Softball vs Tennessee Tech

The Lady Vols hype each other up before a matchup against Tennessee Tech.

The No. 9 Lady Vols will head to Tampa, Florida this week to participate in the USF Invitational. Tennessee will play five games during the tournament, looking to improve their 6-1 record on the season so far. The toughest test of the tournament will be a meeting with No. 5 Clemson on Saturday. The Tigers are 11-0 on the season, including wins over No. 16 Georgia and No. 17 Northwestern.

Lady Vols head coach Karen Weekly was complimentary of the Tigers heading into their matchup.

“Clemson’s got everything,” Weekly said. “They’ve got it in the circle. They’ve got people that can hit. They’ve got 22 home runs on the year, and they haven’t played a weak schedule. They’re legit.”

However, Weekly did not want her team looking ahead to the matchup with Clemson on Saturday and emphasized the need to win Friday’s games first. She was extremely complimentary of Michigan State pitcher Ashley Miller, who comes into the weekend tournament with a WHIP below 1 and a 1.28 ERA.

“We’ve got to handle Michigan State, move on to USF and then the next day worry about Clemson,” Weekly said. “Michigan State has, from what I’ve seen on film, one of the best down ball pitchers around. When you look at her statistics, the win-loss record doesn’t reflect how good she is, but the ERA and the WHIP certainly does. They’re a team that is in a lot of low-scoring ball games because she keeps the other team from putting up a lot of runs.”

Weekly was impressed with the performance throughout the lineup early on this season.

“I think the best teams in the country have people who can do damage one through nine, and you can’t pitch around just a couple of hitters at the top,” Weekly said. “That’s what we’re striving to be.”

Weekly also noted how her lineup has been significantly hampered by injuries early in this season.

“Right now, we’ve got a lot of injuries,” Weekly said. “We haven’t really had Rylie West in any full game since the first day of the season. Lair Beautae hasn’t played a game yet, and those are two of our best players from last year. Taylor Pannell has had some issues that I’ve had to bring her in and out of the game. It’s important that we continue to develop everybody on the team because if one goes down, we’re going to need another one to step up and give us a strong lineup one through nine.”

In terms of the pitching, Weekly was impressed with the performances of freshmen Karlyn Pickens and Charli Orsini.

“I think they’re going to have a big impact (this season)” Weekly said. “I was really pleased with what they both did in the second weekend for Karlyn and the first opportunity for Charli to get out there and throw. I think they showed a lot of poise and maturity in the circle.”

The Lady Vols will play Michigan State and USF on Friday to open the tournament. Tennessee will then play Clemson and Illinois-Chicago on Saturday before a second meeting with the Flames on Sunday.

Only the game against the host, USF, will be streamed on ESPN+. All games this weekend, including the meeting with the Bulls, can be heard on the Lady Vol Network.

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