Box Score | Quotes | PhotosKNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A three-hit shutout from Virginia Tech senior All-American pitcher Angela Tincher and a fourth-inning grand slam off the bat of left fielder Carolina Stolle led the No. 16 Hokies (46-15) past No. 13 Tennessee (48-15), 4-0, and into Sunday’s Knoxville Regional title game. UT will return to action on Saturday afternoon at approximately 5:30 p.m. ET against the winner of today’s game four elimination contest between Winthrop and Louisville.
Lady Vol senior hurler Megan Rhodes took the loss for the Big Orange allowing four earned runs on four hits over 3.2 innings with a pair of walks and seven K’s to fall to 21-10 on the season. Freshman Ashton Ward entered the match-up in relief in the fourth frame and permitted just a single hit while striking out three batters in 3.1 frames of work.
“The first thing is, the best team won,” Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “Virginia Tech played outstanding. The kid that hit the grand slam had nine RBIs all season and picked up four right there. The name of the game is fast pitch and it has always been fast pitch and Megan threw 98 pitches in the first 3.2 innings and we were on the ropes the whole time. She hit too many batters and went full count to too many batters. That catches up to you. I wasn’t pleased with our offense either, but when you beat someone like [Angela] Tincher it’s usually a one- or two-run game.”
Both pitchers exerted their power from the circle in the opening inning as Rhodes struck out two while retiring the Virginia Tech side one-two-three. Tincher punched out the side in order as senior shortstop Kenora Posey, junior designated player Lillian Hammond and senior third baseman Tonya Callahan each went down on strikes.
Yesterday’s heroine from the Louisville contest, Virginia Tech shortstop Misty Hall, battled Rhodes over 13 pitches before drawing a lead-off walk in the top of the second. Catcher Kelsey Hoffman fouled off several close pitches before drilling a single through the left side of the infield, placing a pair of Hokies aboard with still none retired in the inning. The 5-8 right hander jumped in front of center fielder Jessica Everhart 0-2 before eventually catching the batter looking at strike three on the outside corner of the plate. First baseman Beth Walker was struck with a pitch, loading the bases with one down. Right fielder Whitney Davis managed a full count to put the pressure on Rhodes, but also got caught staring at a called third strike on the outside of the dish. Rhodes slid free of the bases loaded jam by striking out left fielder Caroline Stolle on three straight pitches.
Neither offense managed anything of note until Tech’s Hall was struck by an offering to open the fourth. After a fielder’s choice cut down the lead runner at second on a strong throw from Callahan to Posey, Everhart blooped a base knock down the left field line and then Walker singled to left, loading the bases with only one down. Facing a situation frighteningly similar to the second inning pickle, Rhodes settled down to strikeout right fielder Whitney Davis. Stolle got to 3-2 in the count and fouled off seven pitches in a row, including a foul that eluded a pair of Lady Vol fielders near the third base dugout, before blasting a two-out grand slam over the right center field wall for a 4-0 advantage. A free pass issued to designated player Jenna Rhodes ended the day in the circle for UT’s pitcher as Ward entered the circle in relief. The Charlotte, N.C., native coerced a routine bouncer to second base to finally bring a conclusion to the Va. Tech fourth.
In an attempt to answer Tech’s outburst with one of their own in the bottom of the fourth, Tennessee managed to load the bases with two down in the frame. Hammond was struck by a Tincher offering with one out, senior catcher Shannon Doepking followed later with a single to center field recording UT’s first hit of the contest and then Huff walked. Unfortunately, freshman first baseman Jen Lapicki flew out into short left field leaving the trio stranded on the base paths and Tech holding a 4-0 advantage.
A string of six consecutive hitters retired by Tincher came to an end on a Callahan single into left in the bottom of the sixth. A wild pitch advanced freshman pinch runner Natalee Weissinger up 60 feet into scoring position with two down, but Doepking flew out to right center concluding the inning.
Down to one final opportunity to get back in the contest, Huff got the bottom of the seventh frame off to a positive start by singling into right field. Tincher was in control, however, striking out a pair of Lady Vols to conclude the contest and secure the Hokies’ spot in Sunday’s NCAA Regional championship game at 1:30 p.m. ET.
The Orange and White will face elimination this afternoon at approximately 5:30 p.m. ET at the Lee Softball Stadium against the winner of Winthrop and Louisville.