April 5, 2009
BATON ROUGE, La. - On Sunday afternoon in front of 1,367 sun drenched fans at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge, La., No.13 Tennessee (29-8-1, 6-5-1 SEC) and No. 17 LSU (22-9-1, 8-5-1 SEC) battled to a 3-3 tie to provide an unfortunate wrap-up to the two squads' high-profile league series. The two teams were forced to stop playing because of a drop-dead 4 p.m. deadline for travel issues.
Freshman third baseman Jessica Spigner blasted her UT freshman single-season record-breaking 14 th HR of the season as part of a 1-for-1, two-RBI, three-walk effort. Sophomore center fielder Kelly Grieve went 3-for-4 at the plate with an RBI, while junior first baseman Jen Lapicki delivered a 2-for-3 performance.
Grieve started the Lady Vol offense off solidly with one retired in the top of the first by dropping a perfect bunt single that checked up right in front of home plate. Junior catcher Tiffany Huff lifted a fly ball to left that LSU's Jazz Jackson raced in to squeeze for the second out. With freshman third baseman Jessica Spigner at the plate, Grieve advanced into scoring position by stealing her team-best 24th base of the campaign in just 26 attempts. Spigner battled out of a hole to a full count before taking ball four high to join Grieve on the base paths. Unfortunately for the Big Orange, LSU starter Cody Trahan got junior right fielder Erinn Webb to pop-up harmlessly on the infield, leaving the Lady Vol pair stranded.
Tiger lead-off hitter Kristen Shortridge laced a single through the left side of the infield opening the bottom half of the first frame. With Jackson at the plate facing an 0-1 count, the runner swiped second just ahead of Huff's throw. Jackson ripped a liner toward second that threatened to find the hole, but Nicole Kajitani made a "web gem" grab, diving to her left to snag the ball just above the ground. A fielding error on the UT infield allowed shortstop Juliana Santos to reach safely, placing runners on first and second. After falling behind right fielder Rachel Mitchell 3-0, Hosfield battled to a full count before walking the Tiger batter, loading the bases with still only one retired. The second pitch to designated player Ashley Applegate struck the batter, forcing in the first run of the contest for a 1-0 LSU lead. Hosfield handled a bouncer back to the circle from second baseman Ashley Langoni and fired to Huff for the force at home plate. The 5-9 right handed hurler settled down to limit the damage to just a single tally by punching out first baseman Anissa Young looking at strike three.
Trahan hit Kajitani with her initial pitch of the top of the second and the Lady Vol occupant advanced to second on a bunt from first baseman Jen Lapicki. The Oldwick, N.J., native popped up that potential sacrifice bunt, but the sphere traveled over the head of charging third baseman Jessica Mouse and refused to go foul, eventually stopping dead on the chalk line near the third base bag for a surprise single. A fielder's choice retired the lead runner as Mouse caught a bouncer from freshman designated player Shelby Burchell and dove to tag Kajitani on her way to third. Andrews lifted a deep fly to left but it stayed in play near the warning track as LSU's Jackson made the catch. Following a passed ball that advanced the runners up 60 feet into scoring position, Hammond popped-up her slap attempt to catcher Morgan Russell in foul ground as UT's left stranded total rose to four through just two innings.
After allowing a lead-off single to LSU's Russell in the bottom of the second, Hosfield recorded consecutive strikeouts of Mouse and the dangerous Shortridge, the latter looking at a pitch on the edge of the plate. Lady Vol freshman shortstop Ashley Andrews routinely handled a bouncer from Jackson and tossed across the diamond to Lapicki in time to retire the hitter and conclude the frame.
With two outs in the top of the third, a Spigner walk and a dropped ball by LSU first baseman Young on a pop-up off the bat of Webb set the Lady Vols up with runners at the corners. Kajitani got a lot of bat on a Trahan offering but her sharp grounder was scooped by Santos at short and tossed on to Langoni covering second for the inning-ending force.
LSU threatened again in the bottom of the third as consecutive infield singles from Mitchell and Applegate set the Tigers up with runners at first and second and just one out. Langoni followed by lacing a 2-2 pitch into left field, loading the bases with Bayou Bengals. Young drove the first pitch from Hosfield to center field as Grieve made the catch, but not deep enough as Mitchell was forced to hold up from tagging at third. Russell grounded to short as Andrews made the play and cut down the runner at third to end the once promising Tiger inning with no damage done on the scoreboard.
