April 26, 2009
ATHENS, Ga. - In front of a UGA Softball Stadium all-time record 1,877 fans on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Athens, Ga., No. 15 Tennessee (37-13-1, 12-10-1 SEC) received a clutch two-out, two-run triple in the top of the seventh from sophomore Kelly Grieve to back five innings of one-hit work and the initial collegiate pitching win from freshman reliever Jessica Spigner as the Lady Vols took the series finale from No. 8 Georgia (36-9, 16-7 SEC), 6-3.
Spigner entered in relief during the third frame and was outstanding over the remainder of the contest, allowing just two total base runners and only one by hit via a UGA single in the fifth. Freshman Cat Hosfield started the match-up in the circle, giving up two earned runs on two hits with a walk in one inning of work. Senior Danielle Pieroni permitted a single tally on one base knock with two K's in her single inning of support.
At the plate, Grieve was the heroine with her two-run triple in the seventh and also doubled as part of a 2-for-4, two RBI, two-run scored effort. Junior second baseman Nicole Kajitani (1-for-4) and freshman designated player Shelby Burchell (1-for-2) each blasted solo home runs, while junior catcher Tiffany Huff (1-for-4) knocked in her team-best 65th tally of the season for some insurance during a crucial three-run seventh frame. Rookie shortstop Ashley Andrews doubled, just missing a homer by inches as her blast hit the top of the wall in left and ricocheted back into the field of play off the top of the chain link fence just behind the padding. Junior right fielder Erinn Webb (1-for-3) knocked in a run via a single in the opening inning.
"That was a big win for us," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "Georgia is a legit top 10 team. Playing before an all-time record crowd of over 1,800 fans actually fired our kids up. We are extremely proud of the way our team competed today. We met last night and made some adjustments on the types of pitches we were chasing yesterday and mostly stayed with the game plan. Jessica Spigner wants the ball in the circle, and she was a really good pitcher in high school. I'm sure she will see innings for us during the rest of the season. "Jess" was fantastic for us today. Kelly Grieve, Nicole Kajitani and Shelby Burchell came up with huge hits when we needed them, with Kelly's being the game-winner. Today was a total team victory."
Tennessee's Kajitani christened Sunday's finale by battling Georgia starter Christie Hamilton over a 15-pitch at-bat, before delivering a sharp groundout to third. Grieve saw six pitches herself before blooping a ball into left field that landed just in front of a diving Tess Echols as the UT speedster cruised into second with a one-out double. Following an infield pop-up to second from Huff, Spigner drew a walk to put two Lady Vols aboard with two retired. Webb worked the count in her favor at 3-0 before UGA's Hamilton fought back to a full count. The Hemet, Calif., product got a pitch she liked and delivered it into center for a RBI single as Grieve scored from second for a 1-0 lead. Sophomore first baseman Jen Lapicki laced a shot into left, but right at Echols as the inning came to a close. The Big Orange forced Hamilton to throw 37 pitches in the first frame, while garnering its initial lead of the weekend.
Hosfield managed to retire center fielder Taylor Schlopy and shortstop Kristin Schnake on fly balls to center and left, respectively. Unfortunately for UT, third baseman Alisa Goler launched a solo shot over the wall in right center with two outs as the Bulldogs tied the score at 1-1. First baseman Brianna Hesson coerced a walk to keep the frame alive with designated player Tori Moody coming to the plate. Hosfield managed to force the batter to pop-up to Kajitani in short right field, concluding an eventful, 25-minute opening inning.
The long ball fireworks continued on the initial pitch of the second frame as Hamilton's offering to Burchell was deposited over the 220-foot wall in center for her fifth big fly of the year, giving Tennessee its lead back at 2-1. Following a pair of Big Orange fly ball outs, Kajitani blasted a towering shot down the left field line. Echols drifted back to the wall, leapt just above the fence in an attempt to make the catch and had the ball tip off her glove and finish its trip over for a solo homer as UT's advantage improved to 3-1.
