February 16, 2008
TAMPA, Fla. – The No. 4 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (6-0) picked up its 85th-consecutive regular-season, non-conference win dating back to 2005 with a 6-2 victory over Florida Gulf Coast (3-4) in its Saturday opener at the USF Best Western Tournament in Tampa, Fla.
Senior third baseman Tonya Callahan led the 11-hit Orange & White offensive attack with a 2-for-4, three-RBI effort, while sophomore catcher Tiffany Huff went 1-for-4 with a two-run double. Junior Lillian Hammond did a sterling job of setting the table from her lead-off position in the lineup by going 3-for-3 with three runs scored. Sophomore right fielder Erinn Webb (2-for-3) also contributed by hammering her first home run of the season (solo HR) over the wall in deep left during the bottom of the fifth.
In the circle freshman Ashton Ward, the reigning Louisville Slugger/National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) National Player of the Week, improved to a perfect 4-0 on the season by allowing two runs on four hits with six strikeouts and zero walks in a complete game effort.
After retiring the initial Florida Gulf Coast hitter in the top of the first, Ward ran into her first real adversity of the young season. FGCU left fielder Courtney Platt singled and came around to score on a home run to left center field off the bat of Carmen Paez as the Eagles grabbed a quick 2-0 advantage.
Tennessee began its rally immediately in the bottom half of the first as Hammond led off the frame with a walk against FGCU hurler Dana Frantz. Senior shortstop Kenora Posey singled back to short to place two on for Callahan. With the Holden, Mo., native at the plate, the speedy duo swiped second and third to reach scoring position. Callahan came through with a base knock into left field to score Hammond and cut the deficit to 2-1. Following a stolen base by freshman pinch runner Kelsey Stander, senior designated player Shannon Doepking was walked intentionally to load the bases with just one down. The move paid dividends for the Eagles as a Lady Vol strikeout and a deep fly out to the base of the wall in left field by Webb left the bags packed.
Ward settled down after her challenging first to retire Florida Gulf Coast in order in the top of the second. That brought the Big Orange offense to the plate attempting to provide more support for its hurler. Base knocks by sophomore center fielder Anita Manuma and Hammond set the table for Callahan as she ripped a two-RBI single to right field to grant UT its first lead of the afternoon at 3-2.
The Tennessee advantage continued to grow in the bottom of the fourth. Hammond singled out in front of the plate and, while attempting to sacrifice, Posey reached safely to place two aboard. Callahan stepped to the plate and drove a liner to center that tipped just off the top of Paez’s glove for an error loading the bases. A two-run double from Huff plated Posey and Hammond to improve the count to 5-2 in favor of Tennessee.
Besides a one-out single allowed to FGCU third baseman Cheyenne Jenks in the top of the fourth, Ward settled in after allowing the HR in the first frame to retire 16 of the next 17 hitters she faced through the top of the sixth.
After just missing a grand slam in her previous at-bat, Webb managed a few extra feet on a blast in the bottom of the sixth with a solo shot deep to left field for a 6-2 lead.
Down to their last chance, the Eagles sent Paez, Jenks and catcher Desiree Miller against Ward in the top of the seventh. Paez popped up to second base to open the frame. Jenks singled to shortstop, and advanced 60 feet into scoring position on a groundout by Miller. Ward managed her sixth K of the contest by retiring designated player Roz Tyre on a strikeout to end the game and secure Tennessee’s sixth straight win to open the campaign.
Tennessee Lady Vol Sports Information
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