Lapicki granted the Big Orange another lead-off base runner in the fourth by driving a 2-2 Trahan offering into center field for a single. Sophomore third baseman Natalee Weissinger dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt to move the runner up 60 feet into scoring territory. Senior pinch hitter Danielle Pieroni entered to hit and drove a deep fly to right field that was caught at the base of the wall. The shot was deep enough, however, to allow Lapicki to tag up and race to third. Hammond stepped in an fell behind 0-2 in the count before bouncing to second base for the third out.
Christening the bottom of the fourth, Hosfield hit Mouse with a pitch and LSU's Shortridge followed with a slap single into the hole at short as the Tigers boasted two aboard with no one retired. Jackson followed with a base knock to left and the Bayou Bengals loaded the bases for the third time in its four offensive innings. After Hosfield fired a first pitch ball to Santos, Ward was summoned in from the bullpen facing a tough situation with a 1-0 count, the bags juiced and still no outs. The Charlotte, N.C., product fell behind 3-0 in the count before battling back to "K" the hitter. Mitchell stepped in and drove a blast to deep left, forcing Hammond back to touch the wall before making the catch. Mouse tagged up and scored from third on the sacrifice fly for a 2-0 advantage. Kajitani handled a slow rolling grounder from Applegate to limit LSU to just a single run in the frame.
Needing to get something going in the top of the fifth, Grieve did her job perfectly by dropping a lead-off bunt out in front of home plate for a single. UT's Asheville, N.C., speedster swiped second to reach scoring position and moved to third on a groundout to second from Huff. That's when Spigner blasted a 2-2 pitch from Trahan to deep left and onto the grass berm beyond the fence, tying the game and breaking the UT freshman single-season record with her 14th home run.
After retiring Langoni and Young to open the fifth inning, Ward ran into some difficulty as Russell ripped a 3-2 pitch into the gap at left center. A hustling Grieve raced over from center, cut the ball off and got it back into the infield, limiting the play to just a single. Mouse followed with a walk, placing two aboard for the top of the Tiger line-up. Shortridge swung at Ward's first pitch and hit it right to Kajitani. The San Bernardino, Calif., native scooped the ball and tossed to Andrews at second, retiring the side via fielder's choice.
The fireworks continued into the top half of the sixth as Andrews slapped a 1-2 pitch to center for a lead-off base hit. That ended the day in the circle for Trahan as LSU head coach Yvette Girouard summoned in Brittany Mack for a relief appearance. Following a UT pop-up and with Grieve standing at the dish, Andrews swiped second to achieve scoring position. That proved to be a huge play as Grieve slapped a two-out single to left. The base knock scored Andrews for a 3-2 lead as the batter cruised into third on the unsuccessful throw to the plate. Huff grounded out sharply to first to conclude the inning, but not before Tennessee had grabbed its initial lead of the contest.
With LSU suddenly trailing for the first time heading into the bottom of the sixth, Jackson attempted to get a rally started by beating out a lead-off infield single back to the circle. Santos attempted to sacrifice the runner, but popped up her bunt behind the plate as Huff made the catch for the initial out. Mitchell chopped a base knock back up the middle to join her teammate on the base paths. Hosfield was brought back into the contest in the circle to spell Ward and immediately coerced a pop-up to short from Applegate. With two retired Langoni lifted a dangerous blooper into short left center. Grieve raced in from her defensive position in center and made a run-saving catch, while sliding on her knees, to bring the inning to a dramatic close with UT maintaining its 3-2 advantage.
Three walks issued by LSU pitching and a caught stealing set up Lady Vol runners at first and second with two retired in the top of the seventh as Tennessee bid for some valuable insurance. Unfortunately a strikeout ended the frame with no damage done as the Big Orange took its one-run lead to the last half of the seventh.
Young tied the score starting the Bayou Bengal half of the seventh by blasting a lead-off solo home run to deep left. Russell and Mouse delivered consecutive groundouts to Weissinger at third as the Madison, Tenn., product made the plays for two outs. Shortridge singled to reach as the potential winning run, but LSU"s Jackson flew out to second to end what eventually became a tie game.
No. 13 Tennessee returns to the road in league play on Wed., April 8th, facing a mid-week doubleheader at Kentucky. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. ET. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com.