By: Gabriel Daniel
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- No. 4 Tennessee shut out South Carolina 3-0 to win its 40th game of the season Friday night at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.
It took a team effort for the Lady Vols (40-7, 18-4 SEC) to overcome inconsistent hitting and defeat the Gamecocks (33-18, 8-14 SEC).
The usually white-hot Lady Vols’ offense struggled early, recording one hit through the first three innings. They were unable to take advantage of getting runners in scoring position, leaving nine runners on base.
“You just got to keep moving forward. Early on in the game, I thought we were doing a little bit too much analyzing on you know each pitch and each swing,” head coach Karen Weekly said. “They know what to do, they know the gameplan against the pitcher, from that point on it’s just trust yourself.”
It wasn’t until the fourth that Tennessee was able to break through. Mackenzie Donihoo smoked a ball to right field for her sixth home run of the year and gave the Lady Vols a 1-0 lead.
The transfer from Oklahoma has had an up-and-down season. Donihoo started off strong, earning hits in nine of her first ten games and having multiple hits in six of them. But as the season progressed her efficiency waned, and she’s only had one multiple-hit game since April.
Although Donihoo has not been as effective as she was to start the year, she is still vital to the team’s success. Donihoo has the second most runs scored for the team and is third on the team in hits with 42.
Alongside Donihoo, sophomore Katie Taylor was vital to the Lady Vols’ win. Taylor hit a single in the bottom of the sixth that gave the Tennessee offense a spark. Leadoff hitter Kiki Milloy and Lair Beautae followed up with hits of their own that scored two runs for the Lady Vols.
Taylor then sealed the game for Tennessee on defense. After a single from the Gamecocks, followed up by a fielding error by the Lady Vols, leadoff hitter Jordan Fabian was at the plate and could tie the game for South Carolina. But Taylor made an impressive catch on a foul ball to deep right field that ended the game.
“Their leadoff hitter is a great hitter; I knew she was just trying to put a good swing on the ball. She had been making good swings all game; so just being ready for that, just trusting my preparation,” Taylor said.
While the Lady Vols’ offense was inconsistent, their pitching was solid. Graduate pitcher Ashley Rogers was sluggish to start the game, walking two Gamecock batters and hitting another two with pitches through the first two innings. Rogers went on to throw a complete game, her ninth of the season and her fifth shutout of the year.
The Lady Vols will face South Carolina again Saturday at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium. First pitch is set for noon E.T. and the game will be aired on SEC Network