The No. 12 Tennessee softball team (33-9-1, 10-6-1 SEC) pulled out the brooms, as they swept the Auburn Tigers (27-16, 7-8 SEC) over the weekend. Despite tornado warning, the Lady Vols took the series opener, 5-2, on Friday night. On Saturday, the Lady Vols played a double header for their senior day. Tennessee won the first game, 2-1, and they won the second game, 3-2, off a two-run walk-off triple from junior second baseman Nicole Kajitani.
On Friday, freshman pitcher Cat Hosfield improved her record to 22-8 on the season, recording her 15th complete game. The Murfreesboro, Tenn., native allowed one earned run on six hits while posting seven strikeouts and three walks. Sophomore catcher Jen Lapicki continued her astonishing play in the SEC this year by going 1-3 with two RBIs. Lapicki has punished opposing Southeastern Conference pitchers with a conference average of .511 and a league RBI total of 15.
“Every win is a big win in the SEC race,” Lady Vol co-head coach Karen Weekly said on her team’s performance on Friday. “I thought it was key for us that we scored early. Jen Lapicki continues to come up with clutch RBIs for us in big situations. Cat Hosfield had a good outing from the circle and got tough outs for our team at critical times.”
The first game on Saturday equaled the longest match-up in Lady Vol softball history, spanning 11 innings. After being honored in senior day festivities, Danielle Pieroni took the circle for the Lady Vols. Pieroni pitched a gem, giving up no runs through six innings, but she was taken out in relief. Hosfield picked up the victory in relief, working two innings, allowing one hit and striking out a pair. Freshman shortstop Ashley Andrews went 2-2 at the plate with a clutch triple with one out in the bottom of the 11th. That set the stage for senior day heroics for Pieroni as the re-entered hitter hit a walk-off single, driving the game-winning run in Andrews.
“We are proud of all three of our pitchers, but especially Danielle Pieroni and Ashton Ward,” Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “They both threw exceptionally well in today’s opener.”
The second game on Saturday also ended in dramatic fashion as Nicole Kajitani delivered a walk-off triple for the second time in two weeks. The San Bernardino, Calif., product led the UT offense by going 3-4, with a double, triple, and two RBIs. Junior first baseman Tiffany Huff went 1-for-3 at the plate with an RBI, her SEC-leading 58th of the season. Cat Hosfield was solid from the circle, recording her 24th win on the year.
“Today was all about our pitching and Nicole Kajitani,” Ralph Weekly said. “When Nicole was recruited, she was one of the top 10 players out of Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Times. She has had her good days during her first two years, but in the last few weeks, Nicole has truly established herself as a vitally important cog in our lineup. She came through today as the champion we know she is. Auburn is a great team and competed very hard during this series.”
The Lady Vols will play next on Tuesday against ETSU, as they briefly step out of conference play. The game will start at 6 p.m. at Lee Softball Stadium.