May 17, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Single runs in both the fifth and sixth innings completed a staggering Sunday effort for upstart Jacksonville State (42-15) as the Gamecocks rallied past No. 15 Tennessee (40-18-1), 2-1, to win its third consecutive Sunday contest at the Lee Softball Stadium and advance on to battle No. 4 national seed Alabama in next weekend's Tuscaloosa Super Regional.
JSU left fielder Chrissy O'Neal and right fielder Jackie Jarman managed single RBIs for the Gamecocks, while sophomore center fielder Kelly Grieve led the UT offense by going 2-for-2 at the plate with two walks and her team-best 39th stolen base of the season. Junior catcher Tiffany Huff knocked in a run to complete her campaign with a career-best 67 RBIs.
Lady Vol senior Danielle Pieroni took a tough defeat from the circle, dropping to 8-3 on the year after allowing two runs on two hits with three walks and a "K" in two innings of work. Freshman Cat Hosfield (28-13) wrapped up her freshman season by tossing five total innings of five-hit pitching with a walk and three strikeouts.
"Obviously, we wanted to survive and advance, but it did not work out that way," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "I think the two games (with Jacksonville State) were different types of games. In game one, we had eight hits to their six. They walked four batters and made three errors, and quite frankly we should have scored more runs. The difference was clutch hitting. They got the clutch hits when they needed it and they deserve all the credit for that. Today, they were the best team on the field and deserved to advance. There is no question about it. Our team competed hard and I'm proud of our players, but they were the best team on the field. In game two, they got another timely hit to drive in the run when they needed it. The critical time for us was when we had the bases loaded in the second inning and couldn't push a run across. The season is over. All you can do is thank the seniors and look forward to next year."
Hosfield started off the "if necessary" match-up by retiring the first two Gamecock batters before catcher Allie Barker singled sharply past freshman third baseman Jessica Spigner and into left field. Second baseman Courtney Underwood followed with a bloop base knock into left as JSU got a rally started. Designated player Meredith Sellers bounced a ball to short that Andrews corralled before deciding to throw to an uncovered third base as the Gamecocks loaded the bags. Third baseman Allison Svoboda stepped in and popped up to Kajitani in short right field as Jacksonville State left three runners on base.
With the Big Orange having escaped the jam, Grieve attempted to get something started by leading off the bottom of the first with a slap single through the middle. Senior left fielder Lillian Hammond followed with a bunt single to place both speedsters on the base paths with none retired. The duo pulled off a double steal as both reached scoring position for Huff. The Saugus, Calif., native drove the first pitch she received from Karla Pittman the opposite way to left as Grieve scored on the sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead. Following a walk issued to junior designated player Erinn Webb, junior second baseman Nicole Kajitani lifted a blooper to short right center. Jarman raced in from her right field position to make a running catch and doubled Hammond off second to complete the inning with no further scoring.
Jarman followed her solid defensive effort by leading off the top of the second with a bouncing base knock through the left side of the infield. Hosfield rebounded with consecutive strikeouts of shortstop Mary Beth Ledbetter and center fielder Hillary Downs before issuing a walk to left fielder Chrissy O'Neal. With two Gamecock runners on, first baseman Nikki Prier bounced to Andrews as the rookie shortstop made the inning-ending play.
Sophomore first baseman Jen Lapicki started off a two-out rally in the bottom of the second with a single down the left field line. Andrews was struck on the leg by a pitch from Pittman and then Grieve walked against new hurler Ashley Eliasson, loading the bases for Hammond. Unfortunately, the Chattanooga, Tenn., native popped up to short, leaving three Lady Vols stranded on the base paths.
Pieroni ran into some trouble in the top of the fourth in relief after walking Ledbetter with one out. Following a grounder off the bat of Downs, O'Neal drove a double over Grieve's head in center and off the wall as Ledbetter scored to deadlock the count at 1-1.
After a lead-off double for Tennessee by Spigner in the bottom of the fourth went for naught, Barker managed to start the fifth by coercing a walk. Underwood worked the count full at 3-2 before also drawing a free pass, placing two on base and signaling the end of the day in the circle for Pieroni as Hosfield re-entered to pitch. The Murfreesboro, Tenn., native battled Sellers over a 10-pitch at-bat before Andrews corralled a slow roller to short and fired to Spigner at third to post a big fielder's choice. Svoboda hit into the inning's second out as Kajitani nabbed the sphere on a bounce and tossed over to Andrews, leaving Gamecock runners on the corners with two retired. Jarman stepped up to the dish and ripped a shot through the right side of the infield, scoring Underwood for JSU's initial lead of the contest at 2-1. Kajitani handled a bouncer to second from Ledbetter as the inning came to a close, but not before Jacksonville State had grabbed the advantage.
Suddenly behind on the scoreboard, Grieve christened the bottom of the fifth with a lead-off slap single down the left field line. Hammond tried but failed to get the sacrifice bunt down, instead popping up to third base. After a Huff bouncer to short allowed Grieve to reach scoring position with one retired, a Lady Vol strikeout looking left the base occupant stranded.
Hosfield managed to keep the Gamecocks from any further scoring through the top of the seventh as Tennessee ventured to the last half of the seventh down just a single tally.
Lapicki led off the seventh with a long fly down the right field line, but not quite far enough as Jarman tracked the ball down near the line just short of the warning track. After a Tennessee strikeout, Grieve coerced a walk to put the potential tying run aboard for pinch hitter Ashton Ward. The 6-0 sophomore hit the ball hard but right to the shortstop as Ledbetter made the grab on the run and stepped on second base for a fielder's choice, securing the upset.