Kaitlin Parsons’ slide into home plate was a sight for sore eyes among the Volunteer faithful in attendance for Tennessee’s opening round matchup against Eastern Kentucky. Just moments earlier, Eastern Kentucky pitcher Mollie Paulick had finished her third straight hitless inning, the score knotted at one apiece. The fifth-year senior had entered the circle in relief after a less than ideal first inning for the Colonels.
With the help of Parsons’ slide home, the Lady Vols went on to win the game 8-1.
It’s true that it was a frustrating afternoon for both parties competing in the Knoxville regional at some point during the game. The Lady Vols went cold after a three-hit first inning that saw a run cross the board, eventually allowing Eastern Kentucky to score a run of its own to tie the score at one for a majority of the early stages of the game.
“Things just weren’t flying out of here today,” Co-head coach Karen Weekly said postgame. “I thought early in the game we took some decent swings and the ball just wasn’t going anywhere. We just needed to put the ball in play and force them to play defense.”
The Lady Vols did just that starting in the fifth inning. Parson’s slide home gave Tennessee its first run since the bottom of the first, and opened a flood gate for more Orange and White runs.
Amanda Ayala was next to pick up an RBI following Madison Webber’s efforts in driving Parsons home. The senior outfielder drove Webber home to put the Lady Vols up 3-1 with all the momentum in a previously slow-tempo chess match.
“We can create some havoc when we get people on base and put the ball in play.” Weekly added.
The bottom of the sixth proved the Lady Vols’ Co-head coach correct. After a 1-2-3 inning by Tennessee ace Ashley Rogers, the Lady Vols offense let loose its most successful inning of the day, driving in five runs with four hits.
Ivy Davis had the highlight of the inning, rocketing a three run bomb to center field to give Tennessee a commanding 7-1 lead. Ayala capped off the inning with a single to right field to score Kiki Milloy.
“There wasn’t a moment throughout the game where we felt we couldn’t get it done or we weren’t going to get it done,” Ayala said. “Just keeping that mentality the whole time was exactly why when the fifth and sixth came around we were able to score a lot of runs.”
While Tennessee ended day one of the opening round on a high note, its postseason is just beginning. The Lady Vols’ 8-1 victory sets them up with James Madison in the 1-0 game at noon on Saturday.
“They're just a great program and they’ve got a lot of experienced ball players,” Weekly said regarding James Madison. “It’s going to be a very, very tough matchup. It’s going to be a battle.”