KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – No. 12-seeded Tennessee came out on top, 2-0, in yet another pitcher’s duel against North Carolina in the NCAA Knoxville Regional final on Sunday to advance to the program’s 11th Super Regional.
Caylan Arnold spun a gem of a shutout in the circle, throwing 6.0 innings to pick up her 10th win of the season. In the seventh inning, the Orange and White called on Matty Moss to deliver one final shutout frame.
In the start, Arnold allowed just four hits and struck out six while Moss earned her fourth save of the year and fanned two of her three batters. The duo did not allow a runner to advance past second base.
At the plate, Tennessee was led by Kaili Phillips (2-for-2) and Aubrey Leach(2-for-3) who each totaled two hits while Ashley Morgan came up clutch in a key situation, drilling a two-RBI single to center field to give UT the lead.
The Lady Vols (42-15) went 4-1 on the weekend to advance to the Gainesville Super Regional where they will face the Florida Gators this coming weekend. To start SEC play back in March, UT took the series at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium and looks to repeat for a tip to the 2019 Women’s College World Series.
After a quiet first inning, North Carolina moved runners into scoring position in the second and third frame. The Tarheels relied on a hit-by-pitch and bunt single to get runners on. In both situations, UNC then sacrifice bunted the runners to second but was held scoreless by UT.
Likewise, the Lady Vols moved runners into scoring position in the bottom of those two frames.
In the second stanza, Haley Bearden hit a one-out single to center and advanced to second on one of Phillips’ singles before the inning ended with a strikeout. Again, with one out in the third, Tennessee put runners on second and third thanks to back-to-back hits from Leach and Jenna Holcomb. The pair was left stranded as a strikeout and flyout to left were recorded.
In the fifth inning, the Lady Vols broke open the shutout, scoring two runs on two hits. Holcomb first reached base on a fielder’s choice and then advanced to second on Chelsea Seggern’s walk. With runners on first and second, Ashley Morgan roped a two-RBI double center field, giving Tennessee its first lead of the day.
It wasn’t until the top of the seventh inning that North Carolina put another runner in scoring position as Berlynne Delamora led off with a double. UT then turned to Moss for the save and the Greeneville, S.C., native delivered, retiring her three batters faced.
The Super Regional against Florida will either take place on Thursday-Saturday or Friday-Sunday. Details will be released once all Regional competition is finished. All updates will be posted to UTSports.com, Twitter (@Vol_Softball) and Facebook (Facebook.com/
Co-Head Coach Karen Weekly
“Well, I said it on the first day of the regional event…Just how proud I am to be a part of the University of Tennessee system and the athletic department and what a first class job they do sponsoring, putting on this event, hosting it. The compliments that we received from all the other teams that participated just really makes you proud and there’s a lot of people that are part of that, that never get any credit. You don’t see them, you don’t know their names, but I just want to give them a shout out because it makes me super proud to wear the orange and know how much work goes into everything that they do. Today, the whole day was just really, really tough, and we knew it was going to be that way. North Carolina has an exceptional softball team. This game all starts in the circle. Brittany Pickett is one of the best pitchers that we faced all year and our kids just battled. They just battled and battled and that was kind of our theme, just fight the fight, and just keep fighting. In the first game, I felt like we were getting to her in the seventh inning and just kind of ran out of time, and they just kept fighting and just really, really proud of them but ton of respect for North Carolina. They battled really hard too. It was a tough game for anybody to lose.”
On Caylan Arnold’s performance:
“She did and she’s been pitching really well lately. I don’t think she has the wins to show for it, but the last probably four or five outings I think, like she said, she’s back to her normal self and we need all of our pitchers to be at their best this time of year. I think you saw this weekend how we needed every single one of them at different points in time. When I think back to just not only today but we faced North Carolina three times now, and we gave up one run—the run today—and that’s a real credit to this pitching staff. When we needed it the most our backs were to the wall, and she gave us an awesome performance.”
On facing an SEC opponent in Super Regionals:
“We are kind of used to it. It’s the fourth year in a row that when you look at the pairings when they are announced on that Sunday night that we are matched up with an SEC opponent. So, I do not think it’s any surprise and it’s four for Florida too as a matter of fact. It is a familiar opponent, and I guess the if there is anything good about it, we played down there this year. So, all of our kids have been in that venue. They know what it is like. Nothing is going to be new and different. We had success down there. That is not something that we can puff out our chest about. It is going to be really, really tough, just like today was. I turned to somebody in the dugout in about the fifth inning and said, ‘welcome to postseason softball.’ This is what it’s all about, nail biter games that turned on one mistake.”
