After the Lady Vol softball team overcame a 4-3 deficit with a run in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings against 25th-ranked South Florida, the game would later be stopped in the ninth so UT could make its way to the airport for its flight back to Knoxville. Co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly's squad completed its opening weekend of action at the Louisville Slugger Tournament with a record of 2-2-1.
"One of our goals was to finish strong and it is a positive that we won two games in the last inning and tied another one. This team is motivated to become better every day and we will continue to improve in all areas of the game."
In a crazy seventh inning, which the Bulls entered trailing by a couple of runs, sophomore Holly Groves led off the last stanza with an infield single and then raced down to second on a wild pitch by UT junior Stephanie Humphrey. A smashed liner by senio Ginny Georgantas allowed Groves to score, trimming the margin to 3-2. A single into right field by rookie Niki Trowell provided the Bulls with a pair of runners aboard and none out before USF pulled off a double steal, leaving Georgantas on third and Trowell at second.
Humphrey answered by striking out freshman Carmela Liwag for the first out before junior Rachel Williams was intentionally walked to load the bases. Soon after, a flare into left by junior Stephanie Roberts brought home Georgantas with the tying run. Sophomore Shelly Riker later earned a free pass from Humphrey, helping the Bulls seize the lead, 4-3.
Still with the bases juiced, the Weeklys elected to bring in senior Nicole Borg to pitch to junior Renee Oursler. The Millbrae, Calif., native fanned Oursler and retired junior Courtney Lewellen to hold the score.
Even with runners placed on second base due to the international tiebreaker, neither South Florida nor Tennessee could bring anyone across in the eighth. UT had the better chance to score of the clubs, as freshman pinch runner Whitney Bradshaw was able to reach third base on a wild pitch by Trowell with no one out. However, the right-hander struck out sophomore Leigh Ann Ellis and had senior Nicole Murray and junior Carissa Roustan fly out to keep the affair tied.
South Florida snapped the stalemate in the third on Oursler's two-out RBI single to left field that drove in Riker. Her teammate had drawn a walk with two down before swiping second. Oursler laced an 0-1 pitch from Ellis just in front of UT sophomore left fielder Nikki Sexton, whose throw to Wilson was wide left.
Aided by a leadoff double from Ellisha Humphrey and a defensive miscue by USF, Tennessee tied the contest at 1-1 in the fourth. Following a groundout by Torres that enabled Humphrey to advance to third, freshman Amber Rhinehart's grounder was booted by the shortstop, allowing the tying run to be scored.
UT tacked on an insurance run in the home half of the sixth when Rhinehart cranked her first career homer with a shot over the left field fence to make the count 3-1 in favor of the Lady Vols.
Tennessee will resume action next weekend at the Triple Crown Invitational hosted by the University of Central Florida in St. Augustine.