GAINESVILLE, Fla. – In Saturday’s extra-inning back and forth affair, No. 12 Tennessee came out on top, 3-2, against the No. 5 Gators in the ninth frame thanks to a bases-loaded, walk-off walk drawn by senior Haley Bearden to force the deciding Game 3 on Sunday.
Caylan Arnold spun a gem in the circle for the Lady Vols, tossing her second 9.0-inning complete game of the season. The junior allowed just two runs (one earned) on seven hits while striking out seven of her 34 batters faced. Arnold threw a career-high 177 pitches in the outing.
The victor of tomorrow’s Gainesville Super Regional final will advance to the Women’s College World Series and join No. 8 Alabama as two of three potential SEC schools still in the running for the championship. No. 14 Kentucky needs to win tonight to force a third game against No. 3 Washington.
On Saturday, the Lady Vols wasted no time getting on the board, scoring one run on three hits in the first inning. Leach led off with a single and then took second on a delayed steal before advancing to third on a wild pitch. Seggern then hit the senior home with an RBI single to right field.
In the fourth inning, Florida tied the contest at 1-1. UF’s Kendyl Lindaman led off with a single and moved to second on a throwing error by Tennessee. She then came around to score on Jaimie Hoover’s single.
Tennessee reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the fourth off the bat of Madison Pacini. The freshman entered as a pinch hitter with runners on second and third and one out. With a 3-1 count, Pacini roped an RBI single to left field, giving UT a 2-1 edge.
The Gators then answered in the fifth stanza with a run of their own to square the game up at 2-2. Jade Caraway reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on an RBI single to center before Arnold delivered a strikeout to leave two runners stranded.
In the bottom of the fifth, Tennessee threatened with a lead-off double by Amanda Ayala, but she was left stranded as three consecutive outs were recorded.
After a silent sixth, Arnold retired UF in order to start the seventh frame. During their turn at the plate, the Lady Vols put the go-ahead run in scoring position with two outs but a strikeout ended the threat to send the game to extras.
Both teams saw runners reach third base in the eighth inning, but to no avail as consecutive outs ended Florida’s threat and Cailin Hannon was caught stealing at home.
The Lady Vols had executed delayed steals twice already in the game and made the decision to go for it with two outs on the board. As the throw was made back to the Gators’ Kelly Barnhill, Hannon took off for home but was called out at the plate.
In the final frame, Florida had runners reach base on back-to-back walks but couldn’t muster the offense needed to drive in a run.
UT broke the stalemate in the bottom of the ninth, using one hit and three walks. With one out, Leach and Ayala drew free passes. Seggern then knocked a single to right to load the bases and bring Bearden to the plate. The outfielder stayed patient in the at-bat and drew her second straight walk of the game to bring in the winning run, giving Tennessee the 3-2 edge.
WALK IT OFF: Saturday’s walk-off win against Florida marks the Lady Vols’ first walk-off win of the season and the first since Haley Bearden hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning vs. LSU on April 14, 2018.
ON DECK: Tennessee will face off against Florida at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday with the winner advancing to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla. The game will be aired on ESPNU and UTSports.com, AM 990 and the Tennessee Gameday App will carry a live radio broadcast.