The No. 2 Tennessee Lady Volunteer softball team will look to prepare for its upcoming SEC slate by hosting the Tennessee Tournament this weekend at Lee Stadium.
Coming off two emphatic victories over Wright State, the Lady Vols (17-1) have one week to get ready for the SEC season that begins on March 14.
"It's just a tournament that we're putting on right before we play," said sophomore Hannah Akamine, who hit two home runs against Wright State on Wednesday. "I think we're all really excited for it.
"It's the last tournament before actual SEC play, and we're really coming out with some passion and drive to really be competitive."
Tennessee will begin its preparation today with a doubleheader against Holy Cross (1-3) and Campbell (13-8), followed by Western Kentucky (11-6-1) on Saturday.
The toughest test for the Lady Vols could come on Sunday when they face Georgia Southern (14-5) in the first game of a doubleheader.
In their third game of the season, Tennessee barely escaped with a 1-0 win against the Eagles as Lady Vol Melissa Davin scored the only run of the game with a solo home run in the second inning.
The second game of Sunday's doubleheader will be against College of Charleston (12-7), which has won seven straight games. The streak was started Feb. 25 when sophomore Valerie Cassell no-hit South Carolina State.
"There are about to be a bunch of really good teams," sophomore Rainey Gaffin said, "and our first home series with people here from everywhere. So I just think it's going to be an awesome tournament and playing good competition. It's going to be a good weekend. I'm excited."
Gaffin herself tossed a no-hitter in her first career start Wednesday during an 8-0 win over Wright State.
Gaffin was not initially expected to start for the Lady Vols this season after being converted to a pitcher this offseason, but after some of her performances in relief, co-head coach Ralph Weekly said he had two reasons to change his tune.
"She's a really good pitcher, number one," Weekly said. "And number two, some of the games she's thrown, one of them she threw against the University of South Florida and the coach there is a U.S. team coach, and he was very pleased with the way she threw and he's been a pitching coach for a long time."
Gaffin has now been thrown into the mix for the second starter behind senior Ellen Renfroe.
"Rainey's got some talent," Weekly said. "She's got to be polished a little bit. Ellen's our primary starter. The second spot is up for grabs, and Rainey made a good run for it tonight."
However, Gaffin has serious competition from the others on the pitching staff.
Sophomore Erin Gabriel has succeed filling the second starter role up to now – currently wielding a 3-0 record with a 2.37 ERA – while junior Cheyanne Tarango has also performed well.
"They are all three trying to be the other starter because you only have two starters in fast pitch softball," Weekly said. "Even if they don't become the starter, they will become the first backup. Also, Ellen graduates this year, so we are looking for two or three pitchers to carry us next season."
First pitch for UT's matchup against Holy Cross will be 3:30 p.m. while Campbell and the Lady Vols will square off at 6 p.m.