April 19, 2009
OXFORD, Miss. - In a contest that was delayed nearly two hours in the bottom of the fifth inning by severe weather in the local Oxford area, Ole Miss rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh to post a 7-6 walk-off victory over No. 12 Tennessee (35-11-1, 11-8-1 SEC) at the Ole Miss Softball Complex.
Freshman third baseman Jessica Spigner led the Lady Vols offensively by going a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate with two doubles and a pair of RBIs. Sophomore first baseman Jen Lapicki delivered two hits in three at-bats with a run scored, while junior second baseman Nicole Kajitani went 1-for-4 with two tallies. Junior right fielder Erinn Webb also knocked in a pair of runs via a hit by pitch with the bases loaded and a RBI pop-up to short left center.
Freshman pitcher Cat Hosfield dropped to 26-9 on the season by allowing seven earned runs on seven hits with three walks and two strikeouts over 6.2 innings of work.
Facing yesterday's winning pitcher for the Rebels Lindsey Perry, junior second baseman Nicole Kajitani wasted no time getting UT's initial hit on Sunday by blooping a single into left center leading off the top of the first inning. On a Lady Vol strikeout, Kajitani took off for second successfully swiping the base to reach scoring position with one out. Junior catcher Tiffany Huff joined her on the base paths by battling Perry to draw a walk. Spigner stepped in and laced a RBI double down the right field line and into the corner as Kajitani scored from second for a 1-0 UT lead. The occurrence marked the 25th time that Tennessee had scored in the opening inning during the 2009 campaign. With still just one retired, Lapicki was struck in the lower leg by a Perry offering, loading the bases. Webb was also hit by a pitch, forcing in Huff with the Big Orange's second tally. Senior left fielder Danielle Pieroni battled to a full count before coercing a walk to bring Spigner home for a 3-0 advantage. That ended the day in the circle for Perry as Ole Miss handed the ball to Becky Nye in relief facing a bases loaded situation and still only one out. The Rebel hurler managed to retire freshman pinch hitter Shelby Burchell on an infield pop-up just behind the circle. Her defense let her down, however, as rookie shortstop Ashley Andrews bounced to short and Lauren Grill bobbled the ball. That miscue allowed Lapicki to score from third, making it 4-0 in favor of the Lady Vols. A strikeout ended the inning, but not before UT had plated four runs on two hits, two walks, two hit batters and an Ole Miss error.
Walks came back to hurt Hosfield in the bottom half of the first as free passes issued to Ole Miss second baseman Lisa Conchos and third baseman Ashley Dowdy were cashed in with two outs. First baseman Molly Goza stepped into the batter's box and drove the first pitch she received over the center field wall for her first career home run as the Rebels roared right back into the game, trailing just 4-3.
Tennessee tried to get something going again offensively in the top of the second. Spigner laced a two-out double to wall in left and was joined on the base paths by Lapicki via a swinging bunt single. Unfortunately, the runners were left stranded at the corners on a Lady Vol strikeout.
With one out in the bottom of the third, Ole Miss' Grill ripped a Hosfield pitch into left center and to the wall for a double. Dowdy bounced out to Spigner as the fielder checked the runner before tossing across the diamond to Lapicki for the second out. Andrews handled a routine grounder to short, ending the frame as the Rebels left the tying run standing in scoring position.
Kajitani managed a walk off Nye to christen the top of the fourth frame. Sophomore center fielder Kelly Grieve bounced back to the circle as the runner advanced 60 feet into scoring position with one out. On a 3-2 offering Huff hit a shot to third that was corralled by Dowdy. The Rebel infielder checked the runner and unsuccessfully tried to catch Kajitani straying too far off second as Huff reached via the fielder's choice. With occupants at first and second and just one out, Spigner blooped a single into short left, plating Kajitani for a 5-3 lead. Following a foul out behind the plate from Lapicki, Webb was struck by a pitch for the second time in the contest, loading the bags for Pieroni. Unfortunately for the Big Orange, the Madison, Tenn., native checked her swing for strike three, leaving the bases juiced.
