Tennessee’s 2020 softball season was an unusual one, to say the least. The Lady Vols finished the pandemic-shortened year with a 14-9 record. Now, here is a look back at a season that was marked by ups and downs for Tennessee.
The Lady Vols started off the year hot, going 6-2 in their first eight games at the Kajikawa Classic and the Puerto Vallarata College Challenge. Tennessee then hit a cold streak at the Tampa Tournament, losing four straight games to Central Florida and South Florida after a victory in the Florida International to start the weekend.
Coming into their first home game at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium with just one game over .500 and a record of 7-6, it was time for the Lady Vols to defend their home turf. They did just that, walking it off in a 3-2 nail-biter to advance to 8-6 before hitting the road once again.
After the first two games of the ETSU Tournament were cancelled, Tennessee split the last two against ETSU and Bowling Green. After the short trip, the Lady Vols came back home for what would end up being the last seven games of the year. They went 5-2 in these games, including winning four of five in the Tennessee Invitational.
The last game of the season would be a hard-fought loss to North Carolina, where the Lady Vols fell 3-2. The year would end right before SEC play, with Tennessee set to play against Texas A&M in College Station only days after all SEC athletics were cancelled due to concerns of coronavirus.
That’s how the season went — so what can be taken away from it? While the Lady Vols showed flashes of excellence, they also showed that they have room for improvement. While it’s hard to fully analyze a short season, there are still a few things that stand out.
A major key that Tennessee lacked this year was consistency. This is evident in its hot and cold streaks throughout the year. The Lady Vols played great softball at some points, looking like an elite team. At other times, quiet bats and fielding errors plagued the team. It seemed as though they might have been firing on all cylinders right before the season was cancelled. Unfortunately, fans will never know for sure.
An encouraging takeaway from this season was the major contributions from young players. Sophomore Ally Shipman finished tied for the team lead in batting average, doubles and triples. Shipman also tied for the fewest number of strikeouts on the team.
In the circle, freshman Callie Turner led the team pitching 91.2 innings, more than double anyone else. She would finish the year with a 2.67 ERA and 72 strikeouts. On any night of the season, Tennessee had multiple freshmen in the starting lineup. This experience will be a huge benefit in the coming years.
The NCAA granting seniors an extra year of eligibility will also be a great help to the Lady Vols. For starters, they could get back Chelsea Seggern, who led the team in home runs, total bases and runs scored. In addition, Seggern tied Shipman for team-high batting average, doubles and triples.
Seniors Tianna Batts, Cailin Hannon, Jenna Holcomb and Treasuary Poindexter will all also receive the extra year of eligibility. Hannon and Holcomb were key contributors in the outfield in the 2020 season. How many of this year’s seniors will take advantage of the extra year is yet to be seen, however.
With an extra-long offseason to grow together and sharpen skills, Tennessee could be a top team in 2021 thanks to the experience of young players and an extra year of eligibility for the team’s senior leaders.