After South Carolina swept them last weekend, the eighth-ranked Lady Vols (31-5) dropped yet another weekend series to No. 6 Georgia. Tennessee now sits at a dismal 4-5 in conference play to start the season. The Bulldogs outscored Tennessee by a combined score of 17-2 in the three-game series in Knoxville.
“Softball is a game of momentum and a game of one-on-one matchups, and right now we’re not winning those,” Lady Vols co-head coach Karen Weekly said. “We just can’t get that clutch hit when we need it or get that clutch pitch when we need to shut them down.”
The orange-and-white kicked off the weekend series on a high note Saturday, shutting out the Lady Bulldogs by a score of 1-0. While hitting fell short for Tennessee, pitching shined. The dominant veteran pitching duo of Caylan Arnold and Matty Moss combined for eight strikeouts in seven innings for the win.
The only run of the game came in the seventh inning. Senior infielder Meghan Gregg showed patience at the plate and drew a walk with the bases loaded to give the Lady Vols a 1-0 lead.
Georgia walked three straight batters with no outs to give up the winning run. Gregg also passed former USA Softball National Player of the Year candidate Tonya Callahan for the most RBI’s in school history with 242.
“I wasn’t really thinking about that at all (the record) but getting our first series win over Georgia was big,” Gregg said after the game. “I think we kept pounding and finally broke it up in the seventh inning.”
Sunday proved sour for the Lady Vols, as they lost by a score of 9-1 in six innings. The script flipped for Arnold on the mound, as she gave up eight runs in just four innings of play. Freshman pitcher Gabby Sprang finished out with no earned runs and four strikeouts, but the Lady Vols couldn’t get their bats going to keep the game competitive.
Tennessee’s only run of the game came in the second inning off an RBI single from junior infielder Aubrey Leach. Georgia registered three batters with at least two hits in the win. The Vols notched just five hits total.
“We got beat in every aspect. Offense, defense, pitching,” Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “I don’t think it was from a lack of effort, I think it was a lack of execution.”
The final series game ended with a tough loss for the Vols Monday. They lost 8-0 to log their first shutout loss of the season. The last time Tennessee faced a shutout came nearly one year ago against Florida. Pitching issues remained a problem for the Vols. Moss gave up an uncharacteristic seven earned runs in six innings of work.
Tennessee tallied just four hits on the afternoon and combined for just 11 hits through the series. Georgia scored at least one run in every inning but the fifth to dominate the Lady Vols Monday.
“I think we’re fighting and probably stressing because we’re not winning those battles,” K. Weekly said. “That’s probably some of the best ball they’ve (Georgia) played all year, too.”
Tennessee gets back in action on Tuesday at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium against its in-state rival Tennessee State. First pitch its slated for 6 p.m. ET and can be viewed on SEC Network+.
Written by Seth Raborn
Edited by Lexie Little
Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics