Softball wins season opener vs. Utah State

CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. – No. 6 Tennessee (1-0) utilized a three-run homer by senior third baseman Tonya Callahan and a two-run triple from freshman first baseman Jen Lapicki to key a six-run third inning and roll past Utah State (0-2), 8-0 (5 innings), in UT's 2008 season opener at the Cathedral City Kickoff.

Tonight's win marked the fifth straight season-opening triumph for the Big Orange dating back to 2004.

Freshman pitcher Ashton Ward picked up her first collegiate victory in the circle and became the sixth Lady Vol to win her collegiate debut by hurling three innings of one-hit ball with three Ks.

Included in that group are current senior pitcher Megan Rhodes and former Lady Vol Monica Abbott. Junior Danielle Pieroni entered in relief in the fourth and allowed just two hits while striking out three to help wrap up the victory.

Callahan delivered a 1-for-3 performance at the plate with three RBI and a monstrous home run to help guide the 11-hit Lady Vol offensive attack. Senior shortstop Kenora Posey played her role as table setter perfectly with a 3-for-3 effort, two runs scored and two stolen bases from the leadoff spot. In her collegiate debut, Lapicki went 2-for-3 with the two-run triple and a run scored.

With Ward starting her first game in the circle for Tennessee, Utah State left fielder Mikey Price beat out a slow infield single to shortstop placing the leadoff hitter aboard in the top of the first. Center fielder Emilly Reilly dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt out in front of the dish, forcing UT's Callahan to race in from her defensive position at third to make the tough play to Nicole Kajitani covering the first base bag.

With one down, Aggie first baseman Aubrie Stroman grounded out to second to advance Price to third with two down. Ward came through in the clutch by striking out designated player Amy Schaible swinging to end the Utah State threat.

Posey got the Lady Vol offense started in the bottom half of the first by ripping a shot back to the circle that ricocheted off the glove of Aggie hurler Stacey Ellingsworth for a leadoff base knock. With left fielder Lillian Hammond standing at the plate, Posey took off for second and successfully reached scoring position with her 51st career stolen base.

A groundout advanced the speedster to within 60 feet of plating the game's first run with the power-hitting Callahan striding to the batter's box. It didn't take long for Posey to score and make it 1-0 as Ellingsworth uncorked a wild pitch that eluded catcher Simone Hubbard. Callahan ripped a sharp liner but right at Utah State shortstop Kelley Kaneshiro for the inning's second out bringing Huff to bat.

The Saugus, Calif., native worked the count full before drawing a free pass on a ball that bounced to the backstop. Doepking drilled a 2-2 offering deep down the right field line forcing Aggie Megan McDonald to dive near the chalk and make a spectacular catch to end the frame.

The rookie hurler for the Big Orange pitched into her defense to begin the second as second baseman Kajitani retired Utah State third baseman Kayla Dunn on a liner, and Posey took care of a ground ball off the bat of second baseman Jeanine Hernandez for two quick outs. Kaneshiro drew a walk to put a runner on base with two down and immediately advanced into scoring position on an illegal pitch by Ward. It didn't matter, however, as another base occupant was left stranded as Ward struck out McDonald on a rise ball.

In her first collegiate at-bat to christen the bottom of the second, Lapicki worked the count to 2-2 and fouled off several pitches before flying out to right field. Right fielder Erinn Webb drew a walk off Ellingsworth to grant UT a base runner for the second straight inning. That brought center fielder Anita Manuma to the plate, and she almost drove a shot over the wall as her blast to deep center was corralled at the fence by Reilly. Kajitani ended the frame by flying out to short right.

Following Ward's first one-two-three retirement of the Aggies from the circle, the Tennessee speed game began to have an influence on the contest in the bottom of the third. Posey led-off the frame by improving to 2-for-2 in the match-up by dropping a perfect bunt between the pitcher and first baseman. Hammond drove a shot into the left center field gap for a base knock to place the speedy pair on first and second with no outs.

With Callahan at the dish, the UT duo took off stealing and successfully advanced up 60 feet into scoring position. With runners now occupying second and third, Callahan easily cashed them in by blasting her school-best 36th career home run deep over the right field wall for a 4-0 lead.

Huff walked to keep the assault going, and Doepking followed with a sharp shot through the right side of the infield to advance pinch runner Kelsey Stander to third with still none retired.

Lapicki drove a blast into the gap in right center that rolled to the wall and away from the fielder for a triple to record a pair of RBI and a 6-0 lead. The three-bagger was the Oldwick, N.J., native's first collegiate hit. Webb became the seventh straight Lady Vol to reach in the inning with a double down the right field line to score Lapicki and improve the count to 7-0, UT.

Manuma ripped a blast to center but her tough luck continued as Reilly came charging in for Utah State to make a tough grab for the first out. Kajitani popped out in foul territory to register out number two. Posey reached again by beating out an infield single to improve to 3-for-3 on the evening. A strikeout ended the inning but not before 11 Lady Vols came to the plate in registering six runs on seven hits.

Co-Head Coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly made wholesale changes to open the fourth. Pieroni stepped into the circle in place of Ward and freshmen Kelly Grieve and Chandra Mogan entered in the outfield. After getting two quick outs, including a K of Utah State's Schaible, Pieroni walked Dunn and Hernandez, consecutively, to grant the Aggies some offensive life. Facing Kaneshiro in a big spot, the junior hurler threw a perfect change-up for strike three to conclude the threat.

The offense again made noise in the bottom of the fourth as a one out walk to Huff and consecutive singles off the bats of Doepking and Lapicki loaded the bases. That brought rookie Chandra Mogan to the dish in her first collegiate at-bat and she came through with an RBI single to short to make it 8-0, Tennessee. Another Lady Vol freshman, Kelly Grieve, got her initial chance at the plate following Mogan and battled new Utah State pitcher Tylee Landon over numerous pitches before finally hitting into a fielder's choice to short. On the play Doepking was thrown out at the plate to register UT's second out of the frame. A sharp groundout to first by Kajitani ended the inning but not before Tennessee improved its advantage to eight runs.

Following two quick outs in the top of the fifth, pinch hitter Jessica Law reached on a beautiful bunt out in front of the plate to give Utah State life. Reilly lined a shot off Pieroni in the circle to put two aboard for the Aggies with two down. The attempt to avoid the collegiate run rule, however, proved fruitless as Stroman popped out to shortstop to end the contest.

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