AUBURN, Ala. — Tennessee was dealt a four-run deficit Saturday, and the Volunteers baseball team responded with a season-high 17-hits and a healthy dose of junior reliever Danny Wiltz to defeat Auburn 8-4 in 11 innings at Samford Stadium-Hitchcock Field at Plainsman Park.
Wiltz pitched a career-high 6 2/3 sparkling innings out of the bullpen and tied his career-best with four strikeouts while surrendering no runs on just one hit as UT improved to 16-8 (5-3 SEC). The right-hander from Miami, Fla., improved to 3-0 this season with arguably the biggest win of his career.
“I went out trying to maybe throw two or three good innings to keep us in there, and they stuck with me,” Wiltz said of his marathon relief outing. “I felt good. I felt like I kept getting stronger. I just threw a lot of strikes and tried to let my defense take care of me like they always do.”
With the win, Tennessee improved to 4-0 this season in extra-inning games and 8-1 in one-run affairs.
“That’s our team, right there,” UT head coach Todd Raleigh said. “We usually fall behind, somehow, and then we battle back.”
After trailing 4-0 after four innings, Tennessee used a two-run double by right fielder Josh Liles—part of a career-high three-hit effort from the freshman from Jackson, Tenn.—to tie the game at 4-4 in the sixth, and that score stood entering the top of the 11th.
It was then that UT first baseman Jeff Lockwood came through with a go-ahead two-run basehit that was followed by a two-run homer off the bat off true freshman left fielder P.J. Polk.
Polk’s first career homer gave the Volunteers a four-run lead—matching the lead that Auburn (17-10, 3-5 SEC) enjoyed earlier in the day.
Vols catcher Yan Gomes collected a career-high-tying four hits Saturday, marking his second multi-hit performance in as many games.
The teams worked through a pair of scoreless innings Saturday, and the Vols left a pair of runners in scoring position in the top of the third. Auburn then got things started in the bottom of the third, using consecutive extra-base hits to take a 1-0 lead. Trent Mummey drove in Matt Hall with an RBI double after Hall had previously tripled off the wall in left field.
The Tigers threatened to build on their lead later in the third, but UT starting pitcher Bryan Morgado induced back-to-back foul flies near the Vols dugout to strand two Auburn baserunners in scoring position.
But four Auburn hits in the fourth helped the Tigers stretch their lead to 4-0. Third baseman Joseph Sanders jumpstarted the rally with an RBI basehit, and Brian Fletcher and Trent Mummey also chipped in with RBI singles.
Tennessee plated its first run when second baseman Andy Simunic scored from third on an RBI sacrifice fly by shortstop Danny Lima in the top of the fifth.
Morgado was lifted in favor of Wiltz after Tigers designated hitter Kevin Patterson drew a one-out walk to load the bases in the bottom of the fifth. And Wiltz quickly induced an inning-ending, double-play ball to prevent any further damage and keep Auburn’s three-run edge manageable.
The Vols responded to the Tigers rally in the top of the sixth, loading the bases against Auburn starting pitcher Cory Luckie with one out. Simunic then plated Gomes with an RBI fielder’s choice, and Liles followed with his game-tying, two-run double down the third-base line.
A leadoff single by UT centerfielder Kentrail Davis in the top of the seventh chased Luckie from the game. Luckie was lifted in favor of right-hander Taylor Thompson, who allowed a baserunner but produced back-to-back strikeouts to preserve the tie.
Polk and Simunic led off the top of the 10th with back-to-back singles, and later in the inning with two outs, Tigers reliever Bryan Woodall hit Davis with a pitch to load the bases. But Woodall then got the flyball he needed to provide the crowd of 4,220 with more free baseball.
Never yielding, however, Gomes and senior designated hitter Shawn Griffin delivered consecutive hits to leadoff the top of the 11th, setting the stage for Lockwood’s go-ahead single and Polk’s two-run job for good measure.
Morgado lasted 4 1/3 innings Saturday, during which he allowed four runs on 10 hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He earned a no-decision to keep his record this season at 3-2.
Woodall took the loss for Auburn to fall to 0-1 on the year.
Simunic’s first hit of the day—a third-inning single—was his 100th hit as a Vol. The senior from Collierville, Tenn., recorded 75 hits last season after transferring from Chattanooga State. He made his first start in the No. 7 spot in Tennessee’s lineup Saturday and went 3-for-6 with two runs and an RBI.
Raleigh was ejected by home plate umpire Steve Manders in the top of the eighth, after Manders consulted at length with his crew and ruled Simunic out for interference on a sacrifice bunt attempt.
