Tennessee softball (11-8) split its double-header Friday night, defeating ETSU (10-1) in five innings and falling to the Stanford Cardinal (1-7).
While things started off slow for the Lady Vols, with ETSU taking an early 1-0 lead in the first after a groundball sent an ETSU runner home, it didn’t take long for Tennessee to get back on top.
Kiki Milloy started things off for the Lady Vols in the second after making a double and soon after stealing third and home off a hit from Ashley Morgan, tying the game 1-1.
Tennessee had an explosive third inning, beginning with Amanda Ayala’s centerfield hit that brought her to second and Chelsea Seggern to third. With two out of three bases loaded, KK McCray hit a bomb homerun directly up the middle, bringing her, Seggern, and Ayala home.
The Lady Vols weren't done yet. After Ally Shipman stole third, a hit from Ashley Morgan sent a walked Kaili Phillips to second and Shipman home.
A walk from Kaitlin Parsons loaded the bases with Morgan and Phillips still on second and third. Cailin Hannon’s hit sent her to second, as well as, Phillips and Morgan home, making the score 8-1.
Samantha Bender took a minute to find her rhythm on the mound, but once she did she held ETSU runners to quick outs and few balls.
“I think sometimes Sam thinks too much and overanalyzes the situation,” explained head coach Karen Weekly. “It looks like she just relaxed and trusted her movement. She didn’t try to place the ball too much and guide the ball where it needed to go. She's got great movement when she just lets it happen.”
In the fourth, Ayala landed at first base quickly, allowing Shipman to come in behind her with a double to send Ayala home. Milloy’s next at-bat resulted in a double as well and pushed Shipman home.
Tennessee ended the game in a run rule, bringing down the Buccaneers 10-1.
“I thought we had really good energy,” stated Karen Weekly. “The cold didn’t seem to bother us, both teams had heaters in their dugouts and everyone was playing in the same conditions. I thought out kids handled that really well. Their enthusiasm was great, we’ve just got to execute.”
The Lady Vols weren't as lucky against Stanford, despite taking an early lead.
Seggern kicked things off for Tennessee with a massive double towards centerfield, followed by a single from Phillips that sent Seggern home. Unfortunately, this would be the only lead the Lady Vols would have throughout the game.
Tennessee made a pitching change from the ETSU matchup and put Callie Turner in. In Turner’s visit to the mound she walked various Stanford runners, one of whom stole home, tying the score, 1-1.
In the beginning of the third Jenna Holcomb produced an early out after an incredible catch in the outfield quieted the Stanford dugout.
Ayala scored a single and managed to steal second and third in-between outs but couldn’t find home by the time the Lady Vols gained their third out of the third inning.
Stanford solidified its lead in the sixth after various walks and singles led to loaded bases three times. Despite a last-second defensive push from Tennessee, three more Cardinal runners found their way home, bringing the score to 5-2.
Two big hits from Stanford gave them their final two points of the night after the Lady Vols put their last offensive efforts to the test, with a final score of 7-2.
“I want to see our team bounce back,” stated Karen Weekly. “I just want to see us be resilient. We've had to do that a lot this year and here’s another opportunity. It's a long season and we just need to keep growing and keep going in the right direction.”
Tennessee plays next tomorrow, March 7 against Toledo at 12:30 p.m.