The 12th-ranked Lady Vol softball team completed its first-ever sweep of No. 18 South Carolina with a 5-1 triumph at Tyson Park on Wednesday afternoon.
Senior Angela Brewer snapped a scoreless tie with a two-run homer in the fourth inning and Tennessee (37-8, 10-4 SEC) erupted for three runs in the sixth to put the game out of reach after the Gamecocks (17-11, 6-9) had pulled to within 2-1 in the top of the frame.
"Angela (Brewer) and Stacey (Jennings) came up with important hits in clutch situations to propel us to victory," said co-coach Ralph Weekly. "Mandie (Fishback) played stellar defense at second base and her efforts were crucial in holding South Carolina to one run.
"We are proud of our kids for their play throughout the entire series."
Although her scoreless streak was halted at 39.2 innings, freshman Monica Abbott scattered three hits with four strikeouts en route to her 29th complete game of the year. The rookie has now taken her last 11 decisions to improve to 30-4 on the campaign.
Following a single into left field by senior Nancy Crane to start the game, Abbott retired the next 11 South Carolina batters before grazing junior Kristin Hall on the elbow with two down in the fourth. The southpaw would have junior Meghan Cornett tap out to Brewer to bring the Lady Vols to the plate.
Brewer stepped to the dish in the bottom of the inning a belted a two-out, two-run homer over the center field wall for her second dinger of the series and a 2-0 lead. The previous hitter, senior Amber Rhinehart, had raced down the line to beat the relay throw from senior shortstop Amber Curtis to extend the inning.
Crane and senior Samantha Jennings poked consecutive singles for USC to open the sixth and Curtis executed a sacrifice to advance her teammates. An RBI groundout by Hall trimmed Tennessee's lead in half at 2-1 and moved her teammate to third. However, the left-hander would jam Cornett on a pop-up in foul territory to strand the runner.
The hosts would stage a two-out rally with three runs on three hits to build a 5-1 lead in the home portion of the inning. Rhinehart had a 15-pitch at bat against Henkes before drawing a walk and Brewer earned a free pass to force a Gamecock pitching change. After Johnson arrived from the bullpen, an untimely passed ball gave the Lady Vols runners on second and third.
Jennings then ripped a triple, the second of her career, to deep center field to bring across freshman pinch runner Ashley Cline and Brewer. Sophomore Katherine Card followed with an RBI single, her second hit of the game, off the USC third baseman to finalize the margin.
Capping off a perfect 11-0 homestand and improving to 15-1 on its own turf this season, Tennessee will next head to Fayetteville for a three-game series against Arkansas this weekend.