Tennessee lost a heartbreaking game against Alabama in the SEC Tournament semifinal, 6-5.
Friday’s game was the first time this season that the Lady Vols have played in a full capacity stadium on the road.
“It’s really big, especially this year with the COVID protocols in place,” co-head coach Karen Weekly said. “Stadiums have been pretty empty. Usually, the SEC season can prepare us for the atmosphere in regionals, supers and on into Oklahoma City. We just haven’t had that in the SEC this year. Tonight was definitely back to normal and I’m glad we were able to experience that.”
The Lady Vols were just shy in Friday night’s contest, and the game came down to the final at-bat. Ultimately, the Tide were just a few swings better than the Lady Vols.
“They’re a great team,” outfielder Kiki Milloy said. “It was a tough loss but that just prepares us for what we’re going to see in the postseason that we’re going to continue. We’re going to learn from that and we’re going to prepare for that."
Tennessee got things going early with a lead-off triple from Milloy. Amanda Ayala followed that up with a single to drive in Milloy and give the Lady Vols an early 1-0 lead.
Alabama immediately answered back, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first.
“The first inning was pretty bad for us,” co-head coach Karen Weekly said. “We had three walks, we had two errors, we had a base hit. To come out of that and only have given up two runs was a big deal.”
The Tide then hit two-run homer in the third to put them on top 4-1.
The Lady Vols got back in striking distance in the fourth, with an RBI single from Chelsea Seggern to drive in Treasury Poindexter.
Things looked promising for Tennessee in the sixth when the Lady Vols got three runs to give them the lead, but the Tide hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth to regain the lead.
Alabama closed out the game striking the Lady Vols out three times in the top of the seventh.
After pitching in Wednesday and Thursday’s contests, the Lady Vols pulled their ace Ashley Rogers and looked to Callie Turner and Samantha Bender in Friday’s game. The Lady Vols proved tonight that they can stay in tough games even without their ace.
“I loved the way our team fought,” Weekly said. “It was such a great battle and they were fully behind the decision [to rest Rogers]. They were fired up for Callie [Turner] to go out there, they were fired up when Sam [Bender] came in. I think what we saw tonight was Sam Bender has a lot of guts.”
Turner pitched just one inning and nabbed to strikeouts while allowing three hits and two runs. Bender closed out the game, and got just one strikeout in four innings, allowing six hits and four runs.
The Lady Vols season is far from over, as regionals will begin next week. The date, location and opponent of Tennessee’s first regional game will be announced Sunday.
Despite the loss tonight, the Lady Vols made it known throughout the SEC Tournament that they were a force to be reckoned with.
“We can compete against anyone,” Milloy said. “When we go out there and we play our best, we’re hard to beat. Even if they beat us we’re going to come out there and make it a tough win.”