The No. 9 Lady Vols won both games of their doubleheader Friday night by run rule, first beating Michigan State 13-0 in five innings before taking down South Florida 9-0 in six innings. The story of the day was the pitchers, with Ashley Rogers throwing eight strikeouts and Payton Gottshall throwing eleven, both in shutout complete games.
Mackenzie Donihoo got her first leadoff appearance of the year, taking the usual spot of Kiki Milloy. Donihoo started the game for the Lady Vols with a double into left field, giving Milloy a base runner in her opening plate appearance. Donihoo promptly stole third base, advancing further towards the plate. Milloy could not make use of her base runner, striking out swinging.
McKenna Gibson was able to drive Donihoo in, hitting a ground-rule double to left field. Zaida Puni scored another run for the Lady Vols, hitting a double of her own to plate Gibson. Katie Taylor continued Tennessee’s early offensive push, hitting a double which allowed Puni to score. Destiny Rodriguez reached on an error with Giulia Koutsoyanopulos and Taylor scoring on the play. Tennessee scored five runs in the first inning alone.
Rogers started the game in the circle for the Lady Vols. She started the game with a three-pitch strikeout by Mandy Esman. Kennedy Wyllie went down looking to conclude the first inning for Rogers. Rogers struck out two more in the second inning, as she continued to face the minimum number of batters.
Rylie West led off the third inning with another double for Tennessee, the sixth for her team. Rodriguez hit her first hit of the game, earning her third RBI of the game. Amanda Ahlin reached on an error, plating Taylor, who walked earlier in the inning. Pinch runner Shakara Goodloe scored on a failed pickoff attempt, bringing the Tennessee lead to eight. Ahlin then scored on a ground out from Donihoo.
Rogers kept up her dominant performance, striking out two more batters, including former Lady Vol Anna Fox. She had struck out six of the nine batters she faced.
Taylor added to the Lady Vols lead with her first career home run in the top half of the fourth inning. In the bottom half, Ashley Rogers strikes out another batter, taking her total on the afternoon to seven.
The Lady Vols loaded the bases with no outs to start the fifth inning. Zaida Puni drove two runners in with a single up the middle, adding to the Tennessee advantage. Puni then scored on a sacrifice fly from Jamison Brockenbrough, making the Tennessee lead thirteen.
It took Rogers until the fifth inning to allow a hit, at which point Sydney Doloszycki earned an infield single. She did earn one last strikeout to finish the game, as she increased her total to eight strikeouts to end the contest.
As she did against Michigan State, Donihoo led off for the Lady Vols. She struck out swinging to begin the game. Gibson reached after getting hit by a pitch and Puni reached due to catcher’s interference. Koutsoyanopulos could not drive in either, as she struck out to end the inning.
Payton Gottshall started the game pitching for the Lady Vols, entering the game four strikeouts away from 800 on her career. She struck out two batters in the first as part of her scoreless inning.
West got a base hit to left center, but pinch runner Brylee Mesusan was thrown out trying to steal second. Gottshall reached the 800-strikeout mark on her career in the second inning on the way to striking out the side.
In the top of the third inning, Ahlin reached on a walk but was caught stealing trying to reach second base. Gottshall continued her strikeout streak in the bottom half of the inning, sending the first two batters down swinging. Emilee Hanlon popped out, ending Gottshall’s strikeout streak but also ending the inning.
South Florida pitcher Gabriella Nori was strong as well, only allowing one hit in the first three innings. Puni hit a triple in the bottom of the fourth inning but could not score, as Koutsoyanopulos and West cannot get another hit on Nori. Gottshall threw one more strikeout as she sent the Bulls down in order. The game remained scoreless after four innings.
Ahlin got her second hit of the game on a base hit into left center. Donihoo lined a single into right field, advancing Ahlin to third. Milloy took an off-speed pitch over the fence in right field for a three-run home run. Tennessee was on the board for the first time in the second half of their doubleheader and led 3-0.
Gottshall struck out the side once again. She faced the same batters in the order as she did when she struck out the side in the second. In her first five innings of work, she only allowed one hit, that coming in the first inning.
Puni began the sixth inning with a stand-up double. Koutsoyanopulos hit an RBI single to extend Tennessee’s advantage. After Taylor reached on a fielder’s choice, she got herself in a rundown on the basepath, allowing Koutsoyanopulos to score. Donihoo’s RBI single gave Tennessee more insurance. Ahlin then scored on a passed ball, increasing the Lady Vol lead to seven. Gibson hit a two-RBI base hit to put the game into run rule territory.
Kathy Garcia-Soto was hit by the first pitch of the bottom half of the sixth, marking the first base runner for the Bulls since the first inning. Gibson then caught a popped bunt attempt, not allowing Garcia-Soto to score. Hanlon flew out to center to record the second out of the inning. Donihoo caught a pop-up to end the contest.
The Lady Vols will begin play tomorrow against No. 5 Clemson at 11:30am before meeting Illinois-Chicago at 4:30 ET. The Tigers, at 13-0, are the last remaining unbeaten team in the ACC.
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