KNOXVILLE (UTLadyVols.com) – No. 2 Florida (57-2, 25-1 Southeastern Conference) tallied three runs in the first inning and held off numerous offensive threats, including 11 stranded Lady Vol base runners, from No. 12 Tennessee (46-11, 14-10 SEC) in posting a 4-2 victory in the opener of a Saturday doubleheader at the Lee Softball Stadium.
Senior shortstop Kenora Posey and senior third baseman Tonya Callahan each went 2-for-3 in the contest against UF ace pitcher Stacey Nelson (36-2). With the effort, Callahan’s season average rose to .471 while her SEC-only mark now stands at an amazing .509. Posey, on her “Senior Day” improved to .399 overall and .373 in league action. Sophomore right fielder Tiffany Huff and sophomore center fielder Erinn Webb each posted an RBI in the match-up.
Freshman Ashton Ward started for the Lady Vols, allowing three earned runs on four hits over two innings of work to fall to 27-5 on the season. Junior Danielle Pieroni was solid in relief permitting just one tally on five hits over five frames in the circle.
The Gators wasted no time jumping in front against Ward in the top of the first by posting three runs on four hits. Florida center fielder Kim Waleszonia christened the frame with a double into the right center field gap. With one down, first baseman Ali Gardiner singled back up the middle plating UF’s initial score. Following a strikeout by left fielder Francesca Enea, shortstop Megan Bush blasted a two-run homer to left center, setting the score at 3-0.
Seeking to respond to UF’s big inning, Posey battled Nelson for eight pitches before drawing a lead-off walk in the bottom of the first. Freshman designated player Kelsey Stander dropped a sacrifice bunt that the Gator pitcher fielded and threw to first. Second baseman Aja Paculba raced over to cover the bag, but bobbled the toss while stepping on the base allowing the UT rookie to reach safely. Callahan followed by driving a 1-2 pitch to right for a single. On the hit, UF’s Mary Ratliff faked out Stander by pretending she would make the catch before corralling the ball on the short-hop and gunning down the rookie via force at second. After a K for the second out of the frame, Huff drew a free pass to load the bases. Freshman first baseman Jen Lapicki fought over six pitches before grounding out to second, stranding three runners.
Singles from sophomore second baseman Nicole Kajitani and Posey in the bottom of the second and a lead-off base knock in the third from Callahan went for naught as Nelson managed to escape both innings with no damage.
Ward gave way to Pieroni in the circle to start the top of the third and the Madison, Tenn., native pitched effectively through the top of the fifth, keeping UF from adding to its advantage despite allowing at least one base runner in each inning.
Beginning the bottom of the fifth, a lead-off single from Posey and an error on a ground ball from freshman second baseman Chandra Mogan placed two aboard for UT against Nelson. Following a pop-up on the infield off the bat of Callahan for out number one, Doepking delivered a roller down to third that was corralled by UF’s Corrie Brooks. The Gator fielder turned quickly and attempted to tag Posey on the way by, but the Los Angeles, Calif., native avoided the attempt loading the bags on the fielder’s choice. Huff battled to draw a walk loading the bases and forcing in Tennessee’s first score. Nelson then hit Webb with her first offering as another run crossed cutting the UT deficit to 3-2. A groundout back to the circle ended the inning, but not before the Lady Vols had climbed back to within a run.
Tennessee’s hurler worked a one-two-three frame in the sixth bringing the Orange & White up in the bottom half seeking to deadlock the contest. Mogan christened a two-out threat by drawing a walk against Nelson. Callahan was struck in the back with the first offering she saw placing a pair aboard for Doepking. The Acton, Calif., native swung at the initial pitch grounding down to third as Brooks corralled the sphere and stepped on the bag forcing the lead runner.
The Gators added to their advantage in the final inning as Brooks doubled and later scored via a sacrifice fly off the bat of Paculba for a 4-2 lead.
Unfortunately, Tennessee went down in order in the bottom of the seventh as Huff grounded out and both Lapicki and Webb flew out to left and center field, respectively.
No. 12 Tennessee will conclude its doubleheader versus No. 2 Florida on Saturday evening at approximately 6:45 p.m. ET. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com.