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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Senior designated player Shannon Doepking and sophomore catcher Tiffany Huff each knocked in a pair of runs and senior third baseman Tonya Callahan hit her 13th home run as No. 9 Tennessee (41-8, 11-7 Southeastern Conference) rebounded from a defeat to post a 6-2 win over Ole Miss and split the doubleheader on Wednesday evening at the Lee Softball Stadium.
Doepking recorded her two RBIs as part of a 2-for-4 effort at the dish with a double. Huff plated her two teammates with both a RBI groundout and a RBI single. Callahan (1-for-2) hammered her team-leading 13th home run of the campaign while also being intentionally walked twice and plating two runs.
In picking up her 22nd victory of the season, freshman hurler Ashton Ward allowed two earned runs on five hits while striking out five in the complete-game.
“There is nothing to celebrate tonight,” Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “After reading Yvette Girouard’s (LSU head coach) quote from last weekend when Ole Miss took two of three from LSU, she said, to paraphrase, that the worst thing you can do is let an opposing team’s best hitter beat you. We put a ball down the middle of the plate for Ole Miss’ Lauren Grill (10 HR’s) in the opener, and she hit a home run in what turned into a 1-0 game. I’ve learned that your offense tightens up when the pitching struggles. Pitching has been our problem for most of the season.”
After going scoreless in the opener, Tennessee wasted no time gaining an advantage in the bottom of the first of game two. Posey led off the frame by beating out an infield single back to the circle. Mogan bounced a routine shot to short that was thrown away for an error by Ole Miss shortstop Lauren Grill placing Lady Vol runners at second and third with none out. Callahan was intentionally walked for the seventh time this season, loading the bases for Doepking. The Acton, Calif., native came through in the clutch with a base knock to center field plating two runs for a quick 2-0 advantage. On the throw to the plate, Mogan slid into a tag attempt by UM catcher Amber Tramp for an apparent out. Home plate umpire David Rheinecker believed that the catcher was bobbling the ball, allowing Mogan to be safe on the play. Consecutive groundouts from freshman first baseman Jen Lapicki and Huff brought Callahan across to set the count at 3-0.
A one-out walk to Grill in the top of the first and a single off the bat of left fielder Alise Doubt in the third amounted to nothing for the Rebel offense as Ward retired nine of the first 11 hitters she faced over the opening three frames.
Grill christened the first serious threat for Ole Miss with a lead-off double to christen the fourth inning. A strikeout of third baseman Ashley Dowdy and a ground ball to second base from Tramp registered two quick outs and advanced Grill within 60 feet of paydirt. She was left standing right there as designated player Rachel Torres went down swinging to end the frame.
With one down in the bottom of the fourth, sophomore center fielder Erinn Webb laced a triple that traveled over the first base bag and down into the corner. Following a pop-up from right fielder Danielle Pieroni for the second out of the frame, a wild pitch from hurler Becky Nye allowed Webb to plate UT’s fourth run. That proved to be a big play as a strikeout ended the Tennessee inning.
Callahan blasted her team-best 13th home run with one out in the bottom of the fifth as Tennessee moved in front 5-0. Doepking followed that shot with a ringing double off the wall in left center to end the day in the circle for Nye. First game victor Tara Willitt entered and struck out Lapicki for the second retirement. The UM hurler did allow a single through the left side of the infield as freshman pinch runner Kelsey Stander crossed for a 6-0 lead.
With time beginning to run short for the Rebels, second baseman Lisa Conchos ripped a shot off the wall in left for a one-out double in the top of the sixth. A groundout advanced the Ole Miss runner to third with Dowdy stepping to the plate. Ward got ahead of the hitter 0-2, but Dowdy fought back to 2-2 before ripping an RBI single through the left side of the infield, cutting the UM deficit to 6-1. Tramp followed with a two-bagger to the wall in left center as Dowdy raced all the way around from first with Ole Miss’ second score. A routine bouncer to third off the bat of pinch hitter Aly Presswood concluded the inning but not before the Rebels had closed the gap.
Down to their last chance, Ole Miss went down in order in the top of the seventh against Ward. Right fielder Alyssa McGovern flew out to center as Webb raced in to make a spectacular diving catch, recording out number one. First baseman Lauren Rowe grounded out to Callahan at third, and left fielder Alise Doubt lined down to Callahan completing the Big Orange triumph.
No. 9 Tennessee will play host to No. 14/11 LSU for a three-game series this weekend at the Lee Softball Stadium. First pitch for Saturday’s doubleheader is slated for 1 p.m. ET. The first and last game of the three-contest set will both be broadcast live on FSN. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com.