KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A three-run homer by sophomore catcher Tiffany Huff and a five-hit shutout from freshman pitcher Ashton Ward led No. 9 Tennessee (29-5, 6-4 Southeastern Conference) to a commanding 8-0 (5 inn.) victory over Lipscomb in the opener of Tuesday evening’s doubleheader at Lee Softball Stadium.
Huff’s home run was her second of the season and marked one of nine total hits banged out by the Lady Vol offense. Sophomore Anita Manuma laced a two-run single in late-game pinch hitting duty, sophomore center fielder Erinn Webb delivered a 2-for-2, two-run effort and junior left fielder Lillian Hammond was credited with an RBI via an infield single.
Improving to 16-3 on the campaign, Ward struck out six from the circle while allowing five hits and no runs during the seventh complete game of her brief career.
Ward struggled with her control to christen the top of the first against Lipscomb. The Charlotte, N.C., native worked the count full against center fielder Lauren Dortwegt before striking her out swinging. She then walked right fielder Sara Simons to place a runner on base. Shortstop Abby Keese ripped a shot back up the middle and, all of a sudden, the Lady Bisons had a full-fledged threat going with occupants at first and second and just one retired. A stellar defensive play from senior third baseman Tonya Callahan helped Ward out of the jam. Kellie Sirus grounded a ball straight to third that Callahan corralled before stepping on the bag for the force. The Holden, Mo., native threw across the diamond to freshman Jen Lapicki completing the inning-ending double play.
Callahan became Tennessee’s initial base runner in the bottom of the first with a bouncing two-out single through the left side of the infield. Senior designated player Shannon Doepking drew a walk from Lipscomb pitcher Christen Campbell placing two aboard for Lapicki. The Oldwick, N.J., native ripped a promising liner to left, but right at Mackenzie Tucker as the fielder made the grab to conclude the frame.
Following a strikeout of Campbell to open Lipscomb’s half of the second inning, first baseman Heather Collins drove a pitch into right field for a single. Ward responded to the hit with a punch out of second baseman Megan Rottler. With Lipscomb catcher Jennifer Allsup standing at the dish, pinch runner Abigail Craig took off for second on a steal attempt. She was gunned down on a strong throw by Huff recording the third out.
Webb attempted to get a Lady Vol scoring threat going in the bottom of the second by driving a lead-off double into the gap in left center and all the way to the wall. Junior right fielder Danielle Pieroni advanced the runner to third on a routine ground out to second. That set up the squeeze play as co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly had Hammond drop the bunt with Webb at third. She scored for a 1-0 lead as Hammond beat out the eventual throw to first. After Hammond swiped second for her 12th steal of the campaign, Posey followed with a slap single that checked up out in front of the plate to reach safely and place runners at the corners with one down. The two speedsters pulled off a successful double steal as Posey took second while drawing a throw. On the return toss to the plate, Hammond slid in head first just under Allsup’s tag, losing her helmet in the process, for a 2-0 advantage. A liner and a groundout ended the inning, but not before UT had tallied a pair of scores on three hits.
A terrific Big Orange defensive play ended Lipscomb’s half of the fourth as Posey raced to her left near the second base bag and dove fully extended to nab a hot shot off the bat of Campbell. She jumped to her feet following her “web gem,” ran over to second and stepped on the base to force a runner and record out number three.
That defensive effort seemed to ignite her fellow Lady Vols as Tennessee’s offense exploded in the bottom of the fourth. Webb got things started with a base knock into right field. She was quickly joined on the base paths by Pieroni via walk. With two on and no one out, Hammond dropped a sacrifice bunt advancing the runners up 60 feet to second and third. Manuma stepped to the dish and ripped a two-RBI single through the left side of the infield making it 4-0. After a single into left center from freshman second baseman Chandra Mogan, Huff blasted her three-run home run to deep center field improving the count to 7-0. Walks to pinch hitters Natalee Weissinger and Allison Fulmer as well as to Webb loaded the bases with two down. A strikeout ended the frame, but Tennessee managed to send 11 hitters to the dish in the fourth inning while posting a five spot on the scoreboard.
The Lady Bisons tried to fight back immediately in the bottom of the fourth as Collins and Rottler christened the frame with consecutive singles against Ward. The 6-0 right hander rebounded to strikeout Allsup for an important first out. Tucker grounded routinely to Callahan at third base, and Dortwegt flew out to left field completing the threat with no damage.
Needing just one tally to bring the run rule into play, the Orange & White got a lead-off single to left in the bottom of the fifth from freshman left fielder Kelly Grieve and a stolen base to advance a runner into scoring position. Posey stepped in the batter’s box and slapped a ground ball to short. Keese stepped up and fielded the ball in the waning sunlight before turning and throwing to third and into a shaded area in an attempt to catch the lead runner. Unfortunately for the Lady Bisons, the transition from sun to shade seemed to affect the decision as no one was covering third allowing the ball to roll away for an error. Grieve crossed on the miscue to tally UT’s eighth run and end the contest.
No. 9 Tennessee will continue its doubleheader with Lipscomb at approximately 7 p.m. ET at the Lee Softball Stadium. 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).