Monday saw the Tennessee softball season come to an end following a 5-1 loss to the three-seed Florida State Seminoles.
In their first trip to the semifinals since 2013, the Lady Vols entered the day needing to win two games to advance to the WCWS Final — they, unfortunately, were unable to get it done.
Coach Karen Weekly turned to one of her workhorses, senior transfer and former MAC Pitcher of the Year Payton Gottshall, someone who’s been as reliable as they come for the entire season.
Gottshall’s outing, while not bad for the most part, did not go as planned. She finished the day going 3 and 1⁄3 innings (2 and 1⁄3 as a starter, 1 in relief), surrendering 5 hits, but two of them being solo home runs. Gottshall was immediately relieved by SEC Freshman of the Year Karlyn Pickens, who bounced back nicely after a rough outing against the Sooners — striking out two and throwing 73% of her pitches for strikes.
The “dagger” came in the top of the sixth inning when senior Ashley Rogers surrendered a two-run home run to Hallie Wacaser, just her fourth home run of the year, making the score 5-1 and taking whatever wind was left out of Tennessee’s sails.
Aside from a solo shot from Zaida Puni in the bottom of the 1st inning, Tennessee’s offense continued to bite them, tallying just three hits. Despite ranking second in the nation in runs per game all year (7 runs per game entering this evening), Tennessee’s offense proved to be its fatal flaw in the World Series, scoring four runs and collecting just 7 hits over their last three games.
So what can we take away from today, aside from the loss? Well, it’s hard to look at this season as anything but a success. Tennessee softball has found itself in an odd place over the last few years, still remaining a consistent Top 25 team, but failing to show any postseason success to go with it, whether it be in conference, or national tournaments. These girls changed that.
They were just special. Maybe not Oklahoma 51+ game win streak special, but special nonetheless. They featured one of the deadliest trios in the country at the top of their lineup, one that struck fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers and fans alike. Their pitching rotation featured a mix of finesse and fireball hurlers, upperclassmen and freshman. They finished the year 51-10, winning the SEC Regular Season and Tournament championships, something that had never been done before in program history. They made the Women’s College World Series for the 8th time in school history and reached the semifinals for the first time in over a decade. They were good. No, I take that back, they were great. This team was great.
For players like All-American and National Player of the Year snub Kiki Milloy, a major decision to return for a final season is still on the table. And for player like Rogers whose college careers came to and end this evening, we thank you for putting together the best, most memorable season in Tennessee softball history.
You can find the full box score of today’s game here.