On a 2-2 pitch from Hosfield opening the bottom half of the second, Georgia catcher Kristyn Sandberg continued the early slugfest by delivering a shot to left center and just over the wall as the Bulldogs crept back within 3-2. That ended Hosfield's stay in the circle as Pieroni was summoned in from the bullpen in relief. The Madison, Tenn., native settled the game down briefly by striking out second baseman Ashley Pauly. Echols was struck by a 2-2 pitch, granting UGA a speedy, one-out base runner. With right fielder Lisaira Daniels at the plate, the runner swiped second to put the potential tying tally in scoring position. After Daniels struck out, Schlopy blooped a lazy fly to center that Grieve very nearly caught on the dive, but the short-hop single allowed Echols to score from second, tying the game at 3-3. Schnake popped out to Kajitani on the grass in short right, but the damage had been done as UGA tallied twice in the frame.
Goler started the Bulldog half of the third by drawing a lead-off walk from Pieroni. That brought about another pitching change for the Lady Vols as Spigner entered the circle in relief for the second straight day. The Santa Clarita, Calif., native coerced a fielder's choice ground ball from Hesson that Andrews utilized to cut down the lead runner at second. Following a groundout from Moody that advanced the base occupant into scoring position, Spigner struck Sandberg with a 2-2 pitch, placing a pair aboard with two retired. Pauly stepped in and bounced out routinely to sophomore second baseman Natalee Weissinger, ending the inning with no Georgia scoring.
Tennessee's half of the fourth opened with Lapicki driving a shot to deep left that was caught on the warning track for the initial retirement. After a Burchell pop-up to second, Andrews blasted a promising ball to deep left that actually landed on top of the fence before ricocheting back into the field of play for a double. Weissinger worked the count to 2-2 before bouncing out to Goler at third as the Big Orange came oh so close to re-taking the lead.
Spigner kept Georgia's offense in check in the bottom of the fourth, retiring Echols, Daniels and Schlopy in order as the teams remained deadlocked at 3-3.
After the Big Orange went down in order in the fifth, Georgia's Schnake attempted to get something going for the `Dawgs by leading off their half of the inning with a single back through the middle of the infield. Goler lifted a harmless fly to left as Pieroni charged in from her defensive position to make the catch. With the runner still occupying first and one down, Hesson and Moody hit consecutive bouncers off Spigner to second that Weissinger corralled on the run before touching second base.
Following a quiet sixth for both teams, Burchell began the top of the seventh by drawing an important lead-off walk. Andrews performed her job perfectly by sacrificing the runner up 60 feet via bunt. Weissinger battled Hamilton over an eight pitch at-bat before being struck on the leg, joining freshman pinch runner Holly Baker on the base paths. Kajitani swung at the first offering she received and sharply lined out to Echols in left for the second out. Grieve worked the count to 2-2 before slapping a shot to left that dropped inches inside the chalk and rolled into the corner for a two-RBI triple as Tennessee nabbed a 5-3 lead. Facing a full count Huff continued the Lady Vol hit parade by blasting a ball over Schlopy's head in center and off the wall for a long single as Grieve plated UT's sixth run. That ended Hamilton's day for the `Dawgs as Sarah McCloud was brought on for a relief appearance. She forced Spigner to ground out to second, but not before the Lady Vols had roared in front 6-3.
Down to their last chance in the bottom of the seventh, the Bulldogs had the No. 9, 1 and 2 hitters in the order coming to the plate. Daniels bounced to third as Kajitani charged the ball and tossed in time to first to retire the speedy base runner. Schlopy worked to 2-2 against Spigner before bouncing to Andrews at short, getting UT within an out of victory. Schnake got ahead in the count 3-0 before taking a called strike. She fouled a pitch off to the right side before swinging and missing to complete the UT triumph.
No. 15 Tennessee concludes the 2009 regular season next weekend when it hosts No. 5 Alabama over May 1-2. First pitch for the series opener is Friday night at 6 p.m. ET at the Lee Softball Stadium. The Sports Animal (990 AM, 99.1 FM, 99.3 FM) will be on site to broadcast all three games in the series. Live stats are also available through utladyvols.com.