Vols Out In SEC Tournament, Can’t Hang On to Early Lead vs LSU

UT vs. LSU / Credit: UT Athletics

Vols Out In SEC Tournament, Can’t Hang On to Early Lead vs LSU

UT vs. LSU / Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — No. 7 Tennessee jumped out to an early lead but was unable to hold on in a 6-2 loss to No. 21 LSU in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals in front of a record crowd of 2,448 fans at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium on Thursday night.

Brooke Vines drove in both runs for UT with a sacrifice fly and an RBI single as the third-seeded Vols raced out to an early 2-0 lead after three innings.

After Matty Moss retired the side in order to start the game, UT (44-10) wasted no time getting on the board, scoring a run in the bottom of the first. Aubrey Leach and Jenna Holcomb led off the inning with back-to-back bunt singles and moved up on a double steal. Vines drove in Leach with her seventh sacrifice fly of the year to put the Big Orange up 1-0 after one.

Vines came through again in the third inning with an RBI single to score Holcomb and increase the Vols’ lead to 2-0. An error by LSU’s Constance Quinn kept the inning going before Vines’ two-out hit.

The momentum turned in the fourth, however, as the sixth-seeded Tigers (40-17) tied the game with a pair of runs. LSU carried that momentum over to the fifth, pouncing for four runs to take control of the game.

The Tigers clawed back to tie the game with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth after Bailey Landry doubled to lead off the inning and came around to score on a Shemiah Sanchez sacrifice fly to get LSU on the board. Two batters later, Sydney Springfield doubled to left center to plate Quinn and even things up at two.

LSU kept the offense going by scoring four more runs in the top of the fifth to take a 6-2 lead. Savannah Jaquish and Landry both drove in runs before the Tigers added two more on a wild pitch and an error to extend their lead to four.

Allie Walljasper settled in after a rocky start and ended up going the distance to earn her 15th win of the year for the Tigers. Moss got the start and threw six innings for Tennessee, giving up a pair of runs, while Caylan Arnold was stuck with the loss after giving up four runs in just one inning of relief.

With UT’s loss, the host school has now lost its first game in the last five SEC Tournaments.

UP NEXT: Tennessee will wait to find out its seed for the 2017 NCAA Tournament. The NCAA selection show will air on ESPN2 at 10 p.m. ET on Sunday night. The Vols are almost certain to earn a top-16 seed and host n NCAA regional for the 13th straight season, and are on the bubble for a top-eight seed.

VINES OFF TO HOT START TO POSTSEASON PLAY: Brooke Vines was one of the few bright spots for Tennessee on the night, driving in both of the Vols’ runs. The sophomore now has 55 RBIs for the year, ranking second on the team behind Meghan Gregg’s 71.


SCORE: LSU 6, Tennessee 2

LSU Head Coach Beth Torina

(Opening Statement)
“Tennessee is a tough team, and I know moving forward they’re going to have a ton of success. They’re one of the teams that we fear in this league because they’re so consistent with their offensive production. Across my time in the SEC, they’ve been one of the most consistent offenses. You add to that solid defense and great athletes and they’re always scary. They have run a first-class event here. We appreciate being a part of it. I’m really proud of the way my team played. These two young women here—Allie Walljasper is just a rock for this team. You always know what you’re getting from here, and it’s going to be her best effort, it’s going to be a consistent performance and it’s going to be something that gives us a chance to win a ballgame. You’ll always get that from her. I thought our offense really swung the bats well. We were able to answer back, and that’s something that’s going to be very valuable for us moving forward.”

(On her team’s offense and where tonight’s production has been all season)
“We have really talented players and really athletic players. We’ve worked really, really hard lately. (Assistant coaches) Howard Dobson and Lindsay (Leftwich)—I think they have worked really, really hard to get them back when we got in a bad spot. It is from sweat and work that we are back to where we are. We didn’t fall back into this spot; we worked back into this spot. And (our players) deserve the spot that they’re in because they’ve earned it.”

