Softball vs. Belmont

University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers softball player Ashley Rogers (14) throws a pitch during a game against the Belmont University Bruins at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium, March 3, 2023.

No. 6 Tennessee opened the day with an 8-0 win over Appalachian State before defeating Jacksonville State 9-0 in their second game. Lady Vol pitcher Karlyn Pickens threw a perfect game in game one, while Kiki Milloy hit two home runs in the nightcap.

Pickens opened the game by sending the Mountaineers down in order, throwing two strikeouts in the process. Rylie West opened the scoring for Tennessee in the bottom of the first, driving in Kiki Milloy and McKenna Gibson with a double off the wall in center field. The Lady Vols earned two base runners in the second inning but did not score.

Tennessee got two runners on base once again in the third inning, with West hitting a second double and Giulia Koutsoyanopulos taking a base on balls. Pickens kept her performance strong, sending Appalachian State’s batters down in order for each of the next three innings.

The Lady Vols added to their lead in the fourth inning. After poking a single into right field, Amanda Ahlin scored on a passed ball during Milloy’s at bat. Milloy would score herself on a West popup into foul territory. Pinch hitter Jamison Brockenbrough hit an RBI single into right field, scoring Koutsoyanopulos and pinch runner Brylee Mesusan. Tennessee led by six after four innings.

Pickens threw a fifth perfect inning to maintain the advantage for the Lady Vols. Mackenzie Donihoo reached on a single into right field. Gibson walked to also reach base. West drove in both runners to earn the victory by run rule.

“I just come into every game with a different outlook,” Pickens said on her perfect game. “It was a fun game and I just look at each pitch in front of me.”

Pickens owes much of her success at the college level to her teammates and staff.

“Being able to compete at this level, along with all of my teammates and friends has been such an amazing experience,” Pickens said. “The coaching staff here is so supportive. All of my teammates here push me every day to get better. Everything we do as a team just helps us get better each day.”

Payton Gottshall started the game in the circle for Tennessee in the second game of the afternoon. She opened her outing by striking out Emma Jones. She sent down the side that inning.

In the home half of the inning, Donihoo earned a base hit while Milloy walked. Koutsoyanopulos drove both in with a single. Taylor walked before Brockenbrough drove Koutsoyanopulos in with a single into shallow left field.

In the second inning, Donihoo drove a ball off the wall for a double. Milloy cleared the wall in the same spot, driving in Donihoo and giving the Lady Vols a five-run advantage. Milloy now has eight home runs on the season. Gibson hit a home run over right field, adding another run to the Tennessee lead. After West walks, Koutsoyanopulos hits one out of the park into left field for her first home run of the season.

Milloy hit a second home run of the game in the third inning, sending a solo shot to left field. A base hit by Lauren Hunt in the fourth inning was the first Tennessee allowed all day. The runner is not a problem for Gottshall, as she does not allow any other hits.

Ryleigh White entered to pitch the fifth inning for Tennessee. She allowed one hit but no runs and was able to secure the run-rule win.

Although Gottshall threw six strikeouts in her outing, that number was not important to her.

“Knowing that I have my defense back there allows me to work so much better,” Gottshall said. “I just throw my stuff.”

Head coach Karen Weekly is thoroughly impressed with her pitching performance.

“We’re getting really good pitching,” Weekly said. “Our pitchers are giving us a chance every single game to get our offense on track.”

Once the offense did get on track, it was successful.

“I was much more pleased with game two,” Weekly said. “We had better at-bats at the start. It took us a while to really get comfortable in the first game today, but once we did, we caught fire.”

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