KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — No. 8 Tennessee is one win away from advancing to the Women’s College World Series after an 8-1 victory over No. 9 Texas A&M in the opening game of the NCAA Super Regionals at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium on Fridaynight.
Matty Moss threw her 14th complete game of the season to improve to 26-2 on the year while Jenna Holcomb led the team offensively with a triple and two RBIs. UT set a new single-game attendance record as 2,353 fans packed into Lee Stadium to create a raucous environment.
The Vols opened the game with a run in the top of the first thanks to a perfect bunt single by Brooke Vines to score Aubrey Leach from third base. UT went on to load the bases later in the inning but were unable to capitalize for more runs.
The Big Orange added two more runs in the second inning to jump out to a 3-0 lead. CJ McClain reached on an infield single, stole second and came around to score on a triple by Holcomb. One batter later, Holcomb raced home and scored on a passed ball to extend the Vols’ advantage to three runs after two innings.
Tennessee (48-10) blew the game wide open with a five-run outburst in the bottom of the third inning to make it 8-0. The Vols were aided by four walks from Texas A&M pitchers in the frame. Abby Lockman and Katie Weimer drew back-to-back walks with the bases loaded to bring in the first two runs of the inning. Leach and Holcomb kept the train rolling with RBIs of their own before Meghan Gregg capped the scoring with an RBI groundout, moving her into sole possession of the UT single-season RBI record with 78.
Texas A&M (45-11) broke up the shutout and avoided the run rule by scoring a run in the top of the fifth. Ashley Walters led off the inning with a double and pinch runner Blake-Ann Fritsch scored two at-bats later when Sarah Hudek singled to left field to cut UT’s lead to 8-1.
Samantha Show was stuck with the loss for the Aggies, giving up six runs on five hits while walking five batters in just two innings of work. Hudek was the only A&M player with multiple hits for the game.
UP NEXT: The Volunteers will try and secure their spot in the Women’s College World Series with a win in tomorrow’s contest against the Aggies. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. ET and the game will be aired live on ESPN2.
RBI RECORD BELONGS TO GREGG: Junior shortstop Meghan Gregg broke the Tennessee single-season RBI record with a groundout in the third inning. Gregg’s 78 RBIs this year move her ahead of Kristi Durant (2005) and Bridget Jackson (1996), who were previously tied with Gregg for the record with 77.
HOLCOMB DELIVERS: Freshman outfielder Jenna Holcomb was one of six Volunteers to drive in runs on the evening. The California native tripled, scored a run and had two RBIs in the win for UT.
PATIENCE PAYS OFF: The Vols were patient at the plate and it paid off big time in Friday’s victory. UT drew seven walks, including four in a five-run third inning that effectively put the game on ice. Aggies’ starting pitcher Samantha Show walked a season-high five batters before being pulled in the third. Texas A&M also walked in a pair of runs in the third inning.
Tennessee vs. Texas A&M
SCORE: Tennessee 8, Texas A&M 1
Tennessee – Head Coach Ralph Weekly
“First of all I want to thank our grounds crew and our administration from the NCAA, Coach Rucker and the folks who got that field in such a beautiful shape. It played beautiful and looked beautiful, I couldn’t be prouder to be hosting. I have a ton of respect for the A&M staff, the A&M administration and those players on the A&M team. Nothing has been won yet; we won the first round of a three round boxing match, that’s the way I look at it. If we’re fortunate to come out tomorrow and play really well, then maybe the bout could be shorten. Right now it’s two tough teams going at each other and they shut us down for three innings at the end and did it with a pitcher that we knew was a challenge to us. We’re going back to watch film and I guarantee you that we’ll be ready tomorrow, just like they’ll be ready tomorrow. It was just a great SEC ballgame.”
(On the paitent approach at the plate)
“We spent the whole week on batting based on the comments from Longwood’s staff that the bottom of our order wasn’t producing very much. The bottom of our order worked hard and there were glimpses of having it down pat but we still need to hit more through the order.”
(On what he saw from Matty Moss)
“I saw much improvement from Matty and you’ve got to remember that Texas A&M is a very strong hitting team, with about four or more kids that hit about eight home runs. I definitely saw improvement but she pitched two full games and come in relief against them at Texas A&M. I thought she did well.”
(On the message to the team heading into tomorrow)
“We have to be ready for a battle. Texas A&M’s kids are not going to give in. They aren’t going to show up and say, ‘Okay Tennessee, you guys are going to go and represent us.’ They are going to battle us tomorrow, and they will battle on Sunday if it goes that far. But, we are going to battle back. We both respect each other. Tonight’s game was clean. That’s what I really liked about it. There were no games within the game. It was just a good, clean, hard softball game.”
