April 11, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Having been honored for her career efforts as part of "Senior Day" festivities during the pregame, senior pitcher/outfielder Danielle Pieroni cashed in a clutch one out, 11th-inning triple from freshman shortstop Ashley Andrews with a RBI single back up the middle, concluding a marathon as No. 12 Tennessee (32-9-1, 9-6-1 SEC) secured a 2-1 (11 inn.) victory over Auburn (27-15, 7-9 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at the Lee Softball Stadium. With the triumph, the Big Orange improved to a perfect 6-0 in extra innings during the 2009 campaign.
The contest equaled the longest match-up in Lady Vol softball history as UT dropped an 11 inning game (5-6) to No. 3 Florida on May 3, 2008, and prevailed over No. 1 Michigan at the 2005 Women's College World Series back on June 5, 2005, 2-0 (11 inn.), as then-freshman Tonya Callahan blasted a walk-off home run.
Andrews posted a perfect 2-for-2 day at the plate with her huge 11th inning three-bagger and also plated the game-winning run. Junior second baseman Nicole Kajitani blasted a solo home run during the bottom of the sixth, her third HR of the year, to grant UT a short-lived lead. Pieroni followed up six innings of solid two-hit work from the circle over six innings by ending the game on her lone hit of the contest.
Freshman Cat Hosfield picked up the victory in relief, working two innings, allowing one hit and striking out a pair to improve to 23-8 overall. Pieroni started the contest in the circle and fired a gem, allowing just one run on two hits over six innings with a walk and five K's. Sophomore Ashton Ward worked three hitless frames in relief of the starter Pieroni, striking out a pair.
After going through her senior day festivities during the pregame, Pieroni took charge from the circle right from the start of the contest as the Madison, Tenn., native retired Auburn third baseman Kyndall White, center fielder Lindsey Harrelson and designated player Tatiana Fernandez in order during the top of the first.
Following a one-two-three Lady Vol first inning, Hammond made an outstanding play starting AU's half of the second. First baseman Amber Harrison lifted a fly ball down the left field line that was tailing away into foul territory. Senior left fielder Lillian Hammond raced over into foul ground and dove fully extended to make the catch just off the ground, recording a highlight reel initial out. Pieroni then struck out left fielder Myesha Finney and catcher Elisabeth Eisterhold on 3-2 pitches as UT's senior hurler continued to control the Tiger line-up.
Tennessee junior right fielder Erinn Webb became the first base runner of the game for either team in the bottom of the second by drawing a walk against Tiger starter Anna Thompson. Unfortunately a Lady Vol strikeout left the runner standing harmlessly at first.
Both offenses were quiet until the bottom of the fourth when sophomore center fielder Kelly Grieve opened the frame by beating out a base hit to deep short. On a 1-0 pitch with junior catcher Tiffany Huff at the plate, the speedster from Asheville, N.C., took off for second, reaching scoring position on her team-best 29th stolen base of the campaign. Unfortunately for the Big Orange, Thompson reacted to the threat at second by racing through Huff, sophomore first baseman Jen Lapicki and freshman third baseman Jessica Spigner in order.
With one retired in the top of the fifth, left fielder Myesha Finney ripped a 1-0 offering from Pieroni to deep right and off the wall for a double, marking the first hit allowed by Tennessee's hurler in the contest. Pieroni responded to having her first opposing base occupant by making Eisterhold her fourth strikeout victim of the match-up. Auburn's Taryn Gray blasted a shot to deep right, but not deep enough as Webb had plenty of room to match the inning-ending catch.
Burchell drew a one out walk in the top of the fifth and was replaced on the base paths by Andrews. Pieroni lifted a fly ball into right center that caused a small collision between AU's outfielders, but center fielder Harrelson made the catch for the second out. Hammond popped out into foul ground outside of third as the scoreless duel continued through five complete.
Pieroni continued her gem through the top of the sixth, retiring shortstop Lauren Guzman, second baseman Cassie Trosclair and White in order.
Kajitani broke up Thompson's shutout leading off the bottom of the sixth by blasting a 3-2 offering deep to left and just over the wall for a solo home run as Tennessee nabbed a 1-0 lead.
Suddenly trailing for the first time and facing their last chance in the top of the seventh, Harrelson brought the Tigers right back by starting the inning with a solo homer that just cleared the wall in left center, tying the game at 1-1. Fernandez drew a walk against Pieroni, ending the UT's hurler outstanding day in the circle as Ward was summoned into the contest in relief. Harrison sacrificed the runner into scoring position on a perfect bunt up the third base line. Finney stepped into the box and blasted a shot to deep left, but the ball didn't carry enough as Pieroni made the catch just in front of the warning track for the second out. Eisterhold had a chance to give AU the lead, but popped up harmlessly to Spigner in foul ground outside of third as the deadlock moved to the last of the seventh.
Burchell ripped a Thompson offering to deep left center with one out, just missing a game-winning homer by a few feet as the ball tipped off the wall for a very long single. A pair of UT strikeouts left the runner at first as the squads moved to extra innings. Entering today's action Tennessee was 5-0 in games necessitating extra softball during the 2009 campaign.
Ward roared through Auburn's line-up in the top of the eighth, inducing a ground ball from Gray, a foul pop-up off the bat of Guzman and registering a looking strikeout of Trosclair.
Grieve gave the Big Orange some life with one retired in the bottom of the eighth by beating out another infield single to short. Huff swung at Thompson's first pitch and lifted a pop-up just behind second as Guzman drifted over from short to make the grab. A wild pitch in the dirt moved the runner up 60 feet with Lapicki at the plate. She lifted a fly ball to right that was squeezed by Gray for the inning-ending out.
With Ward firmly in control of Auburn's offense, Spigner gave the Lady Vols a lead-off single in the bottom of the ninth. Webb was struck in the back by a 0-1 pitch from Thompson, placing a pair aboard with still no one out. Andrews came through with a slap single into left field, juicing the bases for Pieroni. She popped up in foul ground just outside the third base line for the initial retirement. Consecutive UT strikeouts made certain the contest would continue into the 10th as Thompson escaped the huge jam.
The Tigers' Finney bounced a base knock into the hole at short against new hurler Hosfield with one out in the top of the 10th. Eisterhold lifted a ball to short center as Kajitani raced out from second to make the play on the towering fly ball. The frame came to a close as Hosfield caught Gray looking at strike three on the outside corner.
Tennessee got the potential winning run aboard on a single with out in the bottom of the 10th as a Huff blast down the left field line hit about half way up the wall. A wild pitch in the dirt by Thompson allowed the base runner the chance to improve into scoring position with still just one down. A Lapicki pop-up to first got the Tigers one out from extending the contest to another frame. A Lady Vol strikeout sent the teams on to the 11th inning still tied at 1-1.
After AU came up empty in the top half of the 11th, Andrews slapped a triple just inside the left field line and down into the corner with one out. That set the stage for senior day heroics for Pieroni as the re-entered hitter ripped a single back through the middle of the drawn-in infield to score Andrews for a 2-1 victory.
No. 12 Tennessee completes its series against Auburn at approximately 5 p.m. ET on Saturday at the Lee Softball Stadium. The Sports Animal (990 AM, 99.1, 99.3 FM) is on hand to radio broadcast both games. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com.