KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The No. 8-ranked Tennessee Volunteers (48-11) dropped Game Two of the NCAA Knoxville Super Regional, 6-5, to No. 9 Texas A&M (46-11) at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium on Saturday.
Meghan Gregg continued to prove why she’s a National Player of the Year candidate in the top of the first, hitting a monster solo home run with two outs to right-center field. The home run was the 15th of the season for the junior slugger and gave the Vols a 1-0 first-inning lead for the second straight game.
Tennessee’s lead was short-lived, however, as the Aggies took advantage of a pair of walks and an RBI single from Kristen Cuyos to tie the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the first.
In the second inning, back-to-back RBI-infield singles by Aubrey Leach and Jenna Holcomb put the Vols back on top, 3-1. Haley Bearden led off the inning with a single and scored on Leach’s hit to give the Orange and White the lead back. One batter later, Holcomb drove in Chelsea Seggern for her fifth RBI of the NCAA tournament.
Bearden came up with her second hit of the game to increase UT’s lead to three with an RBI single in the top of the fifth. Gregg came around to score on the play after leading off the inning with a four-pitch walk to extend Tennessee’s advantage to 4-1.
Texas A&M (46-11) rallied to take a 5-4 lead with four runs in the bottom of the fifth frame. Ashley Walters singled to center to score Kaitlyn Alderink and Riley Sartain followed with an RBI double off the wall in center field. Sarah Hudek’s sacrifice fly then tied the game at four before Samantha Show doubled to the gap in left center to give the Aggies their first lead of the game.
The Vols (48-11) battled back to tie the game at 5-5 in the top of the sixth thanks to another RBI-infield single from Holcomb. The freshman from California has had two RBIs in each game of the Super Regionals. The Big Orange had a chance to take the lead after a walk to Gregg loaded the bases with just one out, but Payton McBride came on in relief to retire Brooke Vines and Megan Geer to escape the jam.
Tori Vidales put the Aggies back in front with an RBI single to left-center field in the bottom of the sixth. Keeli Milligan scored from second on the play to give A&M a 6-5 lead after getting hit by a pitch to lead off the inning.
Tennessee threatened in the seventh, putting runners on first and second with one out but McBride was able to retire the next two batters to secure the win and force a winner-take-all Game Three for a spot in the Women’s College World Series.
Starter Caylan Arnold allowed two runs on three hits and struck out one batter through three innings of work in a losing effort. She is now 20-9 on the season.
UP NEXT: The deciding game of the Knoxville Super Regional will start at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 28 and will be broadcast on ESPN. The game will also be aired via a live audio broadcast on Sports Radio WNML and UTSports.com.
NEW SINGLE-GAME ATTENDANCE RECORD: Saturday’s game attendance of 2,365 broke the single-game record for Sherri Parker Lee Stadium of 2,352 that was set in Game One of the 2017 NCAA Super Regional on Friday night.
HOLCOMB EXTENDS HIT STREAK: Jenna Holcomb extended her current hit streak to eight games with her 2-for-4, two RBI performance on Saturday. The streak dates back to her 2-for-2 outing vs. Texas A&M on May 6.
GREGG BLASTS 15TH HOMER: Meghan Gregg’s home run in the the first inning gave her lone possession of fourth place (39) in Tennessee’s all-time career home run records, moving ahead of VFL Jessica Spigner (38). The longball also tied her for seventh place (15) in the single-season home run record column.
Tennessee vs. Texas A&M
SCORE: Texas A&M 6, Tennessee 5
Texas A&M – Head Coach – Jo Evans
“I am really proud of our team. We came to this regional to win it, and yesterday, we left here pretty disappointed because of how we played the game. I just felt like if we came out and fought, we could live with whatever the result was. I thought our team showed a lot of resiliency today. I thought we did a good job of bouncing back when we weren’t perfect or had a mistake. The difference for us today was that, if we made a mistake, we shook it off. I thought that was a huge difference, and we played with so much heart. Offensively, we did a better job of attacking and being aggressive in the zone when they threw us something to hit. Trinity Harrington set the tone for us today on the mound. She came out and threw strikes and got ground balls. Payton McBride came out and finished the game. We needed our pitchers to go out and throw strikes today and challenge hitters, and I thought they did a good job at that.”
(On trusting to bring in a freshman with bases loaded)
“We have a lot of confidence in her. Even if she gives up a hit, the only reaction from her is to get the ball and go again at the next hitter. Of our pitchers, she is the most trusting of our calls. They all trust us, but she understands that her only job is to stand there, wait to see what numbers are flashed up and then execute that pitch. She is really good at that. She doesn’t think of any variables or what-ifs. It’s very impressive to see her do that.”
(On adjusting to Matty Moss’ pitching)
“I think we got more aggressive. We stopped sitting around waiting for something to happen like if we will get walked or if she will throw a changeup. We started to take the game into our hands and be the aggressor at the plate. That made a world of difference. We have seen her a bunch. I came to the regional thinking if we could beat Moss then we have a good chance to win. She is a phenomenal pitcher, and we knew we would have to get through her to have a chance to win this thing. She is resilient and is used to throwing a ton of pitches, so I’m sure we will see her again tomorrow. I like the way we finally settled in, got aggressive and looked for pitches to hit early in the count.”
