The No. 21 Lady Vols defeated the No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats 6-2 Sunday afternoon to get their first SEC series win of the season. Ashley Rogers returned to the mound after sitting Saturday’s game out, and the junior pitcher was firing on all cylinders for Tennessee (27-6, 3-5 SEC).
Here are three takeaways from Sunday’s game.
Resting Rogers on Saturday proved effective
Rogers had a huge game Friday night against the Wildcats, with ten strikeouts. Co-head coaches Karen and Ralph Weekly decided to give Rogers Saturday off, a game Tennessee lost 13-2, to get her rested before Sunday’s contest.
“It was tough to watch that of course,” Rogers said. “But I just wanted to move on and not let it put too much pressure on me and just go out there and throw my game.”
While the decision meant that the Lady Vols had to reach deep into their bullpen on Saturday, it paid off with Rogers having a phenomenal game Sunday, striking out 13 batters.
“If we had used her at any point yesterday, we probably wouldn’t have had the success we had today,” Weekly said. “She had to rest yesterday. Sometimes you have to decide which games you’re going to try to go all out and win and which ones you can sacrifice.”
Sloppy play from the Wildcats saved the Lady Vols
Wild pitches, over-the-head throws to first and errors were a theme for Sunday’s game for Kentucky. There were multiple points in the game where Tennessee was able to either stay alive on offense or gain an extra base from a bad throw, sometimes even giving the Lady Vols an extra run.
Wild pitches, wild throws and errors put Lady Vols in scoring position four times throughout the game, and kept the Wildcats from completing a big double play in the fourth.
Had it not been for their sloppy play on defense, the Wildcats very likely would have been in the game.
“Any time a defensive club makes errors it helps, and mistakes help,” Weekly said. “I haven’t really looked at the box score and I haven’t looked at the film yet but I’m sure that registered.”
Momentum was key
One of the main things that propelled the Lady Vols to victory on Sunday was their ability to keep up their momentum on offense.
Each time the Lady Vols got on base in an inning, they were able to follow it up with at least one more hit, and that ability keep up the offense was crucial to today’s game.
“I’ve been at this a long time and I firmly believe that momentum plays a ton in encouragement to keep going and going and going,” Weekly said. “Hitting is almost like a virus. If one person is hitting the next person is hitting. If three or four people are hitting it seems like the rest of them are, if nobody is hitting you’ve got a problem.”
On Tuesday, Tennessee will face Tennessee Tech in a doubleheader at home to complete a 12-game homestand. Games will be played at 4 p.m. ET and 6:30 p.m. ET. The Lady Vols will hit the road on Friday to continue SEC play in a series against Mississippi State.