A lead-off infield single from right fielder Amanda Hutcherson didn't end up hurting Tennessee in the bottom of the fourth. Hosfield responded to the base runner by retiring designated player Michelle May, center fielder Alise Doubt and catcher Amber Tramp in order.
Starting the bottom of the fifth, Pieroni made an outstanding grab in left, chasing a foul ball from left fielder Corrine Doornberg well past the chalk line and diving to come up with a "web gem" catch for the initial out of the inning. With all the recent rain in the Oxford, Miss., area, the outfielder slid about 10 feet before coming up from the effort with the right side of her uniform covered in mud. Conchos stepped in and ripped a 2-2 pitch back through the middle of the infield, granting the Rebels a base runner for the fifth consecutive frame. Grill was intentionally walked to set up the force as three bases with Dowdy coming to the plate. The UM third baseman ripped a pitch to her counterpart and just off the edge of her glove at full reach for an infield single, loading the bases. Goza bounced to short as Andrews corralled the ball, turned and tossed to Kajitani covering second for the force. Kajitani was injured briefly on the slide by Dowdy, however, allowing both Conchos and Grill to score to deadlock the game at 5-5. A wild pitch from Hosfield allowed pinch runner Alyssa McGovern the chance to advance to second. With Hutcheson facing a 1-1 count and the skies quickly darkening, a rumble of thunder sent the teams and fans scrambling for safety as the game entered a delay at approximately 2:55 p.m. CT. A severe thunderstorm warning was eventually issued for the local area, bringing heavy rain, high winds and even small hail to the Ole Miss Softball Complex. The delay stretched 1 hour and 50 minutes before play resumed with Hutcheson back at the dish to battle Hosfield. The count advanced to 3-2 as the skies once again began to darken. The batter swung and laced a grounder to short that Andrews corralled before tagging the runner on her way to third, ending the eternally long inning with the score knotted at 5-5.
Grieve opened the top of the sixth by being hit by a pitch as high winds began whipping through the complex. Play continued with Huff at the plate and the Saugus, Calif., native hit into a fielder's choice at short, cutting down the lead runner at second. Spigner followed by delivering a bloop single into left center, placing a pair on the base paths with just one retired. Lapicki bounced into the hole at short for a hit as Grill dove to make the play, perhaps saving a run via her defensive effort. Webb lifted a short fly into shallow left center as Grill raced out and made a superb over the shoulder running catch before falling to the saturated ground with an apparent injury. On the catch Huff tagged up and managed to slide in under a potential tag at the plate, granting the Lady Vols a 6-5 advantage.
Bestowed the lead once again, Hosfield set to work in the bottom of the sixth with the help of some outstanding Lady Vol defense. She retired May with the assistance of a great running catch in short right center from Kajitani and then got a routine grounder to shortstop from Doubt for two quick outs. Tramp lifted a short pop-up just to the third base side of the circle. Spigner raced in from her defensive position and dove fully extended to make an outstanding, inning-ending grab.
After getting the first out of Ole Miss' final chance in regulation in the bottom of the seventh, Hosfield grooved a pitch to Conchos that she deposited well over the left field wall, tying the contest at 6-6. The 5-9 right hander rebounded to strikeout Courtnie Ghinaudo, before allowing a walk-off home run to left center by Dowdy as the Rebels posted the walk-off triumph.
No. 12 Tennessee returns home to Lee Softball Stadium for a mid-week, non-conference match-up against Appalachian State on Wed., April 22nd, at 7 p.m. ET. The Sports Animal (990 AM, 99.1 FM, 99.3 FM) will be on site to broadcast the game live with "The Voice of the Lady Vols" Mickey Dearstone behind the microphone. Live stats will also be available through utladyvols.com.