In its last game before conference play, the Tennessee Lady Vols softball team rode an offensive explosion to a 15-0, five-inning win over the Western Carolina Catamounts (9-14) inside Sheri Parker Lee Stadium on Tuesday night.
Tennessee (22-2) broke the game wide open in the third inning when catcher Annie Aldrete stepped up to the plate with bases loaded. The freshman fought off multiple two-strike pitches before crushing a ball over the center-field wall to put the Lady Vols up 12-0.
"It felt great," Aldrete said after the game. "My last at-bat there were bases loaded and I popped up, so I'm glad I could come through for the team when we needed."
The Western Carolina pitching staff had a day it would love to forgot as starter Courtney Buchanan went two innings, giving up six earned runs on seven hits.
Mallory Broome started the third inning in relief for the Catamounts, but she could not cool off the hot Tennessee bats. Broome was able to record just one out, while giving up seven earned runs on four hits.
Coming off a weekend where Tennessee struggled at times at the plate, co-head coach Ralph Weekly said he was happy the team turned in a strong offensive performance.
"We made some changes," co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "We want to get back to the speed game more. We have about 13 players that can play well at this level, and we just need to maximize those player. Western Carolina is a good team, but not an SEC-type team."
Ellen Renfroe got the start for Tennessee, and was her usual self, improving her record to 13-0 on the season. Renfroe pitched only three innings but managed to strike out five Western Carolina batters while giving up one hit.
Sophomore Rainey Gaffin pitched the last two innings and was equally impressive, striking out three batters and giving up just one hit of her own.
Tennessee, however, took complete control of the game in the third inning, scoring nine runs on seven hits.
Gaffin started things off with a triple to right field, scoring two runs. Aldrete followed that up with her grand slam, and then first baseman Haley Tobler doubled down the left field line to drive in two more. Gaffin capped the scoring with her third RBI of the inning on a single to right.
Aldrete got the scoring started in the first inning, driving in senior Melissa Davin from third with a single to left field. The next batter was sophomore Lexi Overstreet, and the leftie hit a two-run shot over the left-field wall to put the Vols up 3-0 early.
"I wasn't going up there trying to do anything special," Overstreet said of her homerun. "I was just going up there to hit the ball and be more aggressive.
"It felt pretty good because opposite field is something I've been working on, so it felt really good to hit a ball opposite field."
Tennessee put three more runs on the board in the second inning, starting with an RBI single from freshman Megan Geer. Davin followed that with an RBI single of her own, and Overstreet capped off the inning by drawing a bases loaded walk for her third RBI of the night.
Tennessee will open SEC play this weekend at Arkansas, and Weekly said the team is hoping to get conference play started on the right foot.
"I'm really excited," Weekly said. "I don't know really where the team is. We haven't played anybody in the SEC yet, but I think they are in as good a place as can be, and I know Arkansas is a very worthy opponent."