Matty Moss #1
(On shutting down their lineup)
“I was able to execute the pitches that Karen was calling. Caylan Arnold and I have been working really hard since our series against them a few weeks ago because we gave up too many runs to them. We’ve worked really hard on executing our pitches that have been called, and I feel like both of us have made a lot of improvement.”
(On if she was nervous going into the game)
“I just try to go out and play the same game that we have been playing all year. Obviously, it’s a little bit bigger of a stage and more is at stake. It’s more fun that way.”
Jenna Holcomb #2
(On what the team will take away from UT’s offensive production)
“I think we were really trying to execute the little things and tried to stay simple and play the same game we have played all year. I think it worked really well. If we come out on top tomorrow, we will be fine.”
(On taking advantage of all the walks and errors)
“Especially early in the game, we know we have to execute with runners on base because they are a good team, and we have to get runs on the board early. We were able to do that today.”
Texas A&M – Head Coach – Jo Evans
“It was a tough day for us, obviously. Obviously, we’re not happy with our performance. We go on our heels early and made some mistakes that were really just uncharacteristic mistakes for us. And then the wheels fell off. I don’t really have any excuses other than to say we weren’t very good. And we wouldn’t be the No. 9 seed in the country if we weren’t pretty good. So we’re disappointed in our performance.
“Some bright spots… Payton McBride went out there, she was terrific on the mound, gave us a chance to extend the innings and play with some more outs and try to score some more runs. I thought she really showed great composure on the mound. You look at her as a freshman—she was as composed as anybody out there on the field today, so I’m really pleased with that.
“We started to strike the ball a lot better as the game went on, so that’s something to put in our back pocket. We had some kids drive the ball against Matty Moss. But the cliché: tomorrow is a new day. And that’s how I feel right now. I think it’s really important that we don’t get too bogged down with this. I don’t think we need to sit here and search for answers to what went wrong today. We just were out of sync; there’s no other way to look at it. So, for me, I just want to get back and play. And I said to our ball club—when you go to Super Regionals, you need to win two games—nobody tells you it has to be the first and second day, the first and third… you’ve just got to win two. So for us, our mindset is to come out tomorrow and win.”
(On the team’s uncharacteristic mistakes and their implications)
“Everybody in Super Regionals is a really good team. We had seven free passes, I think. Our walks really hurt us. That’s where Payton (McBride) came in and did really well. She threw strikes. We needed one of our pitchers to go in there and throw strikes. We’ve made a living this year on not extending innings. When we have outs, we get them, even if a run might score. We’ve played from behind a bunch of times. That doesn’t bother us. We just let ourselves get too far out of it. You have to give credit to Tennessee. They end up with seven RBIs. They went up there and they got timely hits when they needed them. They took their walks. It doesn’t feel good to not play well. I’ve been doing this a long time, so I’ve lost my share of games as a coach. I can handle that. It’s just disappointing to not play well on center stage. So for me, I just want our kids to regroup and get back in there. We’ve lost to Tennessee three times (this season), and all three times, we had walks and made some errors. So I want to see us play a clean game and then we’ll take what we get.”
(On the performance of Tennessee pitcher Matty Moss)
“I think sometimes when you get down quickly like that, the game just speed up. If we’re in a one-run game in that situation, that’s a whole different scenario for our hitters. I thought the game just got sped up in our heads. Matty Moss is really good, and she’s good at getting herself out of inning jams that she gets herself into. They play good defense behind her. She looked similar to what we’ve seen before, but I think it’s a different story if we don’t put ourselves at such a disadvantage so early.”
(On the importance of her team’s improved play over the final innings heading into Saturday)
“I think it’s really important. You have to have a short memory in this game—unless you’re lights-out and then you just remember the heck out of it. They’re just little things… like I don’t want to end the game on a double play where we run into a tag and make it an easier play. But I thought we started to stroke the ball better, square it up better. So I felt good about that—that we were getting some quality at-bats in that situation and we were starting to get outs on defense. I felt that we turned a corner. But it was challenging for us to make up the distance.”
Peyton McBride #5
(On coming in with the bases loaded)
“There was bases loaded when I went in so I just wanted to make something happen—just get the ball in play somewhere. That way, we could move runners and throw to the bases and get the outs we needed to get in the inning.”