Tennessee earned two wins last week against Eastern Kentucky after the Kickin’ Chicken Classic in Conway, South Carolina was canceled due to inclement weather. This weekend, the Lady Vols will look to continue their success against Southeast Missouri State and Miami (OH).
Tennessee will open the weekend with a double header on Saturday, hosting Southeast Missouri State, with the first game being played at 12 p.m. ET and the second following at 2:30 p.m. ET.
On Sunday, the Lady Vols will remain home to take on Miami (OH) at 12 p.m. ET and 2:30 p.m. ET. Unlike the first weekend of play, fans will be able to attend the games at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.
Last weekend, the Lady Vols’ offense came out swinging, with 10 runs in the first game and three in the second. Co-head coach Karen Weekly expects a strong offense to be something that the team has, but is not fully dependent on.
“I think we have the capability to be a very good offensive team, we put a lot of work into that and we have a lot of experience on that side of the game,” Weekly said. “You need to hang your hat on pitching and defense and hope that those two keep you in the game long enough for your hitters to make adjustments and get a few runners on base and get that one big swing.
“I think that’s what we need to continue to do. I think we have the hitters in the lineup that are capable of blowing the game open at any time.”
A large part of the teams’ offensive performance can be attributed to junior catcher Ally Shipman. Shipman had two home runs this past weekend and attributes the team’s offensive success to offseason preparations.
“We’ve been really working on hitting for power, especially this early fall and in the spring.” Shipman said. “It’s definitely something we’ve been working towards and it’s really great to see it pay off.”
Both Southeast Missouri State and Miami (OH) have seen SEC opponents already this season, with SEMO losing three games to Auburn last week and Miami (OH) dropping both games against Mississippi State.
While early season out of conference games may not offer the same competition level as SEC games, the team uses these games to prepare for unfamiliar opponents they may see in the postseason.
“You kind of have to be a little more open minded in these preseason games and be ready to roll with the punches,” Shipman said. “I do think they help us a lot in kind of dealing with adversity later on and being able to make adjustments quickly.”
Early games also give the team a chance to take a look at what their team’s strengths and weaknesses are.
“I think [out of conference games] are just good practice especially before we get into conference,” senior pitcher Ashley Rogers said. “It’s very beneficial to just help us realize where we may struggle and what our strengths are, what our weaknesses are, what our tendencies are.
“It’s definitely some good preparation and practice for conference play and post season.”
Rogers also had a strong opening week, with 18 strikeouts in her first game back after missing a season due to injury. Rogers has faith that her defense and fellow pitchers will allow the Lady Vols to compete with the best of the best this season.
“We have a solid staff and a solid defense, I would say that’s one of our strong suits,” Rogers said. “I think we have a very talented group of pitchers and a very solid and very experienced defense behind us.
“We’re a very experienced and talented team all around. SEC play is a lot more difficult, better pitchers, better lineups, but if we just go out there and play our game, I know that there is nobody in this country we can’t compete with.”