KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Opening day for No. RV/23/24 Tennessee softball has been rescheduled for Sunday, Feb. 14, with the Lady Vols now set to host Eastern Kentucky at noon ET, with the potential for a doubleheader if time permits, at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.
Fans will not be permitted to Sunday’s contest(s).
Brian Rice will call all of the action during the weekend on UTSports.com. No live stream will be available.
The Lady Vols were originally slated to play five games at the Kickin’ Chicken Classic in Conway, S.C., starting yesterday, but never got a chance to step on the field due to continuous rain. The tournament was ultimately canceled with inclement weather forecasted the remainder of the weekend.
The Shipman is Sailing
Junior catcher Ally Shipman has garnered significant recognition during the preseason, collecting a pair of preseason All-America honors (D1Softball and Softball America – both second team) and also ranking 13th among juniors in the nation by Softball America. The outlet also pegged Shipman the No. 37 overall player in the country. Shipman was off to a momentous start in 2020, after coming off of a season-ending injury suffered midway through her 2019 campaign. The Valencia, Calif., native co-led the Lady Vols with a .403 batting average, seven doubles and a pair of triples alongside redshirt-senior Chelsea Seggern. Shipman also added 16 RBIs and a pair of home runs after starting all 23 games last season.
After missing the shortened 2020 season due to a short-term injury, Ashley Rogers returns to the circle as the Lady Vols ace. The junior was scheduled to make her first appearance during UT’s SEC opener at Texas A&M last season, but moments before the team got on the plane on March 12 the season was postponed and then ultimately cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, Rogers’ play in the circle during her freshman year (2019), which earned her first-team NFCA All-Region and All-SEC honors, made a lasting impression and the Athens, Tenn., native found herself among the members of this season’s Preseason All-SEC Team along with Chelsea Seggern. She recorded a 1.94 ERA in her first collegiate season, finishing with a 21-7 win-los record that included seven shutouts.
A Score of Success
The 2021 season marks the 20th season that co-head coaches Ralph Weekly and Karen Weekly have managed the Lady Vol ball club. The NFCA Hall of Famers (Ralph was inducted in 2011, Karen was inducted in 2018) boast an overall record of 1,408-466-2 at Tennessee. In their time on Rocky Top, the program transformed into a national powerhouse, with 18 consecutive seasons in the top 25 polls. Since 2001, the Weekly’s have guided players to 36 All-America selections, 64 NFCA All-Region nods, five SEC Player of the Year honors, three SEC Pitcher of the Year titles, 60 All-SEC selections and a deluge of distinguished recognitions. Some of the sports’ most respected names once sported the Orange and White, including Olympian Monica Abbott, considered one of the greatest pitchers of all time, India Chiles, Ivy Renfroe, Rainey Gaffin, Madison Shipman, Sarah Fekete, Raven Chavanne and Aubrey Leach, to name a few. The Weekly’s, who also were co-heads at Chattanooga, have led the Lady Vols to seven WCWS appearances and were SEC Co-Coaches of the Year in 2004 and 2007.
Rhodes Back in Rocky Top
Tennessee fans will see a familiar face around the dugout this season with the return of former Lady Vol pitcher Megan Rhodes Smith as an assistant. Rhodes-Smith will manage the bullpen. A standout pitcher for UT from 2005-08, she spent her previous year as the head coach at Belmont in her hometown of Nashville. Prior to her time with the Bruins, Smith spent six seasons focusing on the development of pitchers and catchers at Lipscomb University, and served as the program’s associate head coach from 2018-19. With the Lady Vols, Smith, now a mom of two young girls, leads a talented group with a diverse skillset including Ashley Rogers (1.94 ERA, 21-7 win-loss record in 2019), Callie Turner (2.67 ERA, 8-7 W/L in 2020), Samantha Bender (2.68 ERA, 5-1 W/L in 2020), Anna Hazlewood and newcomer Bailey McCachren.
Tightening the Tennessee Borders
UT’s roster has gotten a boost from in-state talent once again. The 2021 members include nine Lady Vols from the state of Tennessee: Kaylan Cole (Newport), Anna Fox (Columbia), Cailin Hannon (Franklin), Anna Hazlewood (Martin), KK McCrary (Murfreesboro), Treasu
2020 record: 22-2, 0-0 OVC
Series record: Lady Vols lead 10-0
Last outing: A 19th-ranked Tennessee run-ruled the Colonels 10-1 in five innings on April 4, 2017 in Knoxville.
Key player/stat: The Colonels return their top offensive threat in redshirt junior Sammi Miller, a transfer from Virginia Tech. Miller appeared and started in all 24 games during the shortened season and recorded a team-high .427 batting average, eight doubles and three triples. She also posted a team-best five stolen bases to go with 13 RBIs and ranked in the top five of the OVC in hits, runs scored, doubles, triples, and total bases.