Despite the lack of offensive firepower, the Lady Vols softball team was able to close out the Tennessee Invitational in dominating fashion behind sophomore pitcher Caylan Arnold yet again.
Arnold continues to play with fire on the mound and her opponents continue to get burned. She played in all five games this weekend, recording over 371 pitches with 35 strikeouts, while allowing 13 hits and compiling an 0.4 ERA over 21 innings pitched. She also played a complete game yesterday, on top of pitching in over two innings during the previous game.
The Vols got off to another quick start against the Jaguars, scoring two runs early on in the bottom of the first inning. A fielding error off of a Meghan Gregg pop-fly to centerfield left two runners in scoring position with Jenna Holcomb up to bat. She didn’t disappoint, cracking one out to left field for a triple that drove in both runners to put the Lady Vols up, 2-0.
Stellar pitching from both sides dominated the ensuing innings, until our very own Arnold found herself in big trouble in the top of the fourth.
After allowing the first two batters to get on base, Arnold was able to recover pretty nicely, dispatching the next two batters via strikeout and a 6-4 play. However, after Jaguars centerfielder Lyric Cabral was hit by a pitch, Arnold found herself with the bases loaded and Katelyn Gruich up to bat. Fortunately, Arnold was able to field a direct hit, throwing Gruich out at first to end the inning and get out of the jam.
South Alabama pitcher Devin Brown continued to do her thing, setting up and knocking down the next three batters for UT. Both teams could not place the ball where needed, leaving the score the same as it began.
Arnold was pulled at the top of the fifth, but fortunately for the Lady Vols - her replacement, junior Matty Moss - is one of the better pitchers on the team and in the country.
Moss came out on fire, striking out her first batter. She would’ve recorded a perfect inning, but an errant throw and physical shove from the Jaguars Haleigh Lowe knocked Ashley Morgan off of first, allowing Lowe safe.
But the play of the game came in the top of the sixth. Moss allowed a hit off Brittani Reid, setting up a potential game-tying run in Kristian Foster. Foster launched one to left field, but sophomore Jenna Holcomb made an amazing, diving catch to keep the runner at first and send Foster back to the bench. Moss was able to bail the Lady Vols after, retiring the next two batters.
If Holcomb doesn’t make that catch, then the game could've changed dramatically. Not only did the out keep Reid from scoring, but Foster would’ve at least been able to reach second base. Instead of one out with one batter on, the situation could’ve been much, much more drastic.
Brown’s heroics weren’t enough for the Jaguars. The Lady Vols’ pitching absolutely dominated on a day where Brown played more than well enough to win in a complete game.
Moss would go on to strike out the first two batters in the seventh, leaving a do-or-die situation for South Alabama’s Lowe. Sure enough, Moss’s excellent pitching and UT’s great defense put her away, sealing the Lady Vols’ 21st victory on the season.
Next weekend is when SEC play begins in Knoxville against the Missouri Tigers. First pitch is scheduled for March 9th at 5PM ET.