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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – On Wednesday evening at the Lee Softball Stadium, No. 6 Tennessee (22-3) banged out 10 hits and stole six bases while senior third baseman Tonya Callahan hammered her fifth home run of the season as the Lady Vols routed Tennessee State, 9-1 (5 inn.), in the first game of a doubleheader.
Callahan went 1-for-3 at the dish with a solo home run to record her 201st career RBI, moving within two of tying former Lady Vol Kristi Durant for the UT career mark (203 RBI). Freshman shortstop Kelly Grieve ignited the speed game perfectly from her lead-off spot with a 3-for-3 effort, a walk and a steal. Senior catcher Shannon Doepking delivered a 2-for-2 performance with a pair of RBI, freshman designated player Jen Lapicki was 1-of-3 with an RBI and senior second baseman Kenora Posey scored twice and swiped two bases upping her team-best theft total to 20 on the season.
Senior hurler Megan Rhodes was solid in the circle permitting one run on two hits over five innings of work. The Nashville, Tenn., native also K’ed six while walking just two in improving to 10-1.
Rhodes opened the contest by retiring the Tennessee State line-up in order in the top of the first as center fielder Tamara Perkins and designated player Jill Gardiner each struck out and third baseman Brittany Webb grounded out.
Grieve got the UT offense off to a solid start in the bottom half of the first with a perfect bunt single toward third base. Unfortunately a sign was missed on the base paths as an attempted steal of second went awry on a solid throw from TSU catcher Jalisa Bradley. After a sharp liner to third off the bat of left fielder Lillian Hammond, Callahan stepped into the box and blasted her fifth homer of the season and program-best 40th of her career to give the Big Orange a 1-0 lead. With the solo shot the Holden, Mo., native climbed within two RBI of tying former Lady Vol Kristi Durant’s Lady Vol all-time record of 203.
An infield error on Tennessee granted the Tigers their initial base runner of the contest leading-off the top of the second. The miscue didn’t cost the Lady Vols anything on the scoreboard, however, as Rhodes coerced a pair of fly ball outs and K’ed first baseman Royesha Goodman to leave the runner stranded.
The Big Orange offense got rolling in the bottom of the third as Posey led off the frame with a walk against Tennessee State hurler Amanda Vaught and promptly stole second. Grieve took advantage of the TSU defensive alignment by dropping a ball to the left side of the infield for a single as Vaught was unable to make the play from the circle. With runners at the corners and no outs, the duo pulled off a delayed double steal as Grieve advanced to second and Posey crossed the plate with the Orange & White’s second run. Hammond dropped a bunt single back to the pitcher, and Callahan walked to load the bases for Doepking. The Acton, Calif., native came through with a big two-run bloop single to right field improving her season RBI total to a team-best 25 as two runners scored for a 4-0 advantage. Unfortunately, Tennessee ran into some misfortune as sophomore first baseman Tiffany Huff ripped a sharp liner to third. The orb traveled right to TSU’s Brittany Webb as the fielder gloved the ball and threw behind Doepking at first for huge double play that effectively derailed the inning. Despite a two-out walk and a stolen base from sophomore center fielder Erinn Webb, designated player Jen Lapicki grounded out to conclude the frame.
The Tigers got on the scoreboard against Rhodes in the top of the fourth as a walk and consecutive singles from second baseman Jennifer Gregory and Goodman brought shortstop Bridget Metzger across the plate to cut their deficit to 4-1.
With one down in the bottom of the fourth, Posey reached for the second time in the contest with a bunt single back to the circle. Grieve continued the speed game assault with a clean base knock into left field to place two aboard. Hammond bounced a shot down to third that was corralled by TSU’s Webb. She turned and tossed to the shortstop Metzger, racing over to cover the third base bag, for out number two. Callahan followed with a ground ball down to Webb at third. The Tennessee State fielder bobbled the sphere for a minute but managed to make the play, stepping on the third base bag for the force to end the promising inning.
Doepking christened the bottom of the fifth with a single past diving TSU shortstop Metzger and into left center field. Huff followed by blasting a shot deep to left center that hit about two feet short of clearing the wall for a double. With runners occupying second and third, Webb delivered a sacrifice fly as her shot to left was deep enough to plate pinch runner Natalee Weissinger with Tennessee’s fifth run. Lapicki ended Vaught’s day in the circle with a drive to center as the Oldwick, N.J., native’s RBI double improved the count to 6-1. New pitcher Lauren Weber got off to a rough start in relief by uncorking a wild pitch and walking right fielder Nicole Kajitani to place runners at first and third with one out. Kajitani swiped second, and senior pinch hitter Caitlin Ryan also drew a free pass to load the bases with the top of the order coming up. Caitlin Eaton entered in relief of Weber and walked Grieve to force in another run as the Big Orange lead grew to 7-1. Sophomore pinch hitter Anita Manuma stepped in with the bases juiced and became the fourth straight player to walk as UT’s eighth tally crossed the dish. Callahan grounded a shot to short that was recorded as a fielder’s choice as the contest ended via the run-rule at 9-1.
No. 6 Tennessee will continue its Wednesday doubleheader against Tennessee State at the Lee Softball Stadium at approximately 7:15 p.m. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com and, as always, periodic updates of the UT game will be recorded on the Lady Vol Hotline (865-974-8700, box #6).