KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – No. RV/23/24 Tennessee continues its 13-game homestand with a Saturday-Monday slate of doubleheaders at Sherri Parker Lee.
The Lady Vols welcome the Redhawks of SEMO Saturday at noon ET and 2:30 p.m., before hosting the RedHawks of Miami (OH) on Sunday in the same time slots.
Weekend play extends into Monday with a twin bill against Ohio at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
After inclement weather made play unlikely during opening weekend at a scheduled tournament in Conway, S.C., the Lady Vols returned to Knoxville and were able to sneak in a pair of outings against Eastern Kentucky to prevent the first weekend from being a complete wash.
UT is coming off of an undefeated Sunday after run-ruling the Colonels 10-0 to pick up their 11th consecutive season-opening victory, before posting a 3-2 comeback win in game 2 of the twin bill.
The return to SPL last week marked the first time in program history the Lady Vols began a season in Knoxville.
Fans will be permitted at games; however, ticketing and seating will be reduced to align with state and local social-distancing guidelines for public gatherings due to the pandemic. Stadium seating for the season is 20 percent of its typical capacity, allowing approximately 440 fans able to attend games.
While the season ticketing process is now complete, there is potential for a small number of single game tickets to be available for home games based on whether or not the visiting team uses its full allotment of tickets. A text message will be sent to season ticket holders who were not allocated tickets for this season on the day prior to the game with purchasing instructions. Fans with an AllVols account are encouraged to make sure their cell phone number is correct on their profile.
The games will be streamed on the ESPN App. Fans can also listen to the action on UTsports.com with Brian Rice on the call.
The Lady Vols collectively jumped in the record book after jacking four out of Sherri Parker Lee Stadium on Feb. 14 to open the season. It marked the 16th time in program history that a team has accomplished that feat and is tied for the seventh most homers in a single game. Junior catcher Ally Shipman belted the first dinger of the game over left center, before senior Ashley Morgan raked a three-run homer through centerfield. Newcomer and senior Ivy Davis made her name known on Rocky top with a two RBI yard ball and the day was punctuated by sophomore Kiki Milloy bombing one through left to bring in a pair of runs.
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. She is living up to the hype in early play after drilling two game-changing dingers to the scoreboard at Sherri Parker Lee, and combining for a .571 batting average in the first two outings against EKU. Shipman was also 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.
Rogers Impressive Return
After missing the shortened 2020 season due to a short-term injury, Ashley Rogers returned to the circle as the Lady Vols ace in UT’s lid-lifter. The junior found her form in the circle quickly after 630 days had passed since her last outing. Rogers tossed 13 strikeouts to match her career high and gave up just one hit against EKU. She also picked up her first save of the year after retiring five batters at the plate in the final two innings of game 2 vs the Colonels. Her 0.00 ERA is currently tied for first in the league.
Rogers 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-loss 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), Treasuary Poindexter (Covington), Ashley Rogers (Athens), Madison Webber (Sevierville), Josie Willingham (Medon).
2021 record: 0-3, 0-0 OVC
Series record: Never played each other before
Key player/stat: Despite being swept by Auburn, the Redhawks showed some grit outhitting the Tigers in game 2 of the series 10-9. The Redhawks are young with 11 freshmen and just two seniors. However, SEMO returns its top hitter in senior Rachel Anderson who finished last season with a .480 batting average, 24 hits, 19 runs and 15 RBI. She also is a whiz in base running nabbing a team-high 9-of-10 bases last year. The Redhawks collected 41 stolen bases in 2020 and only allowed nine, which will be a test for the Lady Vols defense that was adept in turning double plays last season.
2021 record: 0-2, 0-0 MAC
Series record: Tennessee leads 5-1
Last outing: No. 5 Tennessee finished off the RedHawks in a six-inning shutout, 8-0 in Knoxville on May 19, 2012.
Key player/stat: The RedHawks were unable to collect on its offensive momentum against No. 20 Mississippi State and fell two games. However, Miami’s Karlee Juarez went 4-for7 in the doubleheader and the Redhawks also recorded seven runs in the fifth inning of game 1 against the Bulldogs. They were just edged in hitting by MSU 15-14.
2020 record: 11-15, 0-0 MAC
Series record: Tennessee leads 5-0
Last outing: A 15th-ranked Tennessee downed Ohio 2-1 in Knoxville on March 2, 2017.
Key player/stat: Last season the Bobcats recorded 204 hits and 38 doubles and eight triples, but only hit .287 collectively, but allowed opponents a .317 hitting average. The Bobcats were supposed to open their season at the Kickin’ Chicken Classic in Conway, S.C. with the Lady Vols, but their plans were also marred by rain and they were unable to play the first weekend.