By Gabriel Daniel
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- No.4 Tennessee used a seven-run sixth inning to mount an 11-10 comeback win over No.14 Florida to win the series Sunday night at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.
Tennessee (37-5, 15-2 SEC) trailed Florida (32-13, 8-9 SEC) nearly the entire game after the Gators scored four runs in the first inning. The Lady Vols responded with three runs of their own but failed to score in any of the next three innings while Florida grew its lead.
The momentum completely changed in the sixth when the Lady Vols offense came alive, scoring seven runs. Rylie West, coming off her grand slam from the night before, hit a double that brought two runners in for scores and life back into the home crowd.
Then came Kiki Milloy.
Milloy, who earlier hit a home run in the fifth, drilled a ball down the left field line in the sixth inning that brought another two runners for scores and tied the game for the Lady Vols. Lair Beautae followed up with a single that again brought home two runs and Tennessee had a two-run lead.
“We’ve been preparing for this moment, we had a couple of games earlier in the season where we didn’t necessarily finish the way we wanted to … so just coming out here we’ve been preparing for this moment,” said Milloy.
Milloy has been the star of the show for the Lady Vols this season. Not only does the senior out of Woodinville, Washington leads the team with 51 hits and 19 home runs but according to coach Karen Weekly, she also leads the team emotionally.
“The energy, the fight, the toughness never wavered in this dugout. Never wavered, and the team just gave all the credit for that to Kiki and they are right on. Kiki is our emotional leader, she led us from the very beginning,” said Weekly.
Both pitching staffs struggled to find the strike zone throughout the game. Tennessee and Florida combined for 12 walks, eight coming from the Lady Vols and four from the Gators.
Starting pitcher Karlyn Pickens struggled for Tennessee, allowing three hits, five runs, and four walks before being pulled at the top of the second. Sophomore Nicola Simpson and junior Ryleigh White also saw short stints in the game that did not see much success.
It wasn’t until freshman Charli Orsini was put into the circle that Tennessee’s pitching stabilized. The Austrailian-born freshman faced 16 batters, the most of any of the five Lady Vols pitchers that played, and only allowed one hit.
“Charli did a really nice job for us … she gave us an opportunity and that’s what we needed, we needed to start putting some zeros up there,” said Weekly.
Out of Kellyville, New South Wales, Australia, Orsini hasn’t seen much playing time this season having only appeared in seven games. But in those appearances, Orsini has gotten two wins and only allowed six hits.
Senior Payton Gottshall closed the game out for Tennessee in the seventh inning. Having come in for Ashley Rogers the night before, Gottshall was again effective striking out two batters and sealing the win for the Lady Vols.
Tennessee will look to finish out the series and go for the sweep over Florida on Monday at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium. The first pitch is set at 7 P.M. E.T.