The series concludes Sunday at 2 p.m. CT. Left-hander Nick Hernandez (0-1, 4.85 ERA) will start on the mound for Tennessee, while Auburn’s starting pitcher will be freshman right-hander Bradley Hendrix (1-0, 3.96 ERA).
AUBURN, Ala. – On a sunny and very warm Saturday afternoon at the Jane B. Moore Field in Auburn, Ala., No. 9 Tennessee (31-5, 7-4 Southeastern Conference) utilized towering home runs from senior Tonya Callahan and sophomore Erinn Webb to pace a 14-hit offensive attack and guide the Big Orange past Auburn (28-9, 7-5 SEC), 8-4, in the opener of a important league series.
Webb led the Lady Vol offensive assault by going 3-for-4 at the plate with a triple, a HR, two RBI and three runs scored. Callahan delivered a pair of hits, including a monstrous solo blast off the top of a 40-foot light standard in left center field for her team-best ninth home run of the season. Freshmen Chandra Mogan, Jen Lapicki and Kelly Grieve each tallied two hits in the contest with the latter also knocking in a pair of RBI. Junior left field Lillian Hammond also was credited with a run-batted-in as part of her 1-for-4 performance. With her second inning base knock, the Chattanooga, Tenn., native also improved her career-best hitting streak to 12 games, the longest by a Lady Vol in 2008.
Despite facing some difficulty in the circle, freshman Ashton Ward successfully improved to 17-3 on the season and 3-2 in SEC action by firing the eighth complete game of her young career. The Charlotte, N.C., product allowed four earned runs on eight hits while striking out two.
In the top of the first, both lead-off hitter Hammond and Mogan worked full counts against Auburn’s unique-throwing Anna Thompson. Only the latter reached successfully, however, as Mogan ripped a single up the middle. Callahan followed with a base knock of her own into left field putting runners at first and second with one down. With Thompson’s awkward “duck down into a crouch and then spring to the plate” motion from the circle, senior catcher Shannon Doepking patiently built a 3-2 count of her own before watching ball four pass well off the edge of the plate. With the bases juiced and just one down, Huff got ahead of Thompson 3-1 before popping just into foul ground up the right field line. Three Lady Vols were left stranded as Lapicki flew harmlessly to Auburn’s Taryn Gray in shallow right.
Tiger left fielder Myesha Finney took an offering from Ward the other way through the right side of the infield with one retired in the bottom of the first, granting AU its first base occupant. Catcher Tatiana Fernandez followed with a home run off the scoreboard in deep left center scoring Finney for a quick 2-0 lead. Gray battled to 2-2 before bouncing a ball up the first base line that Lapicki corralled before stepping on the bag for the second out. Lapicki also handled a foul pop-up off the bat of first baseman Jorja Bell to conclude the frame.
Attempting to craft an immediate response to Auburn’s advantage in the top of the second, Webb drove the first pitch she saw from Thompson past diving AU second baseman Cassie Trosclair and into right center for a lead-off single. Following a strikeout and a flyout to center, Webb took off for second successfully swiping her 11th base of the season. That move into scoring position paid immediate dividends as Hammond blooped a 3-2 pitch over the shortstop for an RBI single bringing Webb across and cutting the deficit to 2-1. With Hammond occupying second after the fruitless throw to the plate, Mogan flew straight to center as Krista Clyde squeezed the ball ending the Big Orange threat.
Ward responded to her tough first inning by beginning the bottom of the second with a strikeout of third baseman Starr Dorsey. Auburn shortstop Kyndall White ripped a shot into center field to grant the Tigers a one-out base runner. Center fielder Krista Clyde bounced down to third with Callahan’s only play throwing across the diamond to Lapicki for the second out. With an occupant at second, Trosclair stepped in the box against Ward and immediately got ahead 3-0, while a passed ball allowed the runner to advance 60 feet to third. UT’s 6-0 right hander battled back to 3-2 before catching Trosclair swinging to slide out of the jam with no further damage.
Callahan opened the top of the third inning with what has to be one of the longest home runs in Jane B. Moore Field history. Her solo blast to deep left center, her team-best ninth of the year, traveled well over the scoreboard before richocheting off the very top of an approximately 40-foot high light standard and then bounding away to dead-lock the contest at 2-2. Doepking followed with a sharp single up the middle to continue the assault. After a Lady Vol strikeout, Lapicki delivered a base knock through the left side placing two aboard with one down. Webb flew out to left for the second out. In need of a clutch hit, Grieve ripped a pitch back up the box and into center as freshman pinch runner Natalee Weissinger raced home from second granting UT its first lead at 3-2. The throw in from the outfield got away for an error permitting Grieve to end up at second and Lapicki at third. A strikeout ended things, but not before Tennessee had already plated a pair of runs on four hits in the inning.
