By Gabriel Daniel
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – No. 4 Tennessee forced the run rule to come into effect in a 9-1 win over No. 14 Florida Saturday at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.
Tennessee (36-5, 14-2 SEC) took advantage of Florida’s (32-12, 8-8 SEC) inability to find the strike zone. The Gators pitching staff walked six batters on the day, the most they’ve allowed in a single game all season.
The offense for the Lady Vols totaled five hits on the day with two home runs. McKenna Gibson and Rylie West led the charge, batting in all nine runs and hitting both home runs for the Lady Vols.
Gibson was making good contact the entire game. She got hits in all three of her at-bats and got the scoring started for the Lady Vols with her solo homer in the bottom of the first inning. Gibson also hit a triple in the bottom of the fourth that brought two runs in and gave Tennessee an eight-point lead.
The offensive production is nothing new for Gibson, a sophomore out of Santa Clarita, California. She is second on the team with 15 home runs and is also one of the most consistent batters with a .385 batting average, which is third-best on the team.
Gibson has been particularly impressive in the Lady Vols’ four most recent games. During this stretch, Gibson has 17 RBIs, nine hits, and has scored seven runs.
West did most of her damage in the third inning. With the bases loaded and one out, West blasted a ball into left field for the first grand slam of her career and her second home run of the season.
“When I walked up to the plate, bases loaded, I was like this could have some pressure but I’m in this amazing atmosphere with the girls I love the most and it was just a privilege to be in that position,” said West.
While West has not been the most consistent batter for the Lady Vols with a .285 batting average, she has had some big games such as a four-RBI game against Belmont earlier this season.
The pitching for Tennessee was rocky to begin the game but stabilized towards the end. Starting pitcher Ashley Rogers struggled in her short time in the circle, allowing four hits, including a home run, before being pulled in the third for reliever Payton Gottshall by head coach Karen Weekly and her staff.
“She [ Rogers] just wasn’t really sharp, and it wasn’t one particular pitch you know nothing was coming out of her hand like it normally does and we have a deep pitching staff, so we didn’t need her to stay out there and try to tough it out,” said Weekly.
Gottshall righted the ship for the Lady Vols, not allowing a run and only allowing one hit in her three innings of play. Gottshall has been solid for Tennessee over the course of the season with a 1.23 ERA and a 10-0 record.
Tennessee still has two games to go in the series with the next one on Saturday at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium. The first pitch is set for 7 P.M. EST.