TEMPE, Ariz. – Despite a nearly 17-hour postponement, No. 12/12 Tennessee was able to sustain its defensive momentum on Tuesday evening and hold off No. 22/22 Arizona State to close the Kajikawa Classic with an 8-5 victory.
After a 35-minute rain delay pushed back the game’s original 9 p.m. (ET) start time on Monday night, the Lady Vols and Sun Devils made it to the top of the fourth inning, before a heavy downpour forced the game to be called for the night and rescheduled for Tuesday evening. The Lady Vols, who will head to Mexico early Wednesday morning, had an open day in Tempe on Tuesday that allowed for the rearrangement.
Tennessee went into the day with a 4-0 lead and had to rely on its pitching and infield to hold off a persistent ASU offense that came within one score in the bottom of the sixth. It marks the second consecutive win for the Orange and White over the Sun Devils and is the longest streak in the short series. UT won two in a row in a six-year stretch: 3-1 (9) in 2006 and 3-0 against a then No. 1-ranked Sun Devil team in 2012 in Tempe.
Unable to bring in runs in innings 4-6, the Lady Vols were finally able add some insurance scores to the ledger in the top of the seventh. Freshmen KK McCrary, who came in to pinch hit for Kaitlin Parsons (1-for-2), opened the market up on an RBI double to bring in senior Treasuary Poindexter who pinch ran for Madison Webber.
Junior Amanda Ayala (2-for-4) then put things out of reach with a two-run homer to move things to 8-3.
The Sun Devils posted three runs across the fifth and sixth innings to bring the score to 4-3 before the Lady Vols were able to get their bats swinging. ASU outhit UT 11-7 on the night. The Pac-12 program tacked on another two runs in the bottom of the seventh with load bases, but the Vols’ defense had just enough left to clip another ASU run.
Freshman Callie Turner picked up the win in 5.1 innings, recording two strikeouts, two earned runs and two walks. Redshirt sophomore Samantha Bender earned the save stepping in for 0.2 innings forcing a sacrifice fly and a ground out to conclude one of the most competitive opening weekends in program history. It is the first time UT has faced at least three ranked opponents in a season-opening tournament since 1998 and the toughest start to a schedule under co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly, who took over the program in 2002.
Lady Vols scoring got started in the early innings as Ally Shipman (1-for-2) blasted an RBI double to bring in Phillips, who was hit by a pitch to lead off the top of the second. Shipman was then brought home on a two-out double from first baseman Ashley Morgan (1-for-3).
In the third, the Lady Vols continued their offensive attack with Chelsea Seggern drawing a walk and Ayala singling to start the frame. UT looked to extend its lead to five behind a homer from Phillips, but an eager Phillips ran by Ayala as the Lady Vols rounded the bases, forcing an automatic out. Subsequently, Tennessee was only able to collect two runs on the yard ball to move things to 4-0.
The Lady Vols return to the east coast, but will head to Tampa, Fla., for the USF Invitational Feb. 21-23. Tennessee will open a Friday doubleheader with FIU at 11:30 a.m. (ET), followed by UCF at 2 p.m. Saturday UT will have a rematch with the Knights at 9 a.m. before taking on host-team USF at 2 p.m. On getaway day, the Lady Vols will take on the Bulls at 11:30 a.m. The games will be played at USF Softball Stadium.