A stellar performance by Ashley Rogers saw Tennessee defeat Northwestern to complete a 3-0 weekend at the NFCA Leadoff Classic. Kiki Milloy and Taylor Pannell each had a home run, but the story of the game was the play of Ashley Rogers, who struck out thirteen batters in a complete-game shutout.
Tennessee opened the game batting and scored immediately, with Milloy leading off with a home run into left. This was Milloy’s first home run of the year. Mackenzie Donihoo got on base with a single, but McKenna Gibson then hit into a double play. After Zaida Puni lined out, Tennessee completed the first inning with only a one-run advantage.
Ashley Rogers started on the mound for the Lady Vols. She struck out five batters in the first two innings as part of her scoreless performance early.
Jamison Brockenbrough, Katie Taylor and Giulia Koutsoyanopulos loaded the bases in the top of the second inning for Tennessee. Coming off her first home run, Milloy came to the plate. She struck out swinging, ending the inning for Tennessee. Gibson and Destiny Rodriguez got on base in the top of the third inning for the Lady Vols, but Brockenbrough struck out looking to end the inning.
Northwestern was able to get two runners on base in the bottom of the third inning, with Kelsey Nader and Jordyn Rudd reaching base. Ashley Rogers was then able to throw a strikeout to Maeve Nelson, ending the inning and starting a streak that would eventually reach six consecutive punchouts.
Pannell opened the fourth inning with a second home run for the Lady Vols, increasing the lead to two. Koutsoyanopulos later got a base hit in the inning but was thrown out at the plate on a base hit by Donihoo.
Ashley Rogers struck out the side in the bottom of the fourth inning, sending two batters down swinging and striking out Nikki Cuchran looking. Her streak now increased to four batters in a row, and her total strikeout count increased to nine.
Although Tennessee did get a baserunner on in the top of the fifth, it was only a two-out walk by Destiny Rodriguez. Other than her base on balls, Tennessee had no success offensively in the fifth inning.
Rogers opened the bottom of the fifth with two swinging strikeouts, which were her fifth and sixth consecutive punchouts. The streak ended when Skyler Shellmyer knocked a base hit up the middle. Consecutive singles by Nader and Rudd created a bases-loaded jam for Rogers. Rogers was able to maintain her shutout performance, striking out Nelson for her twelfth strikeout of the game.
Pannell worked the count full before taking a walk to open the sixth inning. Pannell was thrown out stealing second on the first pitch of the next at-bat, negating her base on balls. Katie Taylor hit an infield single to restore the base runner for the Lady Vols, albeit with one out. Koutsoyanopulos added to Tennessee’s successful inning with a base hit of her own. A bunt single by Milloy loaded the bases with just one out. Donihoo then hit a bases-clearing double into center, scoring three runs and making the Lady Vol lead five. Donihoo advanced to third on the throw.
Donihoo was driven in by a sacrifice fly from the bat of Gibson. Zaida Puni grounded out to end the top half of the inning where the Lady Vols scored four and took a six-run lead over the Wildcats.
Rogers stepped back into the circle with twelve strikeouts to pitch the home half of the sixth inning. Although Rogers could not strike out any batters, Northwestern went down in order with three ground outs, maintaining Tennessee’s 6-0 advantage.
Rodriguez and Brockenbrough both made outs to start the top of the seventh before Taylor Pannell walked. Katie Taylor flew out to conclude the top of the seventh, leaving the Tennessee defense with a six-run lead to protect in the bottom of the seventh.
Dohaney popped up to second to open the bottom half of the seventh. Nieto got sent down looking by Rogers for her thirteenth strikeout. Shellmyer knocked a base hit into right field to keep the game alive. Nader reached on an infield single, as McKenna Gibson left the bag to retrieve the ball. Milloy caught a fly out to end the game.
Rogers allowed seven hits and one walk while striking out thirteen batters and not allowing any runs.
Tennessee will head to Mexico for the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge, which begins Thursday with a game against Sacramento State.
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