KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – On a bright, sunny afternoon at the Lee Softball Stadium, No. 6 Tennessee (24-4, 2-3 SEC) rebounded from last night’s tough loss to defeat Kentucky (12-9, 1-1 SEC), 5-1, in the opener of a Sunday doubleheader.
UT’s offense banged out nine hits with senior third baseman Tonya Callahan leading the Big Orange offensive assault with a 2-for-3 effort, her sixth home run of the season and a pair of RBI. Now in possession of 205 career RBIs, the Holden, Mo., native surpassed former Lady Vol Kristi Durant’s all-time career record (203). Sophomore catcher Tiffany Huff delivered two RBI on her seventh double of the campaign, while junior right fielder Danielle Pieroni knocked in a run via a triple.
The Orange & White were again forced to play short-handed with senior Shannon Doepking and her 25 RBIs sitting out today’s doubleheader following a concussion she sustained in last Wednesday’s doubleheader versus Tennessee State.
Both teams’ offenses picked up right where they left off in last night’s contest by getting runners on base but not being able to string together the big hit necessary to break the scoreless deadlock on the scoreboard. The duo of Tennessee pitcher Ashton Ward and Kentucky hurler Jennifer Young combined to keep the contest scoreless through the first three innings.
In the bottom of the fourth, Tennessee advanced a runner all the way to third with a single back to the circle from freshman first baseman Jen Lapicki, an illegal pitch and a fly out to center field. Unfortunately, sophomore Erinn Webb flew harmlessly to center fielder Meagan Aull leaving freshman pinch runner Kelsey Stander standing just 60 feet from breaking the 0-0 tie.
Opening the bottom of the fifth, Hammond granted the Orange & White their initial lead-off base runner of the match-up by lacing a single into left center. Posey bounced a ball back to the circle that Young nabbed. The hurler turned and tossed high to Molly Johnson covering the second base bag, but the shortstop made a solid grab for the fielder’s choice. Posey advanced into scoring position by stealing her team-best 23rd base of the campaign. Freshman designated player Kelly Grieve bounced a shot to second that was corralled by UK’s Natalie Smith. The ‘Cat infielder checked Posey trying to prevent her from advancing to third, but took too long as Grieve beat the eventual throw to first placing runners at the corners. Rookie second baseman Chandra Mogan battled her way out of a 0-2 hole to a full count and fouled off a pitch before popping out in foul ground outside of third for the second retirement. Desperately in need of an offensive spark, Huff provided one for the Big Orange by hammering a double off the wall in left center scoring a pair for a 2-0 lead. Callahan stepped into the box and made program history with a towering two-run bomb that traveled over the scoreboard in left center. With the big fly, she became the all-time RBI leader in Lady Vol history as Tennessee grabbed a four-run advantage. After a Kentucky throwing error allowed the frame to continue, Pieroni drove a long fly to deep right that just tipped off the glove of a sprinting Audrey Meyer at the wall for a triple bringing Lapicki across for a 5-0 lead. A liner back to the circle off the bat of Webb ended the frame, but not before the Orange & White had sent nine batters to the plate and recorded five runs on five hits with the benefit of the Wildcat miscue.
The ‘Cats answered right back in the top of the sixth as Meyer christened the inning with a double into the gap in left center. Johnson extended her hitting streak to eight games with an RBI single back through the middle as Meyer raced across cutting the deficit to 5-1. With a runner occupying first, catcher Megan Yocke flew out to center and Smith hit into a fielder’s choice for two quick outs. Samantha DeMartine delivered a single into right center advancing Smith to third. That placed runners at the corners with left fielder Destinee Mordecai stepping into the batter’s box. Despite walking Mordecai to load the bags and bring the potential tying score to the plate, Ward struck out first baseman Ashley Dimkich swinging to leave three UK runners stranded and end the Wildcat threat.
Ward managed to retire the first two UK batters in the top of the seventh before permitting a single to right field from Meyer. The Charlotte, N.C., native rebounded immediately to induce a groundout off the bat of Johnson securing the Tennessee victory.
After wrapping up Sunday’s doubleheader with Kentucky, it’s back to the road for the Big Orange as No. 6 Tennessee travels to Columbia, S.C., for a mid-week doubleheader against South Carolina on Wed., March 19, at 3 p.m. ET. 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).