[title_box title=”Softball Vols cruise in Tennessee Invitational”]
The Tennessee softball team won all five of its match-ups in the Tennessee Invitational and improved its overall record to 16-5. The Vols are ranked No. 20 in the country. Here is a recap of this past weekend’s games.
Co-head coach Karen Weekly revealed just days before the season that she does not expect this year’s squad to approach the program-record 100 home runs last year’s team belted. But on day one of the invitational, Tennessee finished with not one, but two grand slams.
Both came against UAB in the opening game. During a six-run first inning, freshman Abby Lockman jumped on a hanging, outside pitch and smacked it out of right field. The second grand slam came courtesy of Scarlet McSwain just two innings later, who entered the invitational struggling from the plate.
“I needed that,” McSwain said. “It was definitely one of the best balls I’ve hit in my career.”
McSwain’s grand slam put the Vols up 10-0. The pitching staff continued to shut down the Blazers, resulting in the first of four consecutive run-rule victories for Tennessee.
Against Green Bay, the Vols scored six second-inning runs, and a Lexi Overstreet three-run blast in the bottom of the fifth ended the contest.
Freshmen pitchers Matty Moss and Bria Bush both gained valuable experience during day one. Moss continued to establish herself as the staff’s No. 2 pitcher, while Bush notched her first career victory.
“It feels good to win for my team,” Bush said. “I may not have my best stuff, but it was good enough to get the win.”
Tennessee picked up right where it left off, but with a different offensive approach. Instead of launching home runs past the wall, the Vols’ lineup leaned on both visual and swing discipline.
St. John’s was predicted to be Tennessee’s toughest opponent of the tournament. However, the preseason consensus pick to win the Big East could not find the strike zone. The Vols drew three walks, but were also hit by four separate pitches.
Overstreet continued to produce on offense, driving in four runs on two hits in a 11-2 rune-rule victory.
Tennessee played Green Bay in the second half of the double-header. Four players drove in multiple runs in the Vols’ 13-1 victory.
Day three was a complete role reversal. The pitchers did not have their best stuff all weekend, meaning the offense had to generate runs to create comfortable cushions. But on Sunday’s tournament finale against St. John’s, the offense didn’t capitalize on a number of opportunities to light up the scoreboard, finishing with a program record 16 runners left on base.
“We didn’t have any discipline today,” Overstreet said. “We were swinging at a lot of the pitches junk…that comes on the leaders, we weren’t setting a good example of having good at-bats and letting the pitcher fill us.”
Tennessee’s ace Erin Gabriel faced the Red Storm on Saturday, but was even better the second time around Sunday. Gabriel only struck out two batters, but her location and efficiency resulted in only one St. John’s hit over four innings.
Rainey Gaffin pitched in relief over the final three innings and used overpowering speed to finish off the Red Storm.
Offensively, Overstreet again provided timely hits. Her squeeze bunt in the bottom of the third fooled the Red Storm defense, allowing Gretchen Aucoin to score the first run of the game. Three innings later, she slapped an RBI single to left center, putting the Vols up 3-0. Tennessee needed all seven innings for the first time all weekend to defeat St. John’s 4-0.
In five games, the Vols outscored their opponents 48-4. They face Belmont on Tuesday before conference play begins against Arkansas at home on Friday.
Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics
Edited by Cody McClure