The fireworks continued into the bottom of the third as Auburn’s Scott bounced a single through the infield and into center to christen the frame. Finney was called upon to drop a sacrifice bunt but, after fouling off two attempts, failed to get the job done by popping up on the infield to Posey. AU’s Fernandez ripped a liner just off the edge of the glove of Lapicki at first to put two aboard with still just one down in the frame. Gray hammered a liner toward third that had the potential to perhaps tie the contest. Callahan leapt high into the air and corralled the sphere on a “web gem” play as it was headed into the outfield. The Holden, Mo., native landed back on Earth, turned and fired to Mogan covering second to complete a vital inning-ending double play.
In the top of the fourth, Mogan bounced one through the right side of the infield to record Tennessee’s ninth hit of the contest. On a 1-1 offering, Callahan blasted a shot to deep left and down the line, but the potential homer drifted foul for a very long strike. She grounded down to Dorsey at third, but the ball was misplayed for an error as Callahan joined sophomore pinch runner Nicole Kajitani on the base paths with one down. AU’s Thompson went to 3-2 versus Doepking before UT’s Acton, Calif., native popped up to second. Huff grounded to Bell at first as she corralled the orb and stepped on first completing the Big Orange fourth.
Ward became the first pitcher in the match-up to retire an opposing offense one-two-three, and it didn’t occur until the bottom of the fourth. Auburn’s Bell bounced out to Posey at short, Dorsey lined right back to Ward in the circle and White grounded down to third.
Lapicki singled down the left field line opening UT’s half of the fifth as her blooper dropped just in front of Finney. That set the stage for a towering two-run blast from Webb as the Hemet, Calif., native’s fourth big fly of the season traveled well over the wall past the flagpole in center upping Tennessee’s advantage to 5-2. That ended the day in the circle for Thompson as AU head coach Tina Deese summoned in lefty reliever Angel Bunner. She was greeted rudely by a double down the left field line from Grieve. Posey bounced routinely to White at short, but the fielder mistakenly thought about trying to get Grieve heading to third and wasted too much time allowing Posey to reach first safely. As Posey swiped her team-best 29th base of the season, the toss went into center field allowing Grieve to race home with UT’s sixth run. With Posey standing just 60 feet from paydirt, Bunner uncorked a wild pitch on strike three to Hammond allowing the runner to come home for a 7-2 lead and Hammond to reach first despite the K. That’s when the inning truly delved into the bizarre as Kajitani reached on a throwing error by Auburn’s Dorsey and Hammond ended up gunned down at the plate while trying to come all the way around from first. Another wild pitch from Bunner sent Kajitani scurrying from third towards the plate, but she was tagged out as Fernandez corralled the ball and dove back to the dish to make the play. With two down, Callahan bounced out to short ending the four-run Big Orange offensive explosion just a little short of what it might have been.
The Blue & Orange got a pair of runs back on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth. The rally started with a one-out single from Trosclair that was cashed in on an unexpected two-bagger to the wall in left from the slap-hitting Scott. An RBI base knock off the bat of Gray brought AU within 7-4. On the play, however, UT’s defense wisely threw behind the lead runner at second catching her straying too far off the base and ending a potentially more lucrative frame.
The sixth inning went quietly as Tennessee had a base runner doubled off via a liner right at AU first baseman Bell. The Tigers had Bell and Dorsey ground out harmlessly to Posey at short before White ripped a shot right back at the circle. The ball ricocheted off Ward’s midsection, but she recovered to corral the sphere and underhand to Lapicki concluding the frame.
In the top of the seventh, Webb continued her impressive day at the dish with a triple off the base of the wall in right center improving to 3-4 in the match-up. Grieve followed with a bouncer to short that was misplayed allowing the runner to score Tennessee’s eighth tally. Following a stolen base, junior left fielder Danielle Pieroni gave an offering from Bunner a ride to deep center, but it was caught at the base of the wall for a long second out. Kajitani grounded out back to the circle to end the inning and set UT’s final count at eight runs on 14 hits.
Auburn went quietly in the bottom of the seventh as two groundouts and an infield pop-up secured Ward’s 17th win of the season and the 8-4 triumph for the Big Orange.
Saturday’s doubleheader versus Auburn will conclude at approximately 7:45 p.m. ET at Jane B. Moore Field in Auburn, Ala. First pitch for Sunday’s series finale is slated for 2 p.m. ET. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com and, as always, periodic updates of the UT games will be recorded on the Lady Vol Hotline (865-974-8700, box #6).