May 16, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - In a contest that finished at approximately 12:30 a.m. local time on Saturday morning after a lengthy rain delay during the Knoxville Regional's opening game, No. 15 Tennessee (39-16-1) utilized a clutch, walk-off single from freshman third baseman Jessica Spigner in the bottom of the seventh inning to rally past James Madison (35-15), 4-3, at the Lee Softball Stadium.
Sophomore Kelly Grieve and freshman shortstop Ashley Andrews each delivered two of Tennessee's seven hits in the match-up. Junior catcher Tiffany Huff, Spigner, junior right fielder Erinn Webb and senior left fielder Danielle Pieroni each knocked in one of UT's runs.
In the circle Pieroni garnered the victory to improve to 7-2 on the year after allowing no runs and just one hit with two strikeouts in 1.1 innings of relief. Freshman Cat Hosfield drew the start in the circle, permitting three earned runs on six hits with a pair of walks and eight K's in 5.2 frames.
"I think this game was a microcosm of our entire season," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "We get a lead, give it up via a late home run and fight back. Sometimes we win, and sometimes we lose. I would definitely like to commend Meredith Felts and James Madison. I thought she was fantastic in the circle. They are for real and are a really good team."
It took just four pitches for Hosfield to race through the top of the James Madison order one-two-three in the opening frame as first baseman Shannon Moxey, right fielder Courtney Simons and third baseman Amber Kirk each were retired on the infield.
Grieve started the bottom of the first by beating out an infield single to third and then swiping second to reach scoring position. The theft gave the Asheville, N.C., native 37 for the season, breaking the UT sophomore steals record formerly held by UT All-American Lindsay Schutzler (2005). A groundout from designated player Lillian Hammond advanced the runner to third. That set the stage for the squeeze bunt as Huff dropped a bouncer up the third base line as Grieve cruised home for a 1-0 lead.
A lead-off single to left from JMU's Katie Spitzer and a UT throwing error on a grounder from shortstop Ashley Burnham placed runners at first and second with no one down in the top of the second. Catcher Julia Dominguez lifted a blooper to left that dropped in front of Pieroni. Unfortunately for the Dukes, pinch runner Megan Forbes delayed in advancing to third and got thrown out at the bag on a strong throw from left field. Another fielder's choice and a groundout from left fielder Chel'sea Ryan ended a once promising inning for JMU with no damage on the scoreboard.
A lead-off walk issued to second baseman Nicole Kajitani came back to haunt the Dukes in the bottom of the second. A groundout advanced the runner to second and then the San Bernardino, Calif., native swiped third. Following a walk issued to first baseman Jen Lapicki, Pieroni delivered a RBI groundout to second base as Kajitani scored for a 2-0 advantage.
The Dukes started a big scoring threat on back-to-back singles to left field from Moxey and Simons with one out in the top of the third. Replacement third baseman Lauren Robison worked the count to 2-2 before swinging and missing at strike three. Spitzer stepped to the dish and quickly got ahead of Hosfield 2-0 before UT's freshman hurler rebounded to post an inning-ending K.
With one out in the bottom of the third, Hammond reached via error and advanced to second as the throw went into right field. Huff followed with a blooper that threatened to drop, but James Madison second baseman Kaitlyn Wernsing raced over behind the bag and made a terrific diving catch for out number two. Spigner grounded out to first as the Lady Vol lead remained at 2-0.
After allowing a lead-off single to James Madison's Burnham in the top of the fourth, Hosfield struck out Dominguez, Wernsing and Ryan in order, recording her fourth, fifth and sixth strikeouts of the contest.
Neither offense could get much going in the fifth as Hosfield struck out two more Dukes hitters to raise her K total to eight through five frames.
Burnham broke a string of eight consecutive JMU batters retired by Hosfield by blasting a double into the left center field gap with a pair of outs in the top of the sixth. Dominguez stepped in the batter's box and ripped a 3-2 pitch deep over the left field wall, tying the contest at 2-2. Consecutive walks issued to Wernsing and Ryan ended the day in the circle for Hosfield as Pieroni was summoned into the contest in relief. Pinch hitter Casey Mansfield greeted the new pitcher with a sharp single through the left side of the infield as Wernsing scored from second and the Dukes grabbed a 3-2 lead. A bouncer to first base from Moxey ended the frame, but not before James Madison had struck for three runs on three hits.
Suddenly facing a deficit for the first time on Friday night, Huff christened the bottom of the sixth with a sharp single between the pitcher's legs and through the middle of the infield. Spigner hit into a fielder's choice that cut down the lead runner at second. Kajitani was called on to sacrifice the base occupant into scoring position, and she performed her job perfectly with a bunt out in front of the plate. With two down Webb had a chance to come through in the clutch. The Hemet, Calif., native ripped a two-bagger to center as pinch runner Natalee Weissinger raced around from second to deadlock the score at 3-3. Lapicki walked, placing runners at first and second with two retired, but a Lady Vol K left the duo stranded.
Despite permitting a one out walk in the top of the seventh, Pieroni struck out a pair of JMU hitters and handled a sharp bouncer back to the circle from Burnham to grant UT's offense a chance to post a walk-off triumph.
Needing a base runner, Andrews came through with a big lead-off single through the left side of the infield. Grieve battled Felts to a full count and then beat out an infield base knock to third, placing a pair of Lady Vols aboard with still no one retired. Hammond dropped a sacrifice bunt out in front of the plate, advancing the duo into scoring position. Huff was walked intentionally to load the bases and set up the force play at every base. That brought Spigner to the plate with the chance to be the heroine. The Santa Clarita, Calif., product got ahead 2-1 in the count before blistering a shot to the wall in right for a RBI single, scoring Andrews from third with the winning run.