This Saturday, Tennessee won both of its games to improve to a 3-1 record in the Tennessee Invitational. The Lady Vols walked it off 10-9 in a nine-inning thriller against Toledo in their first game of the day. In the nightcap, Tennessee was dominant in a 10-2 run-rule of ETSU.
“We were very proud of them,” co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “They were definitely resilient, and I think it was a good lesson.”
Neither team blinked in the first three innings between the Lady Vols and the Rockets. Toledo was finally able to break the scoreless game in the top of the fourth inning with two solo home runs, taking the lead 2-0. The Rockets scratched across another run in the fifth inning, courtesy of an error, extending the lead to 3-0.
The bats of the Lady Vols finally came alive in the bottom half of the fifth. After the bases had been loaded by a pair of singles by Kaitlin Parsons, Amanda Ayala and Chelsea Seggern. Catcher Ally Shipman also came through in a huge spot with a three RBI double to tie the game at three apiece.
The tie was short-lived as the Rockets took back the lead with a run in the sixth. Tennessee would strike back to take its first lead of the game at 5-4 in the next half inning after Amanda Ayala drove in two runs with a double on the first pitch she saw.
Keeping up with the trend of the game, Toledo pushed two runs across in the top of the seventh inning to take a 6-5 lead and put the pressure on the Lady Vols. Ashley Morgan answered with an RBI single, driving in Shipman to tie the game once again. One run was all that Tennessee could muster, sending the game into extra innings.
Hoping to finally put the game out of reach, the Rockets hung three runs on the scoreboard in the eighth, taking a strong 9-6 lead. With things looking bleak in the bottom half of the inning, Tennessee once again had the chance to show their resilience. The Lady Vols tied the game on RBIs from Ayala, Madison Webber and Cailin Hannon.
“I’ve been coaching 30 years and never been down two times by three runs in an extra-inning game and come back,” Weekly said.
Toledo was held off the board in the top of the ninth, the first scoreless half inning for either team since the fourth. In the bottom of the ninth Ayala finished her stellar game at the plate with a walk-off sacrifice fly, giving the Lady Vols the 10-9 victory.
Tennessee showed no interest in having its evening match-up with ETSU be a replication of its earlier game. The Lady Vols matched their ten runs from the first game on a season-high 15 hits, but this time it only took five innings.
“We love playing softball, that’s what we’re here for,” Ayala said. “Anytime we get a chance to play, it’s just exciting. It was just a chance to continue building on what we did in the previous game and get better.”
The offense decided not to wait around to put runs on the board this time, scoring seven runs in the first two innings. Tennessee went on to score one run in the each of the last three innings of the game.
In the circle, a combination of Callie Turner and Samantha Bender kept the Bucs quiet, allowing two runs on only four hits. Bender would be credited with the win, her second of the season.
Ayala picked up right where she left off, going 2-3 at the plate and adding two more RBI for a total of six on the day. The Lady Vols were also boosted by three-hit performances from Shipman, Seggern and Webber.
“I tried to take the same approach every single time,” Ayala said. “I just tried to go in with confidence and just focus on my process. See a good pitch, put a good swing through it, get on base and let my teammates move me around.”
With this victory, the Lady Vols took the season series over the Bucs, beating them twice in as many days after losing to them just last week. Overall, the win was one of the most complete games played by Tennessee so far this year.
The Lady Vols will look for revenge against Stanford in the championship game of the Tennessee Invitational on Sunday at noon after being defeated 7-2 by the Cardinal on Friday.