Photo Credit: Emma Corona/ Tennessee Athletics
By Tucker Harlin
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – No. 4 Tennessee (46-8) run-ruled Indiana (43-17) 9-1 in five innings in Game 4 of the Knoxville Regional at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium. Despite the fact it only lasted five innings, weather delays turned it into a grossly long seven-hour ordeal.
“It was a crazy day, you can’t control the weather,” said Tennessee head coach Karen Weekly. “I’m just so incredibly proud of the leadership on our team. We just have a really strong core of leaders that keep our team in the right frame of mind and keep us focused on our mission. I’m proud of what they were able to do, even with the delay.”
All ten runs scored in the game were brought in by home runs. Although it only tallied one run all game, Indiana had some life early on offense. Taryn Kern drilled a ball straight at the flagpoles behind the center field wall, giving the Hoosiers a one-run advantage.
Kiki Milloy wasted no time responding as she just missed the scoreboard with a solo shot to tie it at one. A few batters later, Mackenzie Donihoo brought herself and Zaida Puni home to bolster Tennessee to a 3-1 edge.
Milloy met the mark of 25 home runs on the season in the second inning as she cleared the wall in right field, pushing the lead up to four.
“It’s just staying with our process and if we see something over the white of the plate, and attacking those strikes early,” said Kiki Milloy. “I think we did a good job of that.”
The Hoosiers had the bases loaded after Ashley Rogers walked three consecutive batters, but the game was delayed because the rain started getting heavier and Rogers was unable to grip the ball.
“Ashley’s been here five years now, and I’ve never seen her walk three batters in an inning. That doesn’t happen,” Weekly said about Ashley Rogers. “I kept saying that we needed to stop this. Before the game, I made it very clear to the umpires that rain should not affect a game of this magnitude at this point of the season, at all. It shouldn’t jeopardize their ability to compete at their best, it shouldn’t jeopardize the safety of anybody. I was a little perturbed that we didn’t shut that thing down a little sooner, because Ashley wasn’t able to grip the ball.”
The first delay lasted over five hours, and play resumed at 7:14 p.m. ET. Coming out of the delay, Rogers threw two consecutive strikes and escaped the jam, leaving the bases loaded.
“For me, it was about coming out there and attacking, and not pitching to avoid a spot but pitching to hit my spot that I want,” said Ashley Rogers. “Having the help and staying locked into the right mindset, what I wanted to do was to get out of that situation.”
The Tennessee side of the third inning was uneventful, and it was followed by a hard but fast downburst, causing about a 15-minute delay.
Tennessee was able to load the bases in the fourth inning with two outs as Kiki Milloy, Zaida Puni, and McKenna Gibson all took walks. Rylie West stepped up to the plate and delivered a grand slam to center field, pumping Tennessee’s lead up to 9-1 and forcing the run rule into effect.
“After that at bat, I asked her what she was thinking and she said she wanted to get in there and hit it hard,” Kiki Milloy said about Rylie West. “She knew that she needed to get up there and get some runs on the board and put this game out as soon as possible. I was standing on third with all the confidence in the world that she would do something great.”
With the win, the Lady Vols punch their ticket to the finals of the Knoxville Regional on Sunday. Indiana will play the winner of Game 5 at 2:05 p.m. ET, and the winner is expected to play Tennessee at 4:35 p.m ET.