*Cell phone in the back of the room begins to ring as a reporter is asking a question*
“That’s my phone if anyone is wondering. It’s OK. I’m a mom, and I have three kids so… you know? It rings when it rings.” (smiling)

(On her team working itself into contention to host an NCAA Regional as a top-16 seed)
“I think it’s important. I really do. I think we were a bubble team to host when we got here, but we’re pretty solid now. I think we’ve done our job. I thought our team had a good resume walking in the door. I think it’s better now after this tournament. So yes, I think the (SEC Tournament) provides a really good opportunity for people to better their spot and to help themselves. I really don’t think it hurts people because everybody has a really good RPI. This is hands-down the most parity we’ve ever had in the league. I don’t think it hurts anybody, but I think it helps us.”

(On her relationship with Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly)
“Well Ralph is the only person I know who can run-rule you and you leave as a smarter, prettier and better coach when you walk out the door. He’s just a great guy. He knows the game. He’s been around it for a long time. I have the utmost respect for him and what he does. It really is amazing to me how year-in, year-out, they have such a consistent offense that brings so much to the table. It’s amazing how they do that year-in, year-out. They have great athletes, and I really have the utmost respect for him, for Karen (Weekly) and for their entire program. They do things the right way.”

(On five straight years in which the SEC Tournament host team has lost its first game)
“Well I think the Tennessee staff sitting in the room would agree with me that it’s hard. It’s hard to host it, and it’s a lot of work, a lot of effort and a bit of a distraction for the host team and for the coach, because it’s a lot of work. This is a huge event. It’s an amazing event. But it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, and I think it’s a distraction a little bit. I also think there’s pressure because you know how much work your staff has put into it, so you don’t want to let anyone down. You don’t want to let your fans down. So there’s definitely pressure. We knew that coming into the game today. We have felt that; we’ve been there. Tennessee was the one that took us out of our own (in 2015). I felt terrible about it. I remember it vividly because it was that bad of a loss or that bad of a feeling. I knew that coming in. We tried to play light. We tried to play upbeat. We felt like we didn’t have a lot to lose, and I knew that (Tennessee) would feel a lot of pressure on them.”

(On who she will start on the mound on Friday against Auburn)
“I have no idea, but I do know I’ll have my whole staff available.”

(On Allie Walljasper’s ability to come back and pitch again on Friday)
“Allie’s ready. That kid will do anything you ask of her. If she needs to go, she’ll go. Not worried about it. We have a really solid staff, though. We don’t typically have to run just one pitcher out there all the time. I’m confident in all of them. We treat them all like their No. 1s because they could be anywhere, in my opinion. We’ll go back and we’ll see. It’s been a long time since we played Auburn.  We opened conference play with them. I think both teams are very different at this point. We’ll go back, take a look at what they’re doing now and make that decision.”

LSU Junior Pitcher Allie Walljasper

(On the reasons for her success after the third inning)
“I was basically trying to go out there and hit my spots and throw quality balls with my strikes, and knowing that I had my defense behind me the entire time, I just kind of pitched to contact knowing that they will be there behind me.”

(On how she has managed a heavier pitching workload recently)
“I just have to keep the mentality to do what’s best in what I bring to the table, not worry about the other team so much and just kind of focus on what my strengths are and what I need to do going forward.”

(On facing Auburn again)
“(I’m going to) go over my film from last time pitching against Auburn. I didn’t get the outcome that I truly wanted, so go from there and I know that the other pitchers behind me are going to go out there and do great things too. So, if I get called upon, I’ve just got to go out there and try to get the win for my team.”

LSU Senior Outfielder Bailey Landry

(On LSU’s recent offensive surge)
“We’ve been working really hard trying to get things back into gear. Postseason is great. We get a chance to restart. School is over now and we’re just focused on softball. So, I think we have it in us, it’s just tonight we just let it out.”

