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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Senior third baseman Tonya Callahan blasted her 16th home run of the season to break a 12-year old single-season school record and guide No. 10 Tennessee (44-9) to a commanding 9-1 (5 inn.) victory over Austin Peay in the opener of a Tuesday doubleheader at the Lee Softball Stadium.
The reigning Louisville Slugger/NFCA National and Southeastern Conference Player of the Week hammered her three run shot as part of a four-tally bottom of the third. The Holden, Mo., native’s four total hits over the past five games have all been home runs, a trio of three-run bombs and a solo HR. Freshman first baseman Jen Lapicki contributed two RBIs while going 2-for-3 at the plate with a run scored in the triumph. Junior left fielder Lillian Hammond added a pair of base hits and an RBI, while sophomore catcher Tiffany Huff went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Freshman Kelly Grieve and sophomore Nicole Kajitani both delivered 1-for-2, one-RBI efforts for Tennessee’s 10-hit attack.
Freshman Ashton Ward drew the start, allowing one run on two hits over three innings with four strikeouts, improving to 25-3 on the campaign. Senior pitcher Megan Rhodes fired two innings of one-hit relief with a K to contain a brief Lady Gov rally and secure the victory.
Ward started the contest by retiring six straight Lady Govs, while her counterpart Ashley Elrod from Austin Peay got some help from her defensive mates. APSU catcher Daniella Hooper made a pair of strong throws to second catching both senior Kenora Posey (walk) and Hammond (single) stealing to dissolve a potential threat.
With one down in the top of the third, Austin Peay shortstop Brittany Williams granted the Lady Govs their initial base runner by bouncing a ball through the left side of the infield and past diving Callahan. Ward responded by striking out both center fielder Randal Davenport and left fielder Beth Carr to conclude the inning.
Grieve got a threat started for Tennessee in the bottom of the third by drawing a free pass from Elrod. Posey chopped a ball to short and beat the throw to first for an infield single to place two aboard. Hammond delivered a base knock through the right side scoring Grieve with the contest’s initial run and a 1-0 lead. Callahan stepped into the box and blasted her 16th homer over the right center field wall, a three-run shot, to break former Lady Vol Bridget Jackson’s school single-season record of 15 set back in 1996. Doepking kept things going by drawing a walk. Huff flew out to deep left center, however, and Lapicki bounced out to second as UT tallied four times on three hits in the frame.
APSU attempted to fight right back in the top of the fourth as third baseman Ashley Taylor hit a ball off the outstretched glove of Ward in the circle for a lead-off single. UT’s freshman hurler went to a 2-0 count on right fielder Tiffany Smith and was removed from the contest by the coaching staff in favor of senior reliever Megan Rhodes. Smith walked to place two on base with still none retired in the frame. Designated player Meagan Williams ripped a 3-2 pitch that traveled right at Callahan for a vital first out. Catcher Daniella Hooper laced a blooper into the gap in left center bringing Taylor around to score and putting the Lady Govs on the scoreboard. Rhodes responded by catching second baseman Krista Henke looking at a wicked change-up for out number two. Callahan squeezed a pop-up from first baseman Ashley Alverson to hold the score at 4-1 in favor of Tennessee.
The Orange & White lead grew with one out in the bottom of the fifth as Callahan started things off by being struck by a pitch. Doepking walked and Huff followed with a ringing double over Carr’s head in left that ricocheted off the wall making it 5-1. Lapicki drove a single to right that was misplayed for an error by Smith as two runs crossed and the UT rookie raced into scoring position. Kajitani delivered a double down the right field line bringing Lapicki to the plate with Tennessee’s eight score of the contest. A base knock from junior Danielle Pieroni and a fielder’s choice off the bat of Grieve allowed Kajitani to race the 60 feet home from third and end the contest 9-1 via the run-rule.
No. 10 Tennessee will continue its Tuesday doubleheader against Austin Peay at 7 p.m. ET at the Lee Softball Stadium. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com.