April 11, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Following a day of harrowing weather around the Knoxville area, No.12 Tennessee (31-9-1, 8-6-1 SEC) finally got to take the Lee Softball Stadium field at approximately 8:40 p.m. ET, on Friday night and triumphed in its series opener versus Auburn (27-14, 7-8 SEC), 5-2.
Freshman pitcher Cat Hosfield improved her record to 22-8 on the season by firing her 15th complete game. The Murfreesboro, Tenn., native allowed one earned run on six hits while posting seven strikeouts and walking three.
At the plate sophomore catcher Jen Lapicki continued her staggering production in Southeastern Conference play. The Oldwick, N.J., product ripped a two-RBI triple into the right field corner as part of a 1-for-3 effort, improving her league RBI total to 15 to go along with a .511 conference average. Freshman third baseman Jessica Spigner (1-for-3) and rookie designated player Shelby Burchell (0-for-2) each posted single RBIs. Junior first baseman Tiffany Huff (2-for-2) and rookie shortstop Ashley Andrews (2-for-3) both tallied a pair of hits in the match-up.
"Every win is a big win in the SEC race," Lady Vol co-head coach Karen Weekly said. "I thought it was key for us that we scored early. Jen Lapicki continues to come up with clutch RBIs for us in big situations. Cat Hosfield had a good outing from the circle and got tough outs for our team at critical times. We expect Auburn to come out fired up and ready tomorrow. Every game in this series will be a battle."
Auburn wasted little time by getting something started with two down in the top of the first against Hosfield. Catcher Tatiana Fernandez ripped a shot to left that a diving Lillian Hammond almost caught, but the ball fell in for a double. Left fielder Myesha Finney followed by barely beating out an infield single to short, and the bags became juiced on a walk issued to first baseman Amber Harrison. Hosfield responded to the threat by striking out designated player Elizabeth Eisterhold as the Tigers came up empty in a huge spot by leaving a trio stranded on the base paths.
With one out in the bottom of the first, sophomore center fielder Kelly Grieve battled Auburn starter Jenee Loree over a 10-pitch at-bat before hustling down the line to beat out an infield single to first. The speedster demonstrated her impressive ability to wreak havoc on the base paths by swiping both second and third, recording her team-best 27th and 28th stolen bases of the season. A wild pitch allowed Grieve to cross the plate as the Asheville, N.C., native successfully created a run on her own for a 1-0 lead. Huff and Spigner drew consecutive walks off Loree to keep the scoring threat going with still only one out. Following a Lady Vol strikeout, the SEC's leading hitter (counting only league match-ups) Jen Lapicki ripped a 2-2 pitch down the right field line and into the corner for a two-run triple as UT nabbed a 3-0 advantage.
Hosfield settled in from the circle in the top half of the second retiring right fielder Taryn Gray, shortstop Lauren Guzman and second baseman Cassie Trosclair in order.
Andrews opened the second frame by beating out a base knock to third. With two outs after a fielder's choice and a groundout moved lead runner Hammond to second, Huff joined her on the base paths by walk. That set the stage for Spigner as the Santa Clarita, Calif., native ripped a base hit through the left side of the infield scoring Hammond from second as UT moved in front 4-0.
A fielding error on the Tennessee infield opened the door in the top of the third for a Tiger rally as center fielder Lindsey Harrelson reached on that miscue, Fernandez was hit by a pitch and first baseman Amber Harrison walked, loading the bases for Eisterhold. Similar to AU's first inning threat, Hosfield punched out Eisterhold with the bases loaded to conclude the threat with no damage.
A Nicole Kajitani single through the right side of the infield set the stage for more Lady Vol scoring in the top of the fourth. A stolen base and an error on the reception of the toss at second allowed the runner to roll into third with one out. Burchell dropped a perfect bunt up the first base line, reaching safely as Kajitani scored to make it 5-0. Andrews followed with a base knock to second as Auburn head coach Tina Deese made the call to the bullpen, summoning in Holly Ragsdale for a relief appearance. The new hurler settled things down, forcing Hammond to pop-up to second and Grieve to fly out to left as the inning came to a close.
Auburn's Guzman singled with one out in the top of the fourth, granting the Tigers some offensive life. Hosfield responded to the base knock by striking out Trosclair looking at a pitch on the outside corner and coercing a grounder to short from White as the runner remained harmlessly at first.
Huff christened the bottom of the fourth by driving a 2-2 pitch through the right side of the infield. After a UT "K," Webb lifted a towering fly to deep center that forced Harrelson back to the warning track. The Auburn outfielder drifted back and managed to make the catch at the wall for the second retirement of the inning. A ground out to short from Lapicki was barely snagged by Guzman as she turned and cut down the lead runner via a fielder's choice.
The game quieted down in the fifth, but right fielder Taryn Gray ripped a single into center with one down in the sixth. Guzman followed with a blooper into right center, putting a pair aboard against Hosfield. A fielding error on a slow bouncer off the bat of pinch hitter Morgan Murphy loaded the bases heading to the top of AU's batting order. White lifted a high fly that was tracked down on the outfield grass by junior second baseman Kajitani. The shutout went by the wayside as Hosfield walked Harrelson with the bases juiced, forcing in a run as Auburn cut its deficit to 5-1. Fernandez barely made contact on a pitch, bouncing a ball right out in front of the plate. Lapicki charged out from her catching position to grab the ball and threw on to Huff at first to complete the frame.
A fielding miscue at short by Guzman on a Hammond bouncer and a groundout from Grieve advanced a UT runner into scoring position with one down in the bottom of the sixth. Huff followed with a clean single to left as Hammond was forced to hold up at third on the play. Unfortunately consecutive infield pop-ups from Spigner and Webb left the runners stranded as the Big Orange couldn't pick up any insurance.
With the Tigers facing their last chance in the seventh, Hosfield struck out Finney to open the frame. Harrison followed by driving a 3-2 pitch deep over the right field wall, cutting the gap to 5-2. Eisterhold stepped in for AU and became Hosfield's seventh strikeout victim of the contest, getting Tennessee within one out of victory. Gray flew out harmlessly to Hammond in left as UT took the series opener from the Tigers.
No. 12 Tennessee will wrap up its series with a doubleheader against Auburn on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET at the Lee Softball Stadium. The Sports Animal (990 AM, 99.1, 99.3 FM) will be on hand to radio broadcast both games. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com.