Tennessee Drops Regular Season Finale to South Carolina

Photo by Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics

By: Gabriel Daniel

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- No. 4 Tennessee dropped its regular season finale in a 4-2 loss to South Carolina at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium Sunday. 

The Lady Vols (41-8, 19-5 SEC) struggled to find offense for a second straight game against the Gamecocks (34-19, 9-15 SEC). Tennessee only had five hits in their 25 at-bats and struck out nine times. 

One bright spot for Tennessee was Kiki Milloy. In the previous game, Milloy broke the Tennessee single-season home run record by tallying her 20th home run of the year in the first at-bat of the game for Tennessee. Milloy had a nearly identical start in this game, hammering the ball to center field on the second pitch she faced for her 21st home run of the season. 

The Gamecocks prevented Milloy from doing any more damage in her remaining at-bats. Milloy was walked twice and had a flyout in her final at-bat. 

Tennessee held their 1-0 lead through the next five innings with both teams unable to gain momentum on offense. The Lady Vols left five runners stranded on base in that stretch, failing to capitalize on prime scoring position. Head Coach Karen Weekly thought the team did not attack enough in those middle innings.

“To me, it’s just not enough to decide we’re going to get on the attack in the seventh inning when it’s too little too late. You got to compete … we had too many people just not show up today ready to get after it,” said Weekly. 

The Lady Vols’ inability to increase their lead opened the door for South Carolina in the final two innings. The Gamecocks scored one run in the sixth and three more in the seventh to take a three-run lead. Junior Riley Blampied led the way for South Carolina with three hits and three RBIs. 

On top of the inconsistent hitting, the Lady Vols had some costly errors on defense. A throwing error by catcher Jackie Kirkpatrick led to the tying run in the sixth and a fielding error by Zaidi Puni helped the Gamecocks grow their lead in the seventh.  

After the error in the top of the seventh, Puni did spark a mini comeback by the Lady Vols in the final frame. Following Katie Taylor reaching base on a wild pitch, Puni hit a double to center field that brought Taylor in for a run. However, Tennessee followed up with a pop-up and fly-out that ended the game. 

“Zaida is phenomenal defensively, phenomenal. I think sometimes she might get caught just a little bit flat-footed and probably did on that one that they ended up being safe. She covers a lot of ground and I mean I love having her at third, I probably never had a better third baseman,” said Weekly. 

Tennessee will begin postseason play with a trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas, for the SEC tournament. The Lady Vols will play their first game on May 11, with the first pitch set for 7 P.M. EST. The game will be aired on SEC Network.