KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The No. 8-ranked Tennessee Volunteers fell to No. 9 Texas A&M, 5-3, in Sunday’s Game Three of the Knoxville Super Regional, coming up just one win short of the program’s eighth trip to the Women’s College World Series.
The loss marked Tennessee’s (48-12) second time not advancing out of a Super Regional (also 2014) and the first when hosting at Sheri Parker Lee Stadium.
In the top of the first inning, Matty Moss was able to escape an early jam after a leadoff single and a pair of walks loaded the bases full of Aggies with two outs. Moss got Riley Sartain to pop up to third base to end the threat.
In the bottom of the frame, the Vols capitalized on a Texas A&M (47-11) defensive miscue to take the lead. Meghan Gregg singled to left field with two outs and ended up at third after the ball rolled under Keeli Milligan’s glove for a two-base error. Brooke Vines then singled to left field to drive in Gregg and give UT a 1-0 lead in the first inning for the third straight game.
Tennessee scored twice in the second to take a three-run lead. Chelsea Seggern and CJ McClain reached base on consecutive infield singles and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. One batter later, Aubrey Leach hit a deep sacrifice fly to score Seggern from third base. A throwing error by Aggies’ center fielder Erica Russell allowed McClain to score on the play as well to give the Vols a 3-0 advantage.
Four Texas A&M runs in the top of the third quickly erased UT’s lead and put the Aggies on top. An error, a single and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases with one out for Ashley Walters, who drove in Kaitlyn Alderink with a sacrifice fly. After leaving the bases loaded in the first, Sartain redeemed herself with a three-run homer to left field to give A&M the lead, 4-3.
The Aggies added to their advantage in the top of the fifth with a home run from Tori Vidales over the left-field wall. The solo shot prompted a pitching change for the Vols as Caylan Arnold entered the game with A&M leading 5-3.
Arnold went on to toss 3.0 shutout innings and struck out one batter in the outing to hold Texas A&M to a two-run lead.
Tennessee’s starter Moss was charged with the loss. She allowed five runs (one earned) on four hits and fired two strikeouts over 4.0 innings of work.
Gregg, McClain and Seggern all had a hit and scored a run to led UT offensively. Sartain’s three-run homer in the third proved to be the game-winner for the Aggies. Vidales also had another strong performance with two hits, two runs and an RBI. Trinity Harrington went the distance in the circle for A&M to improve to 14-2 on the year. The right-hander didn’t allow a single hit over the last four innings after giving up six and three runs over the first three.
NEW ATTENDANCE RECORDS: Sunday’s game attendance of 2,459 broke the single-game record for Sherri Parker Lee Stadium of 2,365 that was set in Game Two of the 2017 NCAA Super Regional on Saturday night. The weekend attendance total of 7,176 also set a new three-game record.
HOLCOMB EXTENDS HIT STREAK: Jenna Holcomb concluded the season on a nine game hit streak after her 1-for-4 performance on Sunday. The streak dates back to her 2-for-2 outing vs. Texas A&M on May 6.
Tennessee vs. Texas A&M
SCORE: Texas A&M 5, Tennessee 3
Texas A&M Head Coach Jo Evans
(On Harrington’s performance)
“I thought Trinity Harrington was terrific. She pitched yesterday, and I thought she did very well. We didn’t get outs all the time when we could have for her. She seemed like our best matchup coming into today. She hasn’t thrown two games in a row in a long time. She showed really great stamina, especially after going home to Colorado for a while. I thought she showed great composure and poise on the mound and gave us a chance to get outs. Early on when we couldn’t get outs, she could have easily gotten frustrated and felt like she would have to strike people out because we weren’t making plays. Instead, she stayed patient with us. She kept doing what she does. I’m proud of her because she showed a lot of heart, and I thought her team really stepped up.”
(On being able to fight back in tight situations)
“This team plays really hard for each other. There is something about this team’s chemistry. There is something special about the ball club. They go to war for each other. We’ve had a good year. We didn’t take care of business in the Kentucky or Tennessee series. We could have let that define us, but we didn’t. We have been really resilient. My message to the team after losing to Alabama in the first round of the SEC Tournament was all about confidence and swagger. I thought we were feeling bad about ourselves instead of recognizing what we had done the entire year to get the No. 9 seed. I’m very proud of this team. None of these kids have been in this situation. They hadn’t even been to a Super Regional. For our team to calm themselves down and come out and win this, I am really proud of them.”
