The No. 3 Tennessee Lady Volunteer softball team continued its struggles at the plate Saturday afternoon, falling to Western Kentucky (14-6-1), 3-2, due in part to a dominating performance from Lady Topper pitcher Emily Rousseau.
Rousseau threw a complete game, allowing only two earned runs on five Lady Vol hits in her best performance of the year thus far. She struck out ten batters, while improving her record to 8-5 on the season.
Tennessee (19-2) struggled getting runners on base, and when they did get on, the Lady Vols consistently failed to capitalize. Rousseau was able to strand seven Tennessee base runners, including a bases loaded situation.
"We're in a slump," Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "We're in a team hitting slump, one like we haven't been in in a long while. Too many players went down with runners in scoring position and that's the key."
The Lady Vols tried to make a late-inning rally, when junior first baseman Cheyanne Tarango hit a two-run shot over the center field wall to close the deficit to one in the bottom of the sixth. With the leadoff hitter due up first in the seventh the Lady Vols liked their chances to make a push.
Freshman second baseman Megan Geer led off the inning for Tennessee, and lined a hard hit ball into center field, where WKU centerfielder India Steward made a diving grab to rob a base hit. Rousseau took care of the rest, getting shortstop Madison Shipman to pop up, and striking catcher Annie Aldrete to end the game.
"We were in a great spot," Weekly said. "We had three .400 hitters coming up, you couldn't want to be in a better spot. When I came here and saw the flags blowing out, knowing we're a power team, I thought we would do what (Tarango) did. Just get one up and watch it travel."
Tarango was hoping to jumpstart her team with a big homerun, but nobody else picked up the slack, as that was the last hit Tennessee recorded on the afternoon.
"I had been struggling for a little bit," Tarango said. "Being an upperclassman and a leader on the team, I feel like I need to step up and pick up other people as well. We just have to stay confident, we know that we have big bats. We just need to stay within ourselves."
Following Wednesday's no-hitter, Tennessee pitcher Rainey Gaffin gave up a hit to the very first batter she faced Saturday. Gaffin threw six innings giving up three earned runs on six Lady Topper hits, falling to 3-1 on the season.
A two out, bases loaded double from WKU's Kelsie Maddox, started the scoring off in the third inning, putting the Lady Toppers up 2-0. Amanda Thomas added some much needed insurance in the fifth, driving in Brook Holloway from third.
Ellen Renfroe is the clear ace of the Tennessee pitching staff, and while they have solid depth, it is not always consistent. Renfroe can't pitch every game, so the coaching staff is still deciding what direction to go with his young pitchers.
"We're gonna have to look at," Weekly said. "We might have to go Ellen, committee, Ellen on our three game series, so all of them are gonna have to be ready to pitch."