Ashton Ward dominates in circle

CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. – Behind an outstanding pitching effort from freshman hurler Ashton Ward, the No. 6 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (3-0) rolled to a 5-0 victory over No. 20 Oregon on Sat., Feb. 9, at the Cathedral City Kickoff. The Big Orange took advantage of nine offensive hits and a staggering five errors committed by the Oregon defense in registering the triumph.

In just her second collegiate start, Ward was outstanding in the circle, allowing just one hit over seven innings with eight Ks. The 6'0 right hander also took a no-hitter into the seventh frame before permitting a solid two-out single back up the middle.

Junior left fielder Lillian Hammond and sophomore right fielder Erinn Webb each led the offensive effort by going 3-for-4 at the plate. Senior shortstop Kenora Posey recorded an RBI on a base knock in the top of the sixth as four of UT's five tallies were of the unearned variety.

After Posey was called out for stepping clear of the batter's box to christen the first frame, Hammond bounced a high-chopper to shortstop for a single to grant UT a speedy base runner. Following a pop out to short right field by Callahan and a Hammond stolen base, sophomore designated player Tiffany Huff and senior catcher Shannon Doepking each drew walks to load the bases for freshman first baseman Jen Lapicki.

The Oldwick, N.J., native bounced a routine ground ball to short that Oregon's Lovena Chaput corralled before throwing on to first. Unfortunately for the Ducks, the throw was dropped at the bag by Monique Fuiava for a crucial error allowing Hammond and Huff to cross the plate for a 2-0 advantage. A strikeout ended the frame but not before Tennessee had drawn first blood on the scoreboard.

Despite a pair of uncharacteristic errors on the UT infield during each of the initial two frames, Ward cruised through the opening two innings with three strikeouts to maintain the two-run Lady Vol advantage.

After threatening in the top of the fourth, the Big Orange added to its advantage in the fifth. Hammond led off with another high bouncing base knock to second base to improve to a perfect 3-for-3 on the afternoon. Callahan was asked to drop the sacrifice and performed her job with a slow roller toward third. Duck third baseman Joanna Gail gathered in the orb but threw low to first for an error allowing Callahan to reach and Hammond to race over to third.

Freshman Kelsey Stander was summoned into the contest to pinch run at first and immediately took off for second on a steal attempt. The Paradise Valley, Calif., native reached safely while the throw drifted wide of second and into the outfield for yet another Oregon miscue as Hammond raced home for a 3-0 lead. Huff ripped a laser beam right at Lovena Chaput at short. She caught the ball and attempted to catch Stander straying too far off third. Her throw was very wide of the bag, however, allowing Stander the opportunity to cross with UT's fourth tally.

Webb got the Tennessee offense started once again to begin the sixth with a sharp single through the left side of the infield. Freshman center field replacement Chandra Mogan dropped the sacrifice bunt, and Oregon catcher Ashley Kivett threw the ball away towards first marking the Ducks' fifth error of the contest. A groundout by sophomore second baseman Nicole Kajitani advanced the pair up 60 feet on the base paths. Posey chopped an RBI base knock over the shortstop's head and into left to plate Webb and finalize Tennessee 's lead at 5-0.

All that was left to determine was the extent of dominance from the circle by Ward. The Charlotte, N.C., native struck out second baseman Cortney Kivett and left fielder Sari-Jane Jenkins to up her total to eight Ks through six frames of work.

In the seventh, Ward induced a weak popup off the bat of center fielder Neena Bryant and struck out Lovena Chaput to climb within one out of her first collegiate no-hitter. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be as Duck right fielder Kayleen Hudson singled back up the middle and just off the top of a leaping Ward's glove to break up the no-no. Orgeon's Gail flew out to right field to give Ward her first career complete game and initial one-hit shutout.

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