[title_box title=”Tennessee beats Dayton for 16th-straight opening day win”]
Despite rolling into Knoxville in the early hours of the morning, Tennessee still defeated the Dayton Flyers 3-1 for the program’s 16th-straight opening day victory.
The Vols were originally supposed to play their home opener against Dayton last Thursday, but weather forced a delay until Monday afternoon. This meant that both the Vols and the Flyers would have quick turnarounds from their weekend series in Alabama.
“We played a real heartbreaker down at Alabama last night and lost,” co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “We didn’t get home until after midnight and the kids had to go to class today, so I’m real proud of them and the way they came out.”
Early on, both teams made mistakes. Tennessee let the lead-off hitter get on base by committing an error, but senior pitcher Erin Gabriel took charge, striking out the next two batters.
However, with two outs and a runner on first, the Vols made their second error of the inning and gave the Flyers runners on the corners.
Tennessee found its way out of trouble, but the Vols’ bats got off to a slow start in the bottom of the first. Tennessee went down in order and Dayton’s Manda Cash struck out both Brooke Vines and Meghan Gregg. The Flyers got a runner to third for the second straight inning, but the Vols again got out of trouble, forcing Dayton’s Madi Maloof into a groundout.
Then, the Vols’ offense started to show some life. Megan Geer drew a lead-off walk, immediately followed by a stolen second base. The Vols were not able to capitalize on Geer’s steal though, after Cash struck out the next three Tennessee batters.
Then came the third inning.
Tennessee has outscored its opponents 26-8 in the third inning so far this season. On Monday, they added three more to that total.
Freshman Abby Lockman started things off by giving the Vols their first hit of the game. Then, Lexi Overstreet drew a walk, followed by a wild pitch by Cash to move the Tennessee runners to second and third. Vines, in her second career home at-bat, drilled a triple to center field to drive in both base runners to give Tennessee the 2-0 lead.
“My plan going up to bat was to see the ball down, look middle out and make solid contact,” Vines said.
Gregg then came up to the plate, looking to add more runs for the Vols. She reached third on a Dayton error that allowed Vines to score. Gabriel set the Flyers down in order in the top of the fourth. The Vols got two runners on base during the bottom of the inning, but failed to add to the lead.
Entering the sixth inning, Dayton was 0-for-10 with runners on base, and 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position. But the Flyers opened up the inning with a home run from Katie Ryan, cutting the deficit to two runs. That would be as close as Dayton would get.
Gabriel then hit Hannah DeSalvo. With one out and a runner on first, Weekly came out to the circle and pulled Gabriel. He brought in Rainey Gaffin, who started in center field to begin the day.
Despite a slow start, Gaffin got out of the jam, leaving two Flyers stranded. The Vols went in order in the bottom of the sixth, but Gaffin then retired three straight batters, giving her the save and Tennessee the win.
The Vols will next host the Tennessee Invitational starting this Friday with games against UAB and Green Bay. They will also play St. Johns and an opponent to be determined Saturday. They will close the tournament on Sunday against two other opponents that have yet to be determined.
Featured image by Sam Forman
Edited by David Bradford