KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Senior third baseman Tonya Callahan and sophomore center fielder Erinn Webb each homered as part of a 10-hit offensive attack as No. 11 Tennessee (38-7) wrapped up a Tuesday doubleheader sweep of Liberty at the Lee Softball Stadium, 7-1. With the triumph in the DH finale, the Lady Vol win streak improved to seven.
Callahan went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and hammered her team-leading 12th home run of the campaign to improve her season totals to a staggering .450 average, a .850 slugging percentage, a .580 on-base percentage and 46 RBIs. Webb’s blast as part of a perfect 2-for-2 effort at the plate with two runs scored marked her fifth HR of the year. Junior left fielder Lillian Hammond went 2-for-3 at the dish with two runs and an RBI. Freshman second baseman Chandra Mogan contributed an RBI on a third-inning triple.
Freshman Ashton Ward won her 20th game of 2008, allowing just one run on four hits with six strikeouts during the complete-game effort.
“I thought this was a good team effort against a solid Liberty squad that has beaten good opponents in the recent past,” Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “Our speed game stepped up today, and Tiffany Huff, Tonya Callahan and Erinn Webb came up with big hits in key situations, knocking the ball out of the ballpark and driving in runs. I thought both of our pitchers threw the ball well and turned in solid performances. Allison Fulmer had a key two-out, two-RBI single for us in the first game.
Both pitchers exerted control over the proceedings in the first inning. Tennessee’s Ward christened the top of the first with consecutive strikeouts of Liberty second baseman Cassie Hendrix and designated player Ashley Williams. Flame first baseman Beth Bennett lifted a shot to center forcing Webb to race in from her defensive position to make a diving catch to end the frame.
Tennessee had senior shortstop Kenora Posey, Mogan and Callahan go down in order in the bottom of the first against Liberty pitcher Dana Wheeler.
Ward continued her dominance from the circle through the second and third frames making it nine Flame hitters up and nine set down with three strikeouts.
Webb became the contest’s initial base runner for either team with a bouncing single through the right side of the infield to begin the bottom of the third inning. After the Hemet, Calif., native swiped second to register her 12th steal of the campaign, she advanced to third on a slap up the first base line from freshman right fielder Kelly Grieve (2-for-3). With one down Hammond bounced to second and beat the throw to the bag as Webb scored the first run of the game. Following a ground out back to the circle from Posey for the second retirement and with the outfield playing in, Mogan slapped a triple into the gap in right center that rolled all the way to the wall, plating Hammond for a 2-0 UT lead. Callahan blooped an RBI single into short left center as Mogan crossed to make it 3-0.
The Flames got their first scoring threat started in the top of the fourth as Hendrix opened the half inning with a liner off the end of Ward’s glove in the circle. With one down, first baseman Beth Bennett drove a sharp single into left field placing two aboard. Catcher Keely McMillon bounced back to the circle as Ward corralled the sphere and cut down the lead runner at third via the fielder’s choice. Third baseman J’nae Jefferson became Ward’s fifth strikeout victim of the contest as the Liberty duo was left stranded on the base paths.
Following consecutive ground outs from sophomore first baseman Tiffany Huff and freshman designated player Jen Lapicki, Webb added to Tennessee’s lead with her fifth home run of the season, a solo shot to right field, as UT nabbed a 4-0 advantage.
Liberty left fielder Shannon McKain coerced a walk from Ward leading off the top of the fifth. Shortstop Leah Cossentino lined a ball but directly to Callahan at third. The Holden, Mo., native made the catch and threw across the diamond doubling the runner off first. That defensive play took any steam out of that half inning as pinch hitter Jenna Eatmon went down on strikes to end the frame.
Bidding for more on the scoreboard in the fifth, UT’s Hammond blooped a 2-2 pitch from reliever Tiffani Smith into short left center. During a steal of second, the Chattanooga, Tenn., native slid into a Liberty fielder who was positioned in front of the second base bag. She was safe on the steal attempt and required a minute to recover from the violent collision, but Hammond remained in the game. Unfortunately, Posey was called out for touching the ball outside of the batter’s box in the field of play. Mogan popped up on the infield for the second out as Smith got closer to escaping the jam. Callahan had another idea, however, by blasting a two-run shot down the left field line for her team-best 12th home run of the season as the Lady Vols took control, 6-0.
Christening the top of the sixth, Flame center fielder Amber DePasquale bounced a hard shot directly over the top of the third base bag and by a diving Callahan for a lead-off single. Hendrix dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt to third advancing the runner into scoring position with one out. That paid dividends as Williams drove a double over Hammond’s head in left and off the wall as DePasquale scored cutting the deficit to 6-1. No more scoreboard damage would be done, however, as LU’s Bennett and McMillon both grounded out harmlessly to third with Callahan handling the plays easily.
Huff opened the bottom of the sixth by drawing a walk. Freshman pinch runner Kelsey Stander was placed into the game for her speed and promptly swiped second base. Lapicki followed with a clean single through the left side placing runners at the corners with no one retired. Pinch runner Natalee Weissinger was placed into the match-up to run at first and promptly stole second. On the throw to second, Stander attempted to pull off the double steal but was caught in a rundown as Weissinger raced into third behind the play. Webb skied a sacrifice fly to left field as Weissinger scored for a 7-1 advantage. Grieve singled through the left side, but Hammond flew out harmlessly to left ending the frame.
Down to their last chance, Liberty’s Jefferson opened the top of the seventh by grounding out to Posey at short. McKain got ahead of Ward 3-1 before eventually flying out to Grieve in right field. Down to the last out, pinch hitter Miranda Fielder grounded out to short as Posey’s throw to first completed the doubleheader sweep.
No. 11 Tennessee will return to action on Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET with a doubleheader against Western Carolina. 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).