(On the atmosphere at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium)
“Tennessee, we knew coming in that they would bring exactly what we had tonight. Their fanbase is awesome – it’s great for the sport of softball. We have an advantage to that. I guess playing at Tiger Park, we always have a great showing. It’s just great seeing that many fans coming out here and supporting the game and supporting these amazing young women who work so hard to play this game.”

(On facing Auburn again)
“Auburn is a great team. They always have great talent. They have a great program. So I think (we have to) just go out there and play relaxed, just have fun like we did tonight and hopefully it falls in our favor.”

(On the fact that three of the four teams that played today played in Wednesday’s first round)
“The SEC is just competitive. I think it just shows. Hopefully all of the SEC teams get a spot in the NCAA Tournament. But I think it just shows the caliber of talent we have in this league and it’s just really great to be able to compete day-in and day-out in the SEC.”

Tennessee Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly

(Opening statement)
“To be honest I’m not sure what happened. We were not upset and we don’t have any chemistry problems or anything like that. I thought we were prepared for the game and we knew we were going to face Walljasper and we thought we were prepared for her, but quite frankly I think it can be said it one sentence: their pitching beat our pitching. That’s exactly what happened out there tonight. The game’s called fast pitch, I’m not throwing our pitchers under the bus, I’m just saying that tonight, their pitching beat our pitching. And in the end we made a few errors, but it all stems from them hitting the ball hard too. I was just talking to Beth [Torina] coming over and she said ‘you did the same thing to us at our place.’ And we did, we hit the ball pretty good when we were down at LSU. We apologize to our fans, but we just didn’t play well. And I told our kids in the meeting that three years ago we got knocked out in the first round of the SEC Tournament and went to the World Series, so we have a week to put Humpty Dumpty back together again and just see what happens.”

(On moving on from the loss with the NCAA Tournament coming up)
“One thing I want to say too is that I want to make sure that we give credit to LSU because they played an amazing game. We’ve watched them on tape many times and we played them three times. Like I said, their pitching beat our pitching and their team beat our team. That’s what happened tonight.”

(On Tennessee exceeding preseason expectations)
“I think our pitchers have overachieved this year and done a really good job. I mean you have a sophomore and a freshman that was pitching for Maryville High School last year and they won 45 games or something like that. So a lot of the credit goes to our pitchers, just tonight they had the better ones.”

Tennessee Junior Shortstop Meghan Gregg  

(On host team losing first game in SEC Tournament five years in a row)
“I think LSU played a really good game and we didn’t play our best game. I don’t think it really has anything to do with us hosting the tournament. I think we came out flat and LSU came out swinging hard, I think it’s just as simple as that.”

(On the added attention the SEC tournament brings)
“Talking about the crowd and everything, I think that just gets us ready for more postseason games as hosting regionals. It’s going to be the exact same way so I am glad we actually got to host this and see what it’s like and it was a little louder tonight, we had a lot more fans and it was really loud but it was good experience before we get into regionals.”

(On putting the loss behind them before regionals)
“We just have to look forward to tomorrow, just keep practicing, doing our same thing not changing anything. We just had a bad night, I don’t have any doubt in our team, we’re a great team and we work really well together, and we have great chemistry. We just have to move onto tomorrow.

Tennessee DP Brooke Vines

 (On the environment and the pressure of being the home team)
“First of all, we have an amazing set of fans and we play with those amount of fans all the time and we just didn’t get the job done like we usually do today. I didn’t feel much pressure just because I knew I was playing with the same girls I’ve been playing with all season and we had the same support system that we’ve had all year long.”

(On the team achieving beyond expectations this season)
“I think we just honesty want to get better every single day, I think we wanted to prove to the world that we are a way better team than many thought we were. We just have to continue to grow like we have been. If we do that and as we mature, we’ll be fine, we’ll show everyone that we’re just as good as we’ve been playing.”

(Does an early loss give the team an edge going into the regional)
“It does, I think for our freshman and our sophomores it’s just a good reminder and a good learning lesson. It’s preparing us for the crowds that are going to be before us and the completion that we’re going to go against.”

-UT Athletics

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