Game Notes (PDF)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Just a half game in the Southeastern Conference standings separates the two squads as No. 9 Tennessee (30-5, 6-4 SEC) ventures down on “the Plains” this weekend to battle Auburn (28-8, 7-4 SEC) in a vital three-game league series. First pitch of Saturday’s doubleheader from Jane B. Moore Field is set for 5 p.m. ET with the series finale scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.
A four-game winning streak and nine victories in the last 13 meetings against the Tigers have pushed the Big Orange to a 17-14 advantage in the overall series. In Auburn, however, UT has managed just a 6-7 mark and went 1-2 during its last visit to “the Plains” back on April 9-10, 2005. Last season, Tennessee swept a three contest set in Knoxville by 10-0 (5), 2-1 (8) and 5-1 scores. After jumping on AU in the opener, the Orange & White needed an eighth-inning, walk-off sacrifice fly from Shannon Doepking to prevail 2-1 and secure the series win. Doepking blasted a grand slam in the 5-1 finale to account for the winning margin.
This past Tuesday night in Knoxville at the Lee Softball Stadium, UT swept a doubleheader from Lipscomb, 8-0 (5) and 4-1, to improve to 85-3 all-time against in-state schools. Freshman hurler Ashton Ward raised her season record to 16-3 by throwing a five-hit shutout with six K’s in the opener. The Charlotte, N.C., native was supported offensively by sophomore Tiffany Huff who blasted a three-run homer as part of a five-run fourth inning during Tennessee’s triumph. In the finale, senior Megan Rhodes struck out a season-high 12 Lady Bisons climbing to 14-2 on the campaign. Junior Lillian Hammond extended her career-best hitting streak to 11 games with her first collegiate inside-the-park homer. The two-run shot to the wall in center granted the Big Orange a 3-0 lead in a game they’d eventually win 4-1. The occurrence also marked Hammond’s first career multi-RBI game.
Auburn Head Coach Tina Deese’s squad enters this weekend’s series with UT at 28-8 overall, 7-4 in conference action and dominant at home to the tune of a 13-1 mark. The Tigers possess just a .251 team batting average, good for ninth in the league, but have reached their level of success this season behind the SEC’s No. 2 pitching staff. Four hurlers have combined to strikeout a conference-best 324 hitters and post a 1.57 ERA. The ace of the staff has been sophomore Anna Thompson who has thrown 102.2 innings with a 9-5 record, a 1.50 ERA and 159 K’s. Senior Brittany Day has served as a great alternate choice from the circle at 9-2 overall with a 1.36 ERA and 77 K’s in just 61.2 frames. Freshman Angel Bunner is a perfect 6-0 with a 2.37 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 47.1 innings. Fellow rookie Lauren Schmalz is 4-1 with a 1.30 ERA and 41 K’s in 37.2 frames. Undermining the success of the pitching staff has been a defensive effort ranked last in the SEC in fielding percentage at .943 as the Tigers have committed 59 errors. That total has led to 28 unearned runs for the opposition.
At the plate, the Orange & Blue are led batting average-wise by junior Taryn Gray and her .357 overall mark. Junior Tatiana Fernandez (.304) has served as one of the major power threats with four home runs and a team-high 24 RBI, while senior Jorja Bell (.237) has contributed a squad-best five big flies and 19 RBI. As a team, Auburn has stolen 29 bases but also been thrown out attempting to steal on 16 occasions.
Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com, while periodic updates will be recorded on the Lady Vol Hotline (865-974-8700, box #6).