First Baseman Ashley Morgan
On her two-RBI double:
“I knew that we really needed these runs and I was just going to have to fight the entire at-bat. She was not giving anything, for the most part, and once I got two strikes, I knew that, hey, I was going have to foul off some pitches and I was going to have to drill the one she gave me, so that’s what happened. It felt good off the bat and when I was finally on second base, it felt great to know that we finally got some runs on the board and, you know, just seeing everyone in the dugout was awesome.”
On figuring out Brittany Pickett’s speed:
“Her speed was really good, and her movement was really great and especially her being a lefty, that was a different look that we’ve seen. So, I think we just kept fighting and finally got to her.”
Pitcher Caylan Arnold
On her performance:
“It was amazing. I’ve worked really hard this year to get back to feeling like myself and going out there and attacking and being dominant. To have my teammates behind me like that and to make such awesome plays like Kaitlin Parsons made, and she did absolutely amazing, and then have Kaili Phillips behind the plate working her butt off for me, that’s what really pushed me and what kept me going and what kept me fighting the way that I did for this team.”
On Kaitlin Parsons’ plays at second base:
“I mean, the first one that she made, I was just like, ‘wow, like that was amazing. That was awesome like holy crap.’ And then the second one I literally just squatted in the middle of the circle and was, I was just blown away because she just did such an awesome job. I know Chelsea came over and she’s like, ‘I know bud, I know. I know it’s just crazy, just get up.’ I was like what the heck, and she is just awesome. To see my team fighting like that, it just pushed me even more.”
North Carolina Head Coach Donna J. Papa
“I thought it was two really well-played games. I thought the defense was outstanding on both sides. When we looked at Game 1, with Brittany Pickett and Ashley Rogers, they pretty much had identical stats. And we came out on the winning end of that one. I thought Brittany did a great job in Game 2. We had opportunities in the game and didn’t get that hit, and they had an opportunity and Ashley Morgan came through and got a double and scored. The games were so well played, I thought, and when you have a 1-0 and a 2-0 game, it’s not a ton of offense, and it’s a lot of good pitching and good defense.”
On what fighting despite a loss means to the program:
“Yeah, I mean, you know, it was great. I mean, for our program, this is another step for us. This is the furthest we’ve ever gone. And to come out of the loser’s bracket after a tough, 1-0 game that Brittany, I thought, pitched well enough to win. And, you know, yesterday we said there’s no tomorrow unless you get it done today. And that was kind of what we just kept on doing and trying to, you know, stay in our moments and create our own opportunities. And this team is a very connected team. They have a lot of fun with each other. We had a great time. I, for the first time in my career, loved the lightning delay and the rain that we had with Ohio State because it gave us the opportunity in between the Longwood and Ohio State game to get a little bit of a break and these guys had a blast in the dugout. They’re just a very loose team and they truly care about one another. They spend a lot of time with one another, they love one another. I can’t say I’ve had other teams that are like this team in particular and a lot of the credit goes to our seniors Leah Murray, Berlynne Delamora, Destiny DeBerry and Kiani Ramsey. The four of them made a huge difference. They made a big commitment this summer with our team and investing in them and more in the culture than anything. It showed a lot of benefits for us because that’s half the battle. If you really like each other out on the field, you’re going to play great together regardless of if we don’t have big hitters, big home run hitters. We have a lot of speed and we kind of create chaos a little bit with our speed and our slappers and hopefully we’ll get some hits to help them. I mean, I’m just extremely proud of what we accomplished. I certainly am not satisfied that we’re sitting here and Tennessee’s moving on to the Super Regional but kudos to them. They played a great second game. They got the runs they needed to win and move on, but to come out of the loser’s bracket and come to the championship game and go to the second game is pretty big.”
Pitcher Brittany Pickett
On Tennessee’s go-ahead two-run double:
“I think she saw the ball well. I thought it was a well-executed pitch too on my end. That’s kind of where I was looking to throw anyways. But kudos to her, she got her hands through and stayed with an off speed and got some runs on the board for her team. But overall, it wasn’t the heat or anything, it was just kind of battling through it all and trying to pull out a win on our side.”
On the defensive support she had behind her in both games:
“It’s great. I think, overall, all of us played really loose from inning one to inning seven and that’s all you can really ask for. Making routine plays as well, that’s a big part of the game and making the ESPN plays are fun, but bringing the momentum back into the dugout off of defensive plays like that, that’s really important too.”
On whether Tennessee made adjustments in the second game:
“Yes, most definitely. I think they came out swinging early. And you know, that’s kind of what we would do on our end if we were to lose the first game. They adjusted well, but I think I handled it well enough until they scored late in the game. I know my go-to pitch, obviously it being a curve, but they sat on that well, then just being able to mix it in with slower pitching and my off-speed stuff, that kind of handled them. I saw that adjustment pretty early in the game.”