No. 4 Lady Vols fire on all cylinders, sweep No. 10 LSU
BATON ROUGE, La. - Holding a one-run lead in the sixth inning against No. 10 LSU, second-ranked Tennessee softball erupted for six runs over the game's final two frames to earn its second straight SEC series sweep as it defeated LSU 9-2 Sunday at Tiger Park.
Tennessee (24-1, 6-0 SEC) opened up an early lead on the Tigers, pushing across two runs in the first inning. Making her third start of the weekend and fifth start this season, sophomore Lair Beautae continued her hot streak as she laced a single to left field, scoring leadoff hitter Mackenzie Donihoo for the game's opening run.
Later in the frame, Beautae came around for UT's second run as she scored on a wild pitch.
LSU (23-5, 2-4 SEC) - who had been held scoreless by the Lady Vols through the series' first two games - finally broke through on Sunday in the fourth inning. The Tigers plated a pair of runs on a bloop single to left - cutting Tennessee's lead to one.
After a quiet fifth inning for both teams, the Lady Vol bats responded in the sixth with three runs. Sophomore McKenna Gibson led off the frame with a towering home run that curved around the left-field foul pole - giving UT an insurance run.
The Big Orange padded the lead thanks to smart baserunning by freshman Amanda Ahlin and junior Giulia Koutsoyanopulos. With the duo standing on first and third with two outs, Ahlin stole second while Koutsoyanopulos broke for home. LSU cut the throw to second off and attempted to get Koutsoyanopulos out at the plate but the Santa Clarita, California, native slid in safely under the tag.
Just three pitches later, Ahlin took advantage of an error by the Tigers' second baseman to come home for Tennessee's third run of the inning.
In the seventh, a pair of one-out singles set the table for Koutsoyanopulos to put the game out of reach. After battling through seven pitches, the catcher crushed a three-run home run to left center, putting Tennessee up 9-2 and all but clinching the series sweep for the Lady Vols.
Graduate pitcher Ashley Rogers walked the first LSU batter in the bottom of the seventh but the Tigers were unable to take advantage as the Athens, Tennessee, native shut the door. She used a pair of strikeouts and a fielder's choice to end the inning and the series.
UT used all three of its big arms to get the win as senior Payton Gottshall took the ball to start the game, tossing 3.1 innings. Gottshall allowed both of LSU's runs but was effective as she tallied four strikeouts. Freshman Karlyn Pickens came on in relief and threw 1.2 innings - registering three punchouts and giving up just one hit. The Weaverville, North Carolina, native picked up the win and is now 6-1 on the year.
Rogers pitched the final two innings for the Lady Vols, fanning three Tiger batters.
Tennessee is off to its best start in SEC play in program history - going 6-0 over the first two weekends of conference action.
With its sweep of No. 10 LSU, UT recorded its first three-game sweep of a top-10 opponent since taking three games off No. 7 Georgia March 28-30, 2015.
Tennessee returns home to Sherri Parker Lee Stadium Friday through Sunday, March 24-26 as it plays host to Alabama.