Jan. 17, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -With rain engulfing the Knoxville area, the Tennessee softball team continued preseason practice in the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center on Wednesday afternoon, working mostly on small ball.
Slap hitting, bunting and the speed game have been hallmarks for the UT softball program and this group of Lady Vols ranks among the best ever when it comes to small ball.
"We're where we expect to be at this time of year," co-head coach Karen Weekly said. "It's early in January but there's a lot of effort out here, good communication. We have a veteran infield. It's nice to have Raven Chavanne back out in the lineup after being out all fall. She's getting the rust worked off and getting back in the swing of things. It's a good solid unit in the infield that has played together for a long time and it makes things a lot easier."
GOOD OFFENSE HELPS GOOD DEFENSE
Tennessee's offensive strength with the short game also contributes to its defensive strengths. In 2012, UT led the nation with a .982 team fielding percentage.
"It is a benefit that we have so many small ball offensive players, so it really helps our defense too," Karen Weekly said.
Chavanne, a two-time NFCA All-American and accomplished slapper herself, and her fellow infielders appreciate the athleticism and skill that outfield teammates like Whitney Hammond and Tory Lewis provide when batting in short game drills. "Working against people like Whitney Hammond and Tory Lewis, who are so fast and some of the fastest people in the SEC, as a defense, we're working against the best there is," Chavanne said. "When we get that type of practice every single day, it's only going to benefit us in a game. It becomes second nature and it's natural."
SMALL BALL SKILLS UP AND DOWN LINEUP
Speed and slapping are skills that are championed at UT. All 11 returning batters recorded an infield hit in 2012. Chavanne led the way with 46 infield hits. The Lady Vols return 86.4 percent of their infield hits from last season.