Peyton McBride #5
(On dealing with the pressure of coming in with bases loaded)
“I just wanted to put the ball in play and get outs. It’s easy for me to do that when I know I have a really strong defense behind me, and they are going to get outs whenever they need to.”
Tori Vidales #8
(On bringing in the go-ahead run)
“Mentally, I was just thinking about putting the barrel on the ball. A lot of times, you can go up being timid or thinking about past at-bats. I went in thinking about hitting the first strike and hitting it hard to where they couldn’t get it. It worked out pretty well.”
(On if she was surprised that UT pitched to her)
“I’m not really surprised. As a pitcher, you’re supposed to get the hitter out, and there was already a runner on base. If you want two runners on, the top of the lineup did amazing today, coming up with big hits in big situations. We did a good job of coming in and hitting. Even if UT had walked me, I think they would have picked me up, and we would have scored regardless.”
Tennessee – Head Coach – Ralph Weekly
“First of all congratulations to A&M, they played a great game. It’s what I expected out of them and I thought we played pretty well for the most part. We’ve already talked about what we need to do tomorrow, we are definitely not throwing in the towel. We’re going to come out and play very, very hard and it will be a real battle. I’m proud of our kids, I thought they did a really good job. We just left a lot of runners (on) and threw some pitches over the middle of the plate and that’s basically what happened, they took advantage.”
(On weather affecting Moss)
“No I don’t think so. It’s surprising when Matty Moss has a breakdown like that because shes a very good pitcher. But she’s human like everyone else. If it did, she didn’t say anything about it. Both the catcher and umpire were saying hitters were ‘tubing it’ and that’s the first time it’s happened in a very long time. And I’m sure they weren’t doing it on purpose maybe it’s because they were tired because we have two pitchers doing most of the pitching. But when you hit two batters and walk four batters and give up those kind of hits, those were hammered. But they could be totally different tomorrow and I think they will be. In our postgame meeting both of them (Moss and Arnold) took ownership and said ‘I take ownership of that, I can do better and I will be better tomorrow’ so that’s where we are.”
(On pitching to Vidales)
“We didn’t want to put another runner on base which is why we pitched to her. That’s a decision you make as a coach and that was my decision. But we knew we had to come back one run and we didn’t want to have to come back two runs, that was one of the few times where they hit the spots exactly late in the game, that they hit it where we wanted. We had a groundball and she didn’t hit it over the fence.”
(On any potential pitching concerns for tomorrow)
“Not really, I think Matty may be a little tired because she’s been pitching a lot of games. I think for Caylan, she’s just a freshman and this is quite a stage for a freshman especially one from Knoxville. So I think Caylan is gonna be fine. She’s got big wins over top 5 teams. It’s just, this game is called fast pitch, and if you’re not pitching, its like a quarterback in football game, he handles the ball every play and the rest of the team can be sluggish but the quarterback is gonna get the blame. But I’m proud of those two and we told them in the meeting ‘hey we wouldn’t be here without you’ so all we can see is where they are tomorrow.”
(On the batter/hitter chessmatch)
We saw that they were jumping on the first pitch and we’ve said before were working on getting more first pitches. It is kinda like a chess match. They just have a great hitting team, like the old Florida or Alabama teams where they just hit well 1-9. We’ve had a pretty good team too but today what hurt us is that we had a lot of runners up with 3-4-5 up and we didn’t get anything done and you can’t survive that way. In that last inning we wanted to get Jenna got on base because I didn’t want them to walk Greg and she got to second so first was left open and they walked Greg.
(On the double over CJ McClain’s head)
“I thought she could make that catch but CJ is kinda superhuman anyhow. She’s one of the best centerfielders I’ve ever seen. I don’t think that is a play a normal centerfielder makes, but CJ isn’t a normal centerfielder and I think she could have gotten it. But yesterday she made a catch she probably shouldn’t have gotten too. Those are not only hard hit balls but that’s a shot in the left centerfield gap, I told Karen superman probably couldn’t have gotten to that. But hey that’s sports.”
(On recovering and bouncing back tomorrow)
“The only thing you can do is tell them that you believe in them. You love them. You respect them. You know they’re good. And look at some film and figure out what pitches got them. I thought we had a pretty good eye on their freshman lefty but she did pretty good again tonight.”
Meghan Gregg #55
(On getting pitched around)
“It’s fine, that’s respect so that’s cool but I also have a lot of faith in my teammates. I have complete faith in Brooke Vines and everyone else behind me that they can do it. We came up a little short today but I still have np doubt that my teammates can do it.”
(On making adjustments for Game 3)
“I think in hitting, timely hitting is a big thing. When runners are in scoring position we really need to execute. Our pitchers are going to give us their all tomorrow, they did today but we just had a few mistakes that made innings really big. We need to make sure that’s stopped.”
Aubrey Leach #10
(On having the night to recover and get ready for Game 3 on Sunday)
“It’s great to be able to look back at what happened tonight and make our own adjustments and then have a full day for tomorrow to come out and play our game.”
(On her strong postseason play)
“Our motto is just finding our pitch, we really are going through the process of having a plan and following it, making sure we’re sticking to it and that’s really helped me out all of postseason.”