KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - With hopes of making its 17th consecutive postseason run and prepared to celebrate the program's 25th anniversary, the Lady Vols 2020 season began with a lot of anticipation.
With just five seniors on the roster, the team expected to rely heavily on its freshman class, which was ranked the sixth best recruiting class in the nation by Softball America. Headlined by Woodinville, Wash., native Kiki Milloy, daughter of NFL Pro-Bowler Lawyer Milloy, the freshman class stepped up with six of the eight newcomers making multiple starts. Milloy made an early case for the underclassmen, becoming the first freshman since at least 2012 to go yard in her first collegiate at-bat while in Tempe, Ariz., in a 6-3 win over Northwestern. Defensively, the Lady Vols were anchored by freshman Callie Turner who took charge as the team's ace, while sophomore NFCA All-Region pitcher Ashley Rogers was temporarily sidelined due to injury. Turner finished sixth in the SEC retiring 72 batters in her first season while finishing with a 2.67 ERA.
While the freshman made early noise, the return of Ally Shipman, the leadership of senior Chelsea Seggern, and the command of junior Amanda Ayala connected the dots for the Lady Vols on both sides of the ball. Seggern secured the middle infield beginning at shortstop, before filling in at second base where she was able to turn 14 of the Lady Vols 17 double plays, which ranked second in the nation. The Thrall, Texas, native individually ranked sixth in the nation in hit-by-pitches per game (0.47) after being pegged nine times at the plate and moved to seventh all-time in career HBP (28). Seggern also ranked 18th in the nation with a .560 on-base percentage and tied for 37th with a .863 slugging percentage.
Shipman was coming into form by Week 5 as the Lady Vols went 4-1 to win the annual Tennessee Invitational. The sophomore catcher recorded 12 hits, seven runs and 6 RBI to the tune of a .750 hitting percentage through the weekend stretch. Seggern and Shipman co-led the Lady Vols with a .403 overall batting average, seven doubles and a pair of triples, while each recording 25 hits. Ayala found herself atop of the UT ledger with a team-high 27 hits and 18 RBIs, as she made her way to the two-spot in the lineup during the season.
Tennessee, which started the season ranked 12th/11th nationally, packed on a tough early schedule which pitted them against six Power-5 teams in the first two weekends of competition, including No. 5 Arizona, No. 6 Texas and No. 22 Arizona State. The Orange and White suffered a difficult stretch in nonconference play however, falling out of the rankings for the first time since 2004 after dropping four consecutive games, two by run rule to UCF and a pair of one-run decisions to USF. UT also ended its 100-game win streak over in-state opponents after falling to ETSU for the first time in program history 4-3 in Johnson City, Tenn.
A culturally-enriching softball tournament out of the country saw the Lady Vols battle with the 2020 Mexican Olympic Team at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge, falling 2-0 in late innings in the first of two national team exhibition games. UT was also scheduled to host Team USA on April 8 at Sherri Parker Lee as a part of the Red, White and Blue's "Stand Beside Her" Tour, but the entire season came to an abrupt finish due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on March 12, just 23 games into the season.
The Lady Vols earned their 19th consecutive winning season with a 14-9 overall record, but had not yet begun their conference slate. UT was headed to its SEC opener at Texas A&M, when the team was informed by co-head coach Karen Weekly that the season had been suspended, and ultimately cancelled, as the team was about to board its flight to Houston at the Knoxville airport.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Lady Vols defense made a case for itself after recording 17 double plays in 2020. That number along with their 0.74 double plays per game rank second in the nation. Offensively, UT recorded a .403 on base percentage, which ranked 33rd in the country.
|Category (value)||Player||Nation (Top 50)||SEC (Top 10)|
|Hit By Pitches Per Game (0.39)||Chelsea Seggern||15||5|
|On Base Percentage (.560)||Chelsea Seggern||18||4|
|Saves (2)||Samantha Bender||T23||5|
|Slugging Percentage (.823)||Chelsea Seggern||36||4|
|Stirkeouts (72)||Callie Turner||--||6|
|Triples Per Game (0.09)||Chelsea Seggern||--||T7|