Box ScoreFAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – With No. 8 Tennessee (26-5, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) holding on to a 2-0 lead venturing into the bottom of the sixth, Arkansas erupted for five runs to grab a 5-2 victory in the opener of Friday’s doubleheader at Lady’Back Yard in Fayetteville, Ark. UA’s scores marked the first time that the Cardinal & White had registered a run in the series against the Lady Vols since 2006, a span of 37.2 innings.
Freshman hurler Ashton Ward was doing well in the circle until the sixth inning when she loaded the bases and struck a batter with the bags packed to force in Arkansas’ initial score. The Charlotte, N.C., native was eventually charged with four earned runs on seven hits with four K’s in 5.1 innings, falling to 15-3 on the season. Senior Megan Rhodes entered in relief and permitted a run on one hit with one strikeout in two-thirds of an inning, but gave up UA’s eventual game-winning grand slam.
Senior third baseman Tonya Callahan led the UT offense at 2-for-4 with her seventh home run of the season and an RBI. Junior left fielder Lillian Hammond also knocked in a score as part of a 1-for-3 effort as Tennessee banged out nine hits in the contest. The Orange & White also left eight runners stranded in the match-up.
Callahan christened a two-out threat in the top of the first with a base knock through the left side. Senior designated player Shannon Doepking drew a walk from Arkansas hurler Katy Henry to place two on, but a UT strikeout ended Tennessee’s half of the inning with no damage.
UA center fielder Jessica Bachkora opened the bottom half of the frame by bouncing the first pitch she received from Ward back up the middle for a hit. Second baseman Kayla Johnson dropped a sacrifice bunt up the first base line to advance the runner up 60 feet into scoring position. Tennessee’s 6-0 right hander got ahead of designated player Miranda Dixon 1-2, before inducing a fly out to right that was squeezed in sophomore Erinn Webb’s glove. Sandra Smith rolled out routinely to Callahan at third leaving the runner stranded at second base.
Freshman first baseman Jen Lapicki led off the top of the second with a double that rolled to the wall in right center. She became the second stranded UT base runner of the contest as Webb flew out to left center, sophomore center fielder Anita Manuma struck out swinging and senior shortstop Kenora Posey bunted to third and was gunned down at first.
In almost an exact replay of the start of Tennessee’s second inning, Arkansas catcher Whitney Cloer led off the bottom half of the second with a double to the wall in right center. Shortstop Dayna Huckabee laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move to runner to third. First baseman Samantha Buckner ran into some unfortunate luck as she made solid contact with a pitch but bounced right into Ward’s glove in the circle for an important second out. Lady’Back right fielder Teighynne Hulsey became Ward’s first strikeout victim by swinging at a rise ball for strike three as both teams managed to leave runners in scoring position in the second frame.
A one-out single from freshman second baseman Chandra Mogan through the left side of the infield in the top of the third, and a two-out double into the gap in left center from Doepking placed runners at second and third for Huff. Once again, the Big Orange duo on the base paths was left stranded as Huff flew out into left field on the first pitch from UA’s Henry for out number three.
The base runner parade continued into the bottom of the third as Arkansas’ Bachkora laced a 3-2 pitch from Ward into right center for a base hit. Johnson followed with a single up the middle as the Lady’Backs placed a duo at first and second with just one retired. Ward got ahead of Dixon 0-2 before catching her swinging for retirement number two. Smith grounded routinely to Callahan at third concluding the inning.
Tennessee finally broke the scoreless deadlock in the top of the fourth. The tally came as has been the UT habit in 2008 with two outs in the inning. Manuma singled to center and was joined on the bases by Posey who delivered a slap hit to left. With two on base, Hammond laced a two-bagger into left center plating Manuma with the contest’s initial run. Mogan followed with a sharp liner to short, but the ball was snagged by a leaping Huckabee to close the scoring rally.
The Lady’Backs attempted to answer immediately in the bottom of the fourth as Cloer opened the frame with her second lead-off double of the match-up. Ward struck out Huckabee, and the runner advanced to third as Huff was forced to throw out the batter at first on a dropped third strike. That brought Buckner to the dish with a chance to tie the score. She flied out to Pieroni in right as the Madison, Tenn., native made the catch with the runner tagging and heading to the plate. Her strong throw to the dish was just in time as Huff applied the tag on a sliding Cloer to keep UA off the scoreboard and preserve Tennessee’s 1-0 lead.
The advantage grew in the top of the fifth as Callahan blasted a pitch from Henry deep over the left center field wall for her seventh homer of the campaign and school-best 42nd of her career to bestow the Lady Vols a 2-0 advantage.
Granted a two-run lead venturing into the bottom of the fifth, Ward became the first hurler in the contest to retire an offensive side one-two-three. Arkansas right fielder Hulsey grounded out to third and both Moncrief and Bachkora flew out into the outfield concluding the frame.
With a runner on first base and one retired in the bottom of the sixth, UA leading home run hitter Smith stepped in to face Ward and managed to draw a walk to place a pair aboard. That brought Cloer and her two doubles to the dish in a huge RBI situation. She dropped a slow roller up the third base line to Callahan and beat the long throw to first loading the bags. Ward worked the count against Huckabee in her favor at 0-2, and then the hitter successfully checked her swing on a potential third strike. The batter was struck by Ward’s next offering forcing in a run as Arkansas cut its deficit to 2-1. That ended Ward’s day in the circle as co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly summoned in Rhodes in relief. She got ahead of Buckner 0-2 before giving up a long bomb to deep left for a grand slam as UA raced in front, 5-2.
Down to the last chance, Tennessee sophomore second baseman Nicole Kajitani got ahead of Henry in the count 3-0. The UA hurler battled back to 3-2 before handling a short pop-up to the circle personally for the first out. Callahan went down swinging, and Doepking popped up to second to end the match-up.
No. 8 Tennessee and the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks will complete their Friday doubleheader at approximately 7:15 p.m. ET at Lady’Back Yard in Fayetteville, Ark. First pitch of Sunday’s series finale is scheduled for Noon ET. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com and, as always, periodic updates of the UT games will be recorded on the Lady Vol Hotline (865-974-8700, box #6).