TAMPA, Fla. – Make it a perfect 7-0 for the No. 4 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team as the Orange & White received a cycle from senior third baseman Tonya Callahan, a 4-for-4 performance and three RBI to help down Hofstra, 6-1, on Saturday night at the USF Best Western Tournament in Tampa, Fla.
Callahan singled in the first inning, tripled in the second, homered in the fourth and doubled in her final at-bat during the sixth to register what is believed to be the initial cycle in Tennessee Lady Vol history.
Sophomore second baseman Nicole Kajitani doubled and knocked in a pair of runs, while senior catcher Shannon Doepking singled in the first tally of the game for UT. Junior left fielder Lillian Hammond crossed the plate twice in the match-up. Freshman right fielder Kelly Grieve managed her first collegiate hit with a double in the sixth frame.
Lady Vol senior pitcher Megan Rhodes allowed just one run on six hits in a complete-game with seven K’s to improve to 3-0 on the season.
“An outstanding performance by Tonya Callahan today,” Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “She literally smashed the ball. Overall, we played well today, but we also made a lot of mistakes that need to be corrected before conference time. We are proud of our kids and the way they fought in both games today. Hofstra’s pitcher threw really hard and was a big challenge in game two.”
Rhodes established her control right from the start to open the contest by inducing a routine ground ball to third from Hofstra second baseman Casey Fee. Tennessee’s senior hurler closed out the one-two-three frame with consecutive strikeouts of center fielder Erika Bernstein and shortstop Pam Dreslinski.
With one down in the bottom of the first inning Lady Vol second baseman Chandra Mogan dropped a roller up the third base line that was misplayed by Pride infielder Trisha Dreslinski for an error allowing the batter to reach safely. Callahan followed with a liner into left center field for a single. That allowed Mogan to race into third and Callahan to move to second on the throw attempting to retire the lead runner. Doepking stepped in against Hofstra pitcher Kayleigh Lotti and dropped a bunt, on a perfectly executed squeeze play, to plate Mogan for a 1-0 lead and end up standing safely on first. Huff walked to load the bags, but a fly out from sophomore right fielder Erinn Webb and a fielder’s choice from designated player Jen Lapicki stranded three on the basepaths.
The Orange & White defense rolled through the second frame with the help of a strong throw from catcher Shannon Doepking. Rhodes hit Hofstra catcher Carolann Lubach with an offering to begin the inning. During the next Pride at-bat, UT’s “Cannon” behind the plate threw Lubach out by at least 10 feet while she attempted to advance to second on a pitch in the dirt. A fouled bunt that Doepking squeezed and a punch out of designated player Sara Michalowski completed the frame.
Senior shortstop Kenora Posey opened a one-out scoring threat in the bottom of the second with a clean single to short. Unfortunately for the Orange & White, the Los Angeles, Calif., native was wiped off the basepaths after being gunned down attempting to steal. The play proved important as it cost UT at least one tally in the inning. Hammond and Mogan drew consecutive two-out walks from Lotti to set the stage for Callahan. She responded by driving a triple just over the glove of a leaping Fee at second base and into the right center field gap. As the ball rolled to the wall, the Holden, Mo., native raced around into third with a two-run triple as Tennessee nabbed a 3-0 advantage.
In the bottom of the third, a two-out fielding error by third baseman Trisha Dreslinski opened the door for the Lady Vols to add two more tallies. With Posey on first following the Hofstra miscue, Hammond walked to place two on the basepaths for Kajitani. The San Bernardino, Calif., came through with a clutch double to deep right field, bringing home a pair of runs to improve the count to 5-0.
Callahan’s second home run of the season and UT career-record improving 37th big fly in the bottom of the fourth staked the Orange & White to a 6-0 lead.
During the top of the fifth, Hofstra finally managed to get a scoring threat started against Rhodes as Michalkowski singled to open the frame. After a fielder’s choice and a fly out to left field moved Tennessee closer to getting out of the frame with no damage, the Pride strung together three straight infield singles, the last by Bernstein, to bring home a run and cut its deficit to 6-1. Unfortunately for the Pride, on the final bunt single, a runner was thrown out while attempting to advance to third base ending the assault.
The fifth inning turned out to be Hofstra’s final chance to get to Rhodes as the Nashville, Tenn., product retired the last six hitters she faced, two by strikeout, to end the contest.
No. 4 Tennessee continues its participation at the USF Best Western Tournament on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET against Ole Miss before facing homestanding USF at 2 p.m. ET. Live stats will be available through www.utladyvols.com, and periodic updates will be recorded on the Lady Vol Hotline (865-974-8700, box #6).