Softball v Virginia Tech

Amanda Ayala, 13, running to third base during the Lady Vols vs Virginia Tech softball game on April 20, 2022 at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.

The No. 12 Tennessee softball team knew the importance of its final three home games of the season against No. 16 Auburn. After dropping its most recent series against Ole Miss last weekend, Tennessee hoped to end the 2022 campaign on a high note. 

With Friday’s game being postponed due to inclement weather the decision was made to play back-to-back games on Saturday. The outcome of these games determines the Lady Vols' seeding placement in the upcoming SEC tournament. In fact, Tennessee needs just one win over the Tigers to secure a top-four seed and a double-bye. 

 After battling, the Lady Vols beat out the Tigers in game one 5-2 in seven and followed up on the success with a 7-4 win at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium. The pair of wins secures the series for Tennessee. 

 “We had a great day here at Sherri Lee Stadium,” head coach Karen Weekly said. “This the toughest conference in America and when you can finish in the top four and secure a top-four seed, that's huge. It’s huge for the bye going into the tournament, it's huge because we're in finals this year for the first time. I'm really, really proud of them and really proud of the way they came out play today.”

Tennessee (37-15, 14-8 SEC) struggled at the plate early on against Auburn (39-13,11-12). The Lady Vols struck out a total of 11 times against Auburn's starter Maddie Penta. Despite this Tennessee still found a way to get on the board as they strung together timely hits and capitalize on the bases. 

Kiki Milloy, Ashley Morgan and Amanda Ayala all notched a double in the first game of the day.  Ivy Davis rounded out Tennessee’s bats with a solo home run in the fifth. In total five Lady Vols combined for five hits.

Tennessee complimented their bats with solid pitching. In the circle for the Lady Vols was senior Ashley Rogers. In her eighth appearance for Tennessee, Rogers limited the Tigers to just two hits in seven innings. The Athens, Tennessee native shined tallying six strikeouts and picking up her 4th win of the season. 

The Lady Vols rode the momentum of the first game into its second game against the Tigers. UT quickly got on the board in the bottom of the first inning scoring two runs on two hits. Tennessee’s starting pitcher Erin Edmoundson shut down the Tigers through three innings. 

The fourth inning saw an offensive explosion from the Auburn. The Tigers rallied across four runs on six hits. The Lady Vols eventually got out of the jam leaving one runner stranded.

 Auburn's two-run lead left as quick as it came. Tennessee responded with three consecutive solo home runs by Zaida Puni, Davis, and Leach giving back the lead to the Lady Vols 5-4. Auburn never was effectively shut out in the following inning while Tennessee added two more in the fifth.

 Leading the team offensively in game two was freshman Puni going 3-for-3 with four RBIs and two home runs. The young talent has been one of Tennessee’s rising stars as of late, but she feels like she has showcased just a fraction of her abilities.

 “I think there's always room to improve,” Puni said. “I played good today, but I know I can be better.”

 The Lady Vol's pair of wins was in large part thanks to their strong pitching talent. Edmoundson and Rogers both combined for 12 strikeouts on the day. The one-two combo of the tenured pitchers has been proven to be a lethal combination.

 “You know it's huge,” Weekly said on the duo.  “I mean, we didn't have Rogers when we started SEC play at Mizzou, and this might be the first time we've had them in a back-to-back situation where we've got such quality performances out of both of them against such a good offense like Auburn. So, I think that's a really good sign for us heading into postseason play.”

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