Another heart-stopping rally, this one capped off with a seventh-inning RBI from freshman designated player Shelby Burchell, brought No. 13 Tennessee (27-8) back from a two-run deficit as the Lady Vols posted a 3-2 victory over a determined UTEP (21-18) squad on Wednesday evening at the Lee Softball Stadium.
Burchell knocked in UT’s first and last runs of the contest as part of a 1-for-2, two-RBI effort via a single up the middle in the bottom of the sixth and a squeeze bunt in the last half of the seventh. The Columbia, Tenn., native has now tallied a .778 (7-of-9) batting average with four RBIs over her last four contests.
Freshman third baseman Jessica Spigner (.358) went 2-for-2 at the dish with a run scored, while sophomore center fielder Kelly Grieve delivered a pair of hits in four at-bats, lifting her season average to .407. Sophomore catcher Jen Lapicki came through with a RBI single in the sixth frame to tie the count at 2-2, and junior first baseman Tiffany Huff (.468) was a perfect 1-for-1 at the plate with two walks while scoring the game-winning run.
“I really questioned my judgment in scheduling a mid-week game against a team that entered the day with 52 home runs and who had already beaten defending national champion Arizona State this season,” Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “UTEP was as advertised, a very tough and disciplined team. This was a tough game for us.”
Tennessee got a pair of base runners aboard with two outs in the bottom half of the first as Huff reached via an infield single to short and Spigner walked. A bouncer back to the circle by Burchell ended the opening frame with no damage on the scoreboard.
A fielding miscue on the Lady Vol infield opened the door for a potential Miner scoring threat in the top of the second. After designated player Shea Lodes’ bouncer was misplayed, center fielder Becky Smith hustled to beat out an infield single, putting two on the base paths with two outs. First baseman Jennifer Stalter grounded out routinely to Spigner at third, however, as UTEP left the duo stranded.
Troupe laced a two-bagger into the gap in left center with one down in the third frame. An errant high throw to first on a bouncer from Townsend put a pair of Miners on base with UTEP’s No. 4 and 5 hitters coming to the plate. Bennett delivered a base knock back through the middle, scoring Troupe from second for a 1-0 lead.
The Miner lead became 2-0 in the top of the sixth as Lodes led off the inning by driving a solo homer over the left field wall.
In need of a rally, Huff was struck by a Townsend pitch opening the bottom of the sixth. Spigner got ahead in the count 3-1 before drawing a walk to join her teammate on the base paths. Facing a full count at 3-2, Burchell came through with a clutch base knock back up the middle, scoring Huff from second and cutting the UT deficit to 2-1. With Spigner at third and pinch runner Natalee Weissinger occupying second, Webb joined them via walk, loading the bags with still no one retired. Lapicki laced a sharp base knock through the right side of the infield as Spigner raced across to tie the score at 2-2.
Hosfield retired the first two Miners in the top of the seventh before running into a little trouble. Townsend just missed a home run, ripping a double into the left center field gap that hit about a foot from the top of the wall. Bennett stepped in with a chance to give UTEP back the lead but grounded out to short as Andrews made the routine play.
With one final chance in regulation, Huff coerced a one out walk off Townsend. A passed ball on Carrera moved the runner into scoring position with Spigner at the plate. The power-hitting rookie battled to a full count, and then delivered a single through the left side of the infield, advancing the lead runner to third. With the winning run standing just 60 feet away, Burchell dropped a squeeze bunt, scoring Huff for the dramatic 3-2 victory.