Softball vs. Virginia

#12, Caylan Arnold pitches against the University of Virginia on Monday Feb. 25, 2019 at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.

The No. 6/7 Tennessee softball team (16-2) will look to make its first statement in Southeastern Conference play this weekend in Gainesville, Florida.

The Lady Vols will begin their SEC slate in a three-game series against No. 4/5 Florida (21-2) at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. Tennessee last met Florida in the 2018 SEC Tournament, resulting in a 10-2 loss, but it will look to avenge that this weekend.

This weekend is another obstacle on the gauntlet schedule that Tennessee is undergoing this season.

“This series is going to be good,” co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “This is the toughest conference in the country, one through thirteen. Each weekend is a Super Regional.”

Tennessee has been rolling in all three phases of the game so far this season: At the plate, in the circle, and in the field.

The Lady Vols have batted at a .374 clip as a team, which is good for first in the SEC and second in the nation.

“I knew we were going to be a really good hitting team,” freshman Ally Shipman said. “From practice in January and in the fall, we’ve always been hitting the ball really well, so it’s not a surprise to me.”

Senior Aubrey Leach has spearheaded the offensive attack for Tennessee. Her .618 on-base percentage is second-best in the SEC and 10th in the country. Her 1.33 runs scored per game are seventh in the nation and second in the conference.

Another big key to Tennessee’s hot offense has been big contributions from their freshmen.

Ooltewah, Tennessee, native Kaili Phillips had a breakout performance at the Judi Garman Classic last weekend.

She went 6-for-11 with five runs scored, four home runs and eight RBIs in Tennessee’s three victories. Phillips will also be needed for her defensive prowess this weekend as she slides into third base for Chelsea Seggern, who is recovering from injury.

A big difference for this Tennessee squad is that they have been lights out on defense. The pitching staff has only dropped two games and boasts a stingy ERA of 1.77.

In addition to veterans Matty Moss and Caylan Arnold, freshman Ashley Rogers has stepped up as a big time contributor to add depth to the pitching staff. They’ve been able to pitch confidently with a stiff defense behind them, as the Lady Vols are pacing the country with a .990 fielding percentage.

The performance of the defense will be key against a Florida lineup headlined by senior Amanda Lorenz, who is tied for first in the nation with 31 hits.

“Lorenz is one of the best hitters I’ve ever seen,” Ralph Weekly said.

This weekend is another stepping stone as the Lady Vols try to build for a deep postseason run. After concluding action in Florida on Sunday, Tennessee has a short turnaround before traveling to Columbia, Tennessee, for a battle with in-state foe Middle Tennessee State University.

The first pitch on Friday will be thrown at approximately 6:00 p.m.

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