Game Notes (PDF)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – With its first Southeastern Conference series victory in the books, after taking two-of-three contests from Kentucky last weekend at the Lee Softball Stadium, it’s back to the road for No. 6 Tennessee (25-4, 3-3 SEC) as the Lady Vols venture to South Carolina (13-12, 2-4 SEC) for a mid-week doubleheader. First pitch on Wednesday, March 19th, is slated for 3 p.m. ET at Beckham Field in Columbia, S.C.
In a series once dominated by USC, the Orange & White have since turned the tables, dominating the recent history by emerging victorious over the Gamecocks in the last 12 meetings. Overall, UT possesses a 19-15 mark against the Garnet & Black, but owns an even 8-8 record in Columbia, S.C. In Tennessee’s last visit to Beckham Field on March 15, 2005, the Lady Vols posted 9-1 (6 inn.) and 12-0 (5 inn.) victories. Last year in Knoxville, UT nabbed a pair of hard-fought battles from South Carolina, 2-0 and 1-0. Shannon Doepking blasted a two-run walk-off home run in the opener, and Tonya Callahan provided a game-winning sacrifice fly in the fourth inning of the finale.
Callahan posted a tremendous last week of action as the Big Orange went 4-1 with a doubleheader sweep of Tennessee State and nabbed two-out-of-three from UK. The Holden, Mo., senior hit .455, blasted her fifth and sixth home runs of the campaign (now has a school-best 41 in her career), reached base 10 times in 16 trips to the plate by either hit or walk, knocked in five runs to up her season RBI total to a team-high 26 and slugged at a 1.000 clip. The 5-8 third baseman is also currently on a 10-game hitting streak and has hit safely in 15 of her last 17 games. Perhaps the most celebrated portion of Callahan’s weekend occurred when she blasted a two-run HR in a 5-1 victory over UK to record her 204th and 205th RBIs breaking former Lady Vol Kristi Durant’s career RBI record (203).
Freshman Jen Lapicki returned from an injury suffered against Alabama, to hit .357 over the five games with a pair of doubles, her fourth homer of the year and three RBI to raise her 2008 season total to 22. Tennessee was forced to play against Kentucky without clutch senior catcher/designated player Shannon Doepking (25 RBIs) as she sat out the series recuperating from a concussion suffered during the sweep of Tennessee State. The Acton, Calif., native has since been cleared to resume action venturing to South Carolina.
Longtime head coach Joyce Compton’s Gamecocks enter the mid-week doubleheader against the Lady Vols with a top-four pitching staff (1.61 ERA, fourth in the SEC) in tow, but an offensive attack that is hitting just .251 overall and .195 in SEC play. USC has scored 70 runs in 25 match-ups for a 2.8 runs-per-game clip. South Carolina has managed to keep its record above the .500 mark at 13-12 with the strong contributions of a three-member pitching corps that has limited opponents to a .215 average and only 2.3 runs-per-game. Consisting of seniors Kate Pouliot (3-1, 1.43 ERA, 44 IP) and Melissa Hendon (5-6, 1.51 ERA, 69.1 IP, 75 K) and redshirt freshman Krystle Robinson (5-5, 1.88 ERA, 56 IP), the trio in the circle has struck out 172 batters and fired eight shutouts. Their effectiveness comes despite facing a difficult early-season schedule consisting of games against nationally-ranked foes such as UCLA, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Michigan and Georgia. Offensively, junior Ashton Payne guides the way with a .376 average and 13 runs scored, while freshman Jill Semento (.369) possesses a team-best two HR’s and 11 RBI’s. Junior Jacqueline Weatherbee owns 10 RBI despite registering just a .234 average. As a team USC has stolen 10-of-12 bases, while opponents have 22 steals.
Following the mid-week doubleheader against the Gamecocks, Tennessee faces a quick turnaround by flying straight to Fayetteville, Ark., for a three-game series against the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks. The two squads will contest a DH on Friday, March 21st, at 5 and 7 p.m. ET, with the finale set for Sat., March 22nd at 2 p.m. ET.