Tennessee junior catcher Shannon Doepking blasted a two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Lady Vols a 2-0 victory over South Carolina in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader.
“It felt good. I knew as soon as I hit it that it was going out,” Doepking said of the game-winner. “I had been making solid contact all game. I just went up there confident, and with the runner on second, I was really just focusing on making solid contact.”
Sophomore right fielder Danielle Pieroni led the rally in the seventh with a one-out double to right off USC pitcher Melissa Hendon. Pieroni was replaced with pinch runner Lillian Hammond just before Doepking delivered the walk-off shot.
Senior pitcher Monica Abbott improved her record to 23-1 on the season for the Lady Vols. Abbott struck out 15 USC batters en route to a two-hit shutout, winning the duel with Hendon, who gave up only five hits and struck out nine.
The second game of the doubleheader would again prove to be a low-scoring affair. Pitching and defense carried the Lady Vols (30-2, 8-2) to a 1-0 victory to sweep the doubleheader over USC (24-9, 3-5).
“Our defense and our pitching were outstanding, and that’s what carried us,” Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said.
Junior hurler Megan Rhodes gave up one hit and struck out six USC batters in five innings of work to earn her seventh victory of the season. Abbott pitched the final two innings in relief to record her second save.
The lone run of the ball game was registered in the bottom of the fourth. Senior center fielder Lindsey Schutzler walked to lead off the inning. On the next pitch, Schutzler took off and swiped her 15th stolen base of the year. Freshman left fielder Erinn Webb grounded out to the right side to advance the Schutzler to third with only one out. Junior first baseman Tonya Callahan then stepped up to the plate and delivered her 21st RBI of the year on a sacrifice fly to center field.
The Lady Vol offense struggled Wednesday, posting only seven hits and three runs in the doubleheader, but the team managed to find clutch hits when it mattered. Doepking commented on the importance of grinding out wins when the offense isn’t there.
“We’re not at our best right now, but it shows we’re a good team when we can pull out a win when we are not playing at our highest level,” Doepking said.
The No. 1 Lady Vols will continue conference play this weekend, hosting the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks in a three-game series. Tyson Park will be the location for Saturday afternoon’s doubleheader at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and a single game Sunday at 1 p.m.