough on a cold and blustery Sunday afternoon at the Lee Softball Stadium as No. 9 Tennessee (26-8, 4-5 SEC) dropped a slugfest to Southeastern Conference Western Division foe Mississippi State, 10-6.

Webb (3-for-4, two runs scored) came up just a double short of becoming the second known Lady Vol ever to hit for the cycle, recording a triple in the second inning, a single in the third and home run No. 5 of the campaign in the fifth on her way to a three-RBI contribution.

Junior catcher Tiffany Huff (1-for-3, run scored) registered her SEC-best 53rd RBI of the season on a squeeze bunt during the opening inning. Freshman designated player Shelby Burchell knocked in a run as part of a 2-for-3 effort, while senior left fielder Lillian Hammond went 2-for-4 at the plate and scored once.

Freshman pitcher Cat Hosfield took the loss from the circle, dropping to 18-7 on the season, after allowing seven runs on nine hits and striking out five over 3.2 innings of work. Senior Danielle Pieroni permitted two earned runs on four base knocks with a walk and a `K' in 2.1 frames. Sophomore Ashton Ward worked a single inning, giving up an unearned score while striking out a pair of Bulldog hitters.

"When you score 18 runs in a series, you expect to be successful," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "When you score six runs and have 10 hits in a game you feel like you have a good chance to win. We had a bad weekend from the circle, but that's what happens occasionally. We've got to pitch better. Give a ton of credit to Mississippi State. They played really well this weekend."

A one-out walk issued to Mississippi State right fielder Brittany Bell in the top of the first came back to hurt Hosfield. With two retired in the frame, Sammie Jo Bailey and Ali Bainbridge delivered consecutive singles, plating the game's first run. UT's 5-9 right hander got out of a "runners at the corners" situation by catching third baseman Jessie Bailey looking at strike three.

Already facing a one-run deficit venturing to the bottom of the first, Hammond got the Lady Vol offense started by blasting a lead-off triple into the gap in left center. After a fly out to shallow right from junior center fielder Nicole Kajitani, Huff delivered her 53rd RBI of the season by dropping a perfect squeeze bunt back to the circle, tying the game at 1-1.

MSU shortstop Jessie Spain granted the Bulldogs a lead-off base runner after being struck by a Hosfield pitch on a 0-2 count. Designated player Courtney Moore attempted to advance the runner on a sacrifice bunt, but the ball traveled straight back to the circle. Hosfield nabbed the sphere, turned and cut down the lead Bulldog at second base. With Moore on first after the fielder's choice, center fielder Brittany Gates walked, placing a pair aboard for MSU's dangerous Chelsea Bramlett. The free pass ended Hosfield's stay in the circle as Pieroni was summoned into the match-up in relief. After a Bulldog double steal advanced both runners into scoring position, the UT hurler immediately coerced a grounder to second base that Webb handled, throwing on to sophomore Jen Lapicki for the out. During the play at first, pinch runner Allie Heon attempted to score from third but was gunned down at the plate to complete a big inning-ending double play.

Tennessee broke the scoreboard deadlock with one out in the bottom of the second. Following a sharp single back through the middle off the bat of Burchell, Webb drove a shot to straight-away center. The liner just missed leaving the park by a couple of feet as the Hemet, Calif., native rolled into third with her fourth triple of the season, while Burchell scored to grant UT its initial lead of the day at 2-1. An error on a Pieroni bouncer by Mississippi State third baseman Jessie Bailey allowed Webb to cross the dish as the advantage improved to 3-1. Hammond followed with a single to right center, advancing to second on an unsuccessful throw attempting to cut down Pieroni at third. Kajitani bounced out to short to end the inning, but not before the Lady Vols had added two runs on three hits and an error.

Back-to-back singles from Bell and left fielder Ka'ili Smith granted Mississippi State a pair of lead-off base runners in the top of the third. Sammie Jo Bailey battled Pieroni over a nine-pitch at-bat before walking to load the bags with still no one retired in the frame. Bainbridge ripped the first pitch she saw to short, but right at Andrews as the freshman made the catch and doubled Bell off third for the second huge double play of the contest for the Lady Vols. Pieroni quickly got ahead of Jessie Bailey in the count 0-2 before the MSU hitter ripped a single into left field. According to the umpiring crew, Spigner interfered with Smith while she was attempting to score. That created a dead ball situation and placed runners at first and second as the run was allowed to come home. With the Bulldogs trailing just 3-2, Spain laced a shot to third but right at Spigner as the freshman third baseman fired across the diamond to Lapicki, ending the inning with no further damage.

The fireworks continued into the bottom of the third as Huff opened the frame with a single through the right side and was joined on the base paths by Spigner via walk. Following a foul out from Lapicki, Burchell delivered a RBI base hit through the middle, granting Tennessee a 4-2 lead. Webb singled through the right side of the infield, loading the bases full of Lady Vols with just one out. Unfortunately, a strikeout and an infield pop-up left the trio stranded.

Mississippi State's Moore cut the Bulldog deficit to 4-3 leading off the fourth by blasting a homer to right center off returning pitcher Hosfield. After a strikeout of Gates and a Bramlett fly out to left, Bell singled up the middle and eventually swiped second to achieve scoring position. Smith stepped into the batter's box and worked the count even at 2-2 before looking at strike three on the outside corner to conclude the frame.

For the fourth consecutive inning, MSU got the lead-off hitter on as Sammie Jo Bailey singled to left opening the fifth. Bainbridge followed with a sharp shot that traveled just past Spigner at third, placing a pair on with still no outs. Jessie Bailey performed her job by dropping a sacrifice bunt back to the circle, improving the runners 60 feet into scoring position. Spain bounced out to second as Bailey crossed the plate, tying the contest at 4-4. Moore stepped in with a chance to give the Bulldogs back the lead, but struck out swinging.

Lapicki started Tennessee's half of the fifth by coercing a walk. Burchell took a pitch the other way, but her liner was nabbed on an outstanding diving effort by MSU right fielder Bell. The lead-off free pass was soon cashed in, however, on a long homer to center field off the bat of Webb as UT re-took the advantage, 6-4.

In the top of the sixth, Bramlett walked and Bell singled to left field as the Bulldogs were once again in business with one retired. Smith delivered a base knock into left that was misplayed briefly as Bramlett scored, cutting MSU's deficit to 6-5. Bell raced around from second on a RBI single from Sammie Jo Bailey, tying the count at 6-6. Pieroni re-entered the contest in relief of Hosfield and was greeted with a Bainbridge three-run home run to center as Mississippi State nabbed a 9-6 advantage.

After UT went down in order in the sixth, MSU added another tally in the top of the seventh. A single and stolen base from Bramlett was cashed in on a Lady Vol fielding miscue as the Bulldogs took a 10-6 lead.

With one final chance to rally in the bottom of the seventh, Burchell reached base by drawing a one out walk. Webb worked the count full against Lindsey Dunlap before just missing a pitch in popping up to first base. A groundout down the third base line from Pieroni ended the contest.

No. 9 Tennessee will step out of conference play briefly on Wed., April 1, hosting UTEP for a single game beginning at 5 p.m. ET. Live stats will be available through via Gametracker.





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