Tennessee’s softball team struggled on the west coast this weekend while playing in the annual Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.
The Lady Vols entered the tournament ranked No. 10 in the country and would face three other top 25 teams. Tennessee got to test their ability against ACC, PAC-12 and B1G opponents while in California over the weekend.
The undefeated Lady Vols looked to advance to 10-0 when they first took the field on Thursday against No. 23 Notre Dame. Tennessee secured an 8-4 win over the Fighting Irish after the offense came alive late in the game. Sophomores Megan Geer and Taylor Koenig each provided a home run during the game.
Koenig also drove in four runs during the game. Gretchen Aucoin got the start for Tennessee but only lasted through the second inning before being relieved by Rainey Gaffin, who would pick up the win while striking out five players.
In the second game on Thursday, the Lady Vols took on another ranked ACC opponent – the No. 8 Florida State Seminoles. It was a pitchers duel until the top of the fourth inning when Tennessee put up the first run of the game.
The Lady Vols added a run in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to get the 4-1 win over their second ranked opponent of the day. Florida State walked Annie Aldrete, Gaffin and Koenig in the fourth, and then walked Geer to give UT the one run lead. Erin Gabriel (4-0) got the complete game win striking out six players, while giving up only four hits and one run.
Tennessee took the field on Friday for their lone game of the day taking on No. 20 California. Cal got on the board in the first and scored the games only run. Aucoin started in the circle giving up four hits and one run, but also recording three strikeouts in six innings. Gaffin came in to pitch the seventh inning for Tennessee. The Lady Vols left seven players on base in the loss to Cal.
Saturday, UT faced another double-header. Their first opponent was Utah. Gabriel started the game and gave up four runs in the first two innings to the Utes. Tennessee also committed three errors in the first two innings, adding to the early deficit.
Meghan Gregg hit a solo home run in the fifth to bring the Lady Vols to within three. Koenig hit a two-run homer in the sixth to cut the lead to one, but that would be all the offense Tennessee would get as they lost 4-3 to Utah. Gabriel would get her first loss of the season after recording four strikeouts on the day.
Nebraska was Tennessee’s final foe in the tournament. The game got off to a quick start as both teams scored in the first inning. Scarlet McSwain hit a bases-loaded RBI single in the first to tie the game early on. Aucoin (5-2) gave up three runs in three innings as the starter, while Gaffin gave up one run in an inning of relief work. Gabriel allowed one run in three innings of action for Tennessee.
Tennessee closed it to 3-2 in the fifth off of a solo home run from McSwain. The Lady Vols would keep it close until the seventh when Nebraska’s Kiki Stokes hit a home run. Tennessee finished the trip with two wins and three losses.
The Lady Vols face Georgia Tech on Tuesday, Feb. 24 at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium at 4 p.m.
Edited by Cody McClure
Sam Forman is the lead sports staff writer for the Tennessee Journalist and is a senior studying Journalism and Electronic Media with a focus on sports broadcasting and reporting. He has been with TNJN since the fall of 2014. He is also a DJ for WUTK 90.3 fm. and a member of the Rock Solid Sports team. Sam has spent six years marching in the Pride of The Southland Marching Band. When he is not covering or talking sports, you can find him outdoors, playing music or hanging out with friends. You can find him on twitter: @samWforman