Out of all the Tennessee bats struggling to muster a hit on Saturday, Chelsea Seggern’s bat appeared the least likely to deliver the game-winning goods.
The freshman was 0-for-3 up until her final at-bat in the bottom of the seventh inning. Previously, Seggern ended two separate innings on strikeouts and failed to drive in a run with the bases loaded during the bottom of the fifth inning.
Despite her early struggles, Seggern’s amnesia paved the way for her game-winning line drive to right-center, giving No. 15 Tennessee (17-2) a hard-fought 3-2 victory over the pesky Jacksonville State Gamecocks.
“I had to erase that (the slow start) and put that in my past,” Seggern said. “I said, ‘You know what, it’s a new at-bat and another chance to show them what I’m made of.'”
For 6.2 innings, the only players showing either team what they were made of weren’t resting in batting stances, but winding up on the mound and bewildering hitters into missed swings and groundouts.
It was especially surprising on Tennessee’s side. Heading into Saturday, the Vols were averaging nearly eight runs per game.
“I think we were going up there and trying too hard,” Seggern admitted. “… instead of trusting the process and making her (Jacksonville State pitcher Whitney Gillespie) work. She was throwing a lot of balls, but we were just swinging at them.”
It appeared early on Tennessee was methodically surging toward an easy victory after scoring runs in each of the first two innings. The first run came off a first-pitch double from Meghan Gregg during the bottom of the first inning, while the second run came off a CJ McClain groundout in the bottom of the second.
However, the orange and white’s offense stalled over the next four innings. While the offense did take part of the blame for the poor performance, co-head coach Karen Weekly knew Jacksonville State’s Gillespie would give the team fits.
“She’s probably the best pitcher in her conference (OVC),” Weekly said. “She’s a veteran. We knew last year in Regionals she went down and shut down Auburn… we definitely had done our homework and knew that she would be a big challenge for us. She’s beat a lot of good teams.”
Gillespie almost claimed yet another high-quality victim on Saturday. That was, until the Vols finally used her inability to locate the strike zone against her. Although Seggern recorded her first-career game-winning RBI with rare ball contact, the thrilling finale was set up by a pair of walks drawn by Gregg and Brooke Vines.
Saturday’s win was also a comeback win for the orange and white. Before all the fans at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium settled into their seats, the Gamecocks— aided by a pair of Tennessee errors — opened with two quick runs off of sophomore Matty Moss. Weekly wasted no time making a switch and subsequently pulled Moss for freshman pitcher Caylan Arnold.
Over the next six innings, Arnold (7-2) recorded a career-high nine strikeouts and retired 18 of the 19 batters she faced. The only Gamecock to reach base during her masterful performance came off of an error from second baseman Aubrey Leach. In total, Tennessee recorded an uncharacteristic three errors and were outscored in the first inning for only the third time this season.
“Nobody got excited,” Weekly said. “… that inning is over. We got that one out of the way. Let’s get to work and get some runs back and we started doing that.”
The Vols cap off the Tennessee Invitational tomorrow when they take on Delaware. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET.
Edited by Robert Hughes
Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics