A seven-run explosion in the bottom of the sixth inning brought the most recent incarnation of the Tennessee softball team back from a four-run deficit to post a 10-7 victory over a group of UT softball greats in the first-annual Lady Vol Alumni Game on Sunday afternoon at the Lee Softball Stadium.
Among those who competed for the alums in the match-up included 2008 U.S. Olympian Monica Abbott, NFCA All-Americans Tonya Callahan and India Chiles, recent high-profile graduates Shannon Doepking, Katherine Card and Megan Rhodes and alums from the earlier years of the Big Orange program such as Jackie Beavers, Jenny Steele, Lauren Mattox, Ellisha and Stephanie Humphrey and Angela Brewer.
"This was a great weekend for Tennessee softball," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "It was wonderful having the former players return to UT for our first alumni weekend. Today's game was a great chance to blend the Lady Vols of the past with the Lady Vols of the future."
Trailing by five runs entering the bottom of the fourth, Lady Vol freshman Jessica Spigner attempted to get a rally started by ripping a Stephanie Humphrey-Sayne offering into right center for a lead-off single. Sophomore Kelsey Stander entered the contest as a pinch runner and came through with a steal of second on a 2-0 offering. On a swinging strike the ball got away from alumni catcher Lauren Mattox forcing a throw down to first for the initial out as Stander raced up 60 feet to third. Tiffany Huff bounced a ball to Katherine Card at second base for an RBI as the runner crossed the dish, cutting the '09 Tennessee deficit to 6-2. A single to second off the bat of sophomore Jen Lapicki provided the Lady Vols yet another base runner with two outs. Humphrey-Sayne issued a walk to Pieroni to place two aboard, but junior Nicole Kajitani popped up to Posey in short left center to end the threat.
With the '09 squad in need of a scoring rally, sophomore Kelly Grieve got things started in the bottom of the fifth by beating out a lead-off single. Two quick groundballs got the alumni close to escaping the inning with no damage. Spigner and Fryer drew consecutive walks, however, off Humphrey-Sayne to load the bases for junior Tiffany Huff. The Saugus, Calif., native managed to induce a free pass to bring in the Lady Vols' third run of the contest. UT alumni head coach Karen Weekly decided to make a change in the circle, bringing in Jackie Beavers in relief with the bags packed and two outs. A wild pitch to the backstop put Spigner in motion from third, but the rookie from Santa Clarita,
Calif., was tagged out by Beavers covering home plate to retire the side.
The alumni advantage was extended to four runs in the top of the sixth as a single from Chiles and a throwing error committed by the UT infield on the play at first allowed the speedster to race into scoring position. Callahan drove a clutch single back up the middle to plate the runner for a 7-3 lead.
Lapicki started the crucial rally for the Big Orange in the bottom half of the sixth by beating out an infield single between first and second. Freshman Shelby Burchell and sophomore Chandra Mogan drew consecutive walks off Beavers to load the bags with still no one retired. That brought a visit to the mound from Karen Weekly, but the talk didn't work as expected as Beavers immediately issued a free pass to Grieve to force
in a run. Stander bounced a ball just past alum Carissa Roustan at third for a base knock as UT clawed within two runs at 7-5. That forced a move to bring an already cooled-down Abbott back into the circle in relief. The move seemed the right one as the 6-3 lefty struck out two consecutive batters. Fryer strode to the plate and with the count 2-1, Abbott struck the freshman with a pitch forcing in Tennessee's sixth tally. Now trailing just 7-6 in the contest, Huff drove an Abbott offering deep down the left field line into the corner. Chiles drifted over towards the line, but the ball seemed to be tailing away from her
as it fell just on the fair side of the chalk for a two-run scoring double. Lapicki followed immediately with a two-bagger down the right field line clearing the bases for two RBIs as Tennessee nabbed a 10-7 lead.
With the alumni requiring a three-run rally in the top of the seventh, Roustan stepped in to face Hosfield. UT seemed to have an additional fielder as Chiles occupied short right center field with a video camera apparently recording Roustan's at-bat for posterity. Two consecutive ground ball outs got the Lady Vols closer to victory. Card ripped a base hit to left center to keep the contest going, and Ellisha Humphrey followed with a base knock to center placing two aboard for Steele. She grounded routinely to sophomore Chandra Mogan, and the Lady Vol sophomore tossed on to first to conclude the 10-7 triumph over the alumni team.