April 8, 2009
LEXINGTON, Ky. - The weather was cloudy and cold on Wednesday afternoon in Lexington, Ky., at the UK Softball Complex, but No. 12 Tennessee's (30-8-1, 7-5-1 SEC) bats were on fire as the Lady Vols registered 14 hits in opening a mid-week doubleheader with a commanding 14-2 (5 inn.) triumph over Kentucky (24-14, 7-9 SEC).
The run total marked the most tallies for UT in a league contest since scoring 16 times during a 16-2 (5 inn.) victory over Mississippi State back on March 23, 2003.
Sophomore first baseman Jen Lapicki posted quite a day at the plate, going a perfect 4-for-4 with a double, a career-high six RBIs and two runs scored, raising her SEC-only batting average to a league-leading .513. Junior second baseman Nicole Kajitani joined her teammate with a career-best six RBIs of her own as part of a 3-for-4 effort while blasting her second home run of the campaign. Freshman designated player Shelby Burchell contributed two hits in three at-bats, while junior right fielder Erinn Webb (1-for-3) and sophomore third baseman Natalee Weissinger (1-for-1, RBI) each recorded a double.
Freshman pitcher Cat Hosfield picked up her 21st win of the season from the circle by allowing two runs on five hits with a walk and six strikeouts over five innings of work.
Changing up the top of the line-up proved effective in the first as new lead-off hitter Webb opened the contest by drawing a walk against UK hurler Amber Matousek. A passed ball charged to catcher Megan Yocke and a sacrifice bunt from sophomore center fielder Kelly Grieve moved the runner to third with one out. Junior catcher Tiffany Huff joined her teammate on the base paths after also drawing a free pass. That set the stage for runners in motion as a Huff steal of second and a high throw allowed Webb to score from third with Tennessee's initial run of the contest. After another passed ball advanced Huff up 60 feet, Matousek walked Spigner and Burchell consecutively, loading the bases with still just one out. That set the stage for Lapicki as the Oldwick, N.J., native blasted a 1-1 pitch into the gap in left center for a very long single, plating a pair for a 3-0 advantage. Following a Lady Vol strikeout, freshman shortstop Ashley Andrews managed the fifth walk of the frame, again loading the bags. Senior left fielder Lillian Hammond bounced out to third as the inning mercifully came to a close with UT holding a three-run lead. During the frame Kentucky's Matousek was forced to throw 46 pitches as Tennessee scored in the initial frame for the 21st time in 2009.
Shortstop Molly Johnson opened the Wildcats half of the first with a single into the hole at short. Center fielder Meagan Aull attempted to sacrifice Johnson up a base, but her bunt traveled right to Spigner. The Santa Clarita, Calif., native corralled the ball, turned and cut down the lead runner at second for the first out. With catcher Megan Yocke standing at the plate, Aull swiped second to move into scoring position. Following a Kentucky "K," she was cashed in on a long home run to left field by third baseman Brittany Cervantes as the Wildcat deficit was trimmed to 3-2.
With one out in the top of the second, Grieve slapped a single just over the shortstop's head and into left field. Huff ripped a shot to deep left that UK's Annie Rowlands tracked to the base of the wall. She appeared to have a bead on the ball, but as she tried to close her glove, the sphere tipped away for an error as Grieve ended up at third and Huff at second. Spigner walked to load the bases with Burchell stepping to the dish. She ripped a shot into the hole between first and second, but the liner hit Spigner on the fly. That set off a 33-minute delay as umpires attempted to rule on how to deal with the issue at hand. Spigner would obviously be out on the hit, but the discussion seemed to be over whether that contact created a dead ball situation and whether or not Grieve would be allowed to score from third. When the eternal delay was over, the bases were still loaded, only Burchell now occupied first instead of Spigner, there were two retired and the score remained 3-2. The discussion was basically rendered moot as consecutive two-RBI doubles to left center from Lapicki and Kajitani cleared the bases as UT raced in front 7-2.
After Hosfield roared through Kentucky's line-up in the second with a pair of strikeouts, Hammond opened the top of the third by beating out an infield single to deep short. With Webb at the plate, the runner attempted to swipe second but was gunned out on a strong throw by Yocke. That seemed to derail any Lady Vol momentum in the inning as a strikeout and a groundout to third ended the frame with no damage.
Kentucky threatened to cut into UT's advantage with one out in the bottom of the third as shortstop Molly Johnson doubled down the left field line and quickly swiped third. Hosfield got Aull to pop-up harmlessly to Kajitani at second to get close to leaving the runner stranded. Spigner made an outstanding play on a sharp bouncer to third from Yocke as the frame ended with Tennessee still ahead by five runs.
Starting the top of the fourth, Huff beat out an infield single to deep short and was joined on the base paths by Spigner after she was struck by reliever Rachel Riley's pitch. Following a routine grounder from Burchell that advanced the duo up 60 feet into scoring position, Lapicki drove a single to left, scoring Huff to make it 8-2, Big Orange. Kajitani quickly cleared the bags of a pair of Lady Vols by blasting a long home run to deep center as the advantage improved to 11-2.
The Wildcats attempted to claw back into the contest in the bottom of the fourth on consecutive singles from second baseman Natalie Smith and Riley. Hosfield reacted to the threat by tallying consecutive strikeouts of first baseman Sam Demartine and pinch hitter Erika Silence to conclude the frame.
Webb christened another rally in the top of the fifth by leading off the frame with a double down the right field line. Grieve advanced the runner to third by slapping a bouncer back to the circle. After a liner to short from Huff, Weissinger blasted a run-scoring double to deep center and off the wall, scoring Webb for a 12-2 lead. Burchell singled through the left side of the infield, and then Lapicki delivered a run-scoring base knock into the hole at short as Weissinger plated the 13th run. Kajitani added another RBI single through the middle as UT's offense finalized its offensive count at 14-2.
Facing one final chance to avoid the run-rule in the bottom of the fifth, Johnson coerced a one-out walk to give the Wildcats some life. Pinch hitter Kristen O'Haver lifted a short pop-up just behind the circle, forcing Kajitani to race in from her defensive position at second to make an outstanding diving grab on the circle's chalk line. The contest ended as Yocke bounced out to Weissinger at third as UT took the doubleheader opener in just five frames.
No. 12 Tennessee wraps up its Wednesday, April 8th, doubleheader versus Kentucky at approximately 5:40 p.m. ET. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com.