February 29, 2008
COLUMBUS, Ga. – Sophomore right fielder Tiffany Huff’s second career grand slam was the telling blow as No. 4 Tennessee (16-1) fought off a game Hofstra squad by a 5-2 count on Friday afternoon at the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga.
Sophomore center fielder Erinn Webb (1-for-2, run scored) drilled her team-best-tying third home run of the season in the second inning granting UT a 1-0 lead. Junior left fielder Lillian Hammond, senior third baseman Tonya Callahan and senior shortstop Kenora Posey each tallied a hit in the contest.
Big Orange senior hurler Megan Rhodes improved to 7-0 on the season after entering the match-up during the third inning in relief of freshman starter Ashton Ward (2.2 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K). The Nashville, Tenn., native fired 4.1 frames of one-hit ball while striking out five. Both pitching staffs seemed to struggle in adapting to the strike zone of home plate umpire Doug Zimmerman as the teams combined to issue eight walks in the contest.
“We struggled at the pitching spot at times today,” Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “Both Megan Rhodes and Ashton Ward were really good, however, when it counted most and did a good job of adapting to the strike zone. Our 3-4-5-6 hitters are consistently giving us opportunities to score runs and win games. I thought the defense played well, and that our two wins were a team effort.”
After leaving a runner stranded on base in the opening inning, Tennessee broke in front in the top of the second. Webb launched an offering from Hofstra starting pitcher Sara Michalowski deep over the left center field wall to register an important 1-0 lead. To that point in 2008, the Big Orange were 13-0 when tallying the contest’s initial run.
The advantage didn’t last long, however, as three consecutive two-out walks issued by Ward and a hit batter forced in a score in the bottom of the second as the Pride quickly deadlocked the count at 1-1.
In Hofstra’s half of the third, shortstop Pam Dreslinski snapped the tie by drilling a low liner towards left. Looking as if it might just short hop into the fence, the orb actually traveled above the short portable wall in left for a solo HR, pushing the Pride in front, 2-1.
Rhodes entered the match-up in relief of Ward in the third and immediately settled things down defensively by retiring four straight Hofstra batters to bring UT to the plate in the top of the fifth.
A throwing error on a ground ball off the bat of Posey, an infield single from Hammond and an intentional walk to Callahan set the stage for Lady Vol heroics. With two out in the fifth, Huff stepped into the batter’s box and drove Michalowski’s offering deep over the wall in left center for her second career grand slam and her first since Feb. 22, 2007, against Loyola Marymount.
Staked to a three-run lead, the Lady Vols got into some trouble in the bottom half of the fifth as walks to second baseman Casey Fee and catcher Carolann Lubach and a single to left by Dreslinski loaded the bases with two down. Designated player Melissa Hodge drove a promising shot toward third that threatened to score at least two, but Callahan made a leaping grab of the liner to preserve the UT lead and strand three on the base paths.
That threat turned out to be the last for the Pride as Rhodes retired six straight hitters over the sixth and seventh innings to secure the comeback victory.