Tennessee won its quarterfinal matchup against Arkansas Thursday 1-0 to advance to the SEC Tournament Semifinal.
“Last night we were obviously thrilled to get the win against Texas A&M,” co-head coach Karen Weekly said. “Last night was maybe a game we were expected to win because of the difference in seeding. Today was the day we needed to make a statement and we needed to show people Tennessee is for real. I think our girls really were motived to do that.”
The seven-seeded Lady Vols’ win over the two-seeded Razorbacks came after a defensive slug fest, with neither team getting more than two hits.
Although Tennessee’s offense didn’t get much going, the defense was able to limit the Razorbacks as well.
“We are all a bunch of competitors,” catcher Ally Shipman said. “We know how hard our pitchers work and our pitchers know how hard our offense works and so when one of us isn’t having a good day we really try to step it up on the other side and we always have each other’s backs.”
The Lady Vols’ two hits both came from Shipman, and luckily for Tennessee, one of those hits was a fifth inning home run to left field.
“I was just looking to follow the game plan,” Shipman said. “Watching my teammates at bat, we were just getting closer and closer and closer. I just stuck to our game plan and poked one over and I’m just really excited that I could do that for Ashley because I know that she was really grinding out there and she’s giving us her all. To be able to do that for Ashley is huge.”
Tennessee’s lack of offense tonight came in large part to the Razorback’s pitcher Mary Haff. Haff is one of the top pitchers in the SEC and came to play tonight.
“The lack of offense has a lot to do with Mary Haff,” Weekly said. “You saw two of the very best pitchers in the SEC out there going at each other.”
After throwing 13 strikeouts Wednesday night against Texas A&M, Ashley Rogers came out on fire tonight against the Razorbacks.
Tennessee’s ace was relentless at the plate, allowing just one hit and throwing 12 strikeouts.
“For her to do what she’s done the last two days against this kind of competition, that’s what makes it so great,” Weekly said. “Knowing that its win or go home, and she’s really risen to the challenge.”
Rogers was battling finger and back pain, but the box score wouldn’t show it. Rogers battled through injury during her phenomenal performance.
“I knew she was hurting before the game but she wanted the ball,” Weekly said. “She went out there and shut down an amazing lineup. There’s so much power through that lineup and she was just really special today and just put the team on her back.”
The Lady Vols will take on the winner of Kentucky vs. Alabama in Friday’s semifinal matchup. Tennessee lost its series against Alabama in March and won its series against Kentucky in April.
“We’ve played both of these teams during the regular season, so we know what we’re going to be up against and just take our momentum into tomorrow,” Rogers said.