Texas A&M Junior Infielder Tori Vidales
(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 what advancing to the College World Series means for the program)
“This program was built by the ones who came before us. I don’t think it was all us. There were players before us who paved the way to make this happen. The new stadium isn’t because we did great one year; it’s because this program has constantly had success. Players love to be here, and our culture is family. That’s what we are all about. Everyone before us has left their legacy, and we are going to continue to do that ourselves. ”
Texas A&M Sophomore Infielder Riley Sartain
(On fighting back from an early deficit)
“We knew this game would be a battle and grind. We knew they would score runs, so we were going to have to score more than them. This whole season, we’ve learned how to win in so many ways. I’m just happy we were able to come from behind to win.”
(On hitting the go-ahead home run)
“It was great. In the first inning when I had the bases loaded with two outs, I wanted to be the player who would come through for my team. Unfortunately, I didn’t, so I went into the dugout and told myself I would come through for my team if I got another opportunity like that. I’m happy I was put in that situation again with runners on base. I tried to get a good pitch to hit and drive it hard. I got that opportunity.”
Tennessee Co-Head Coach Karen Weekly
“First of all I’d like to congratulate Texas A&M, it was a great three game series. I have a lot of respect for their program, for their coaching staff and for head coach Jo Evans. Class program, the kind of team you’d like to play, you know it’s going to be a straight up battle. No gamesmanship, just two great programs going at it. J is a great friend and somebody I have a lot of respect for; I think they will be a great representative at the College World Series for the SEC.
“Second thing, I’d like to tell our fans how much we appreciate them. Not just this weekend but this entire season. The turnout at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium every week was phenomenal. Not just people in the seats but the enthusiasm, the noise, and the energy was just unbelievable. I can’t tell them enough how our kids appreciate that, I wish I could tell each one of them individually what that means to us, to our team and to our program. To each and every player. I hope they keep coming back and it gets better and better. I promise you we’re going to add more seats because we never want to turn fans away.
“The third thing is a huge thank you to these two young ladies here, our team captains. Megan Geer who’s a senior and unfortunately we have to say goodbye to now but we just had a team meeting and the girls all expressed what they feel about her and what a role model she’s been for so many players on our team. Just a model of consistency, the glue for our team, somebody who comes to work every day with the same attitude no matter if things are going well for her or not. You get the same thing all the time and somebody that our entire team looks up too. We’re going to miss her very much but just can’t say enough about these two young ladies and what they mean to our team and what Megan Geer has meant to our program over the course of her four years and just really happy I get to coach Meghan Gregg another year.”
(On the message to the team this weekend)
“This morning I told them two things, that I love this team, I love coming to work every day, I love being in the clubhouse and I wanted to get there early and I wanted to stay late because I just enjoyed them as people. I enjoyed how hard they worked but they were just fun to be around. There was no selfishness on this team. The second thing I told them was tonight I wanted them to lay their head down on their pillows with peace of mind. That they didn’t hold anything back, that they weren’t afraid of anything today and giving it your all is a cliché but what I meant by that was no emotional hang ups and no fears. You throw every pitch with 100 percent conviction and you go up to every at-bat with 100 percent conviction and if at the end of the game you feel like you did that, then you’ll rest easy with the result.”
(On Texas A&M coming from behind two days in a row)
“To me it’s not about them coming from behind, you’ve got seven innings to play so it doesn’t matter when you put up those runs. You look at their lineup and there aren’t many lineups in the country that are that solid one through nine. All season we struggled to figure out a couple positions, Haley Bearden really started for us when we got to Texas A&M a couple weeks ago. First base was a positon we really struggled to find somebody, catcher was a positon we struggled to find consistency. When I compare the two lineups and I look at them and they’ve got the same people in the same spots all year long and really good hitters. Even though we out hit them in all three games you’ve got to pretty much play almost a perfect game defensively and on the mound.”
(On Caylan Arnold not giving up a hit for the last four innings)
“I thought Caylan looked a lot more like the Caylan we say at the beginning of the season and over the first two thirds of the season. She just kind of hit a rough patch that freshman typically do. She really bounced back well from last night.”
(On what the experience of getting to Super Regionals means for the younger players)
“I think its huge, because they were really hurting. They really care about each other and wanted to play for another week and they really wanted to go to Oklahoma City. I think they are going to be very hungry to get a few more pieces in here that we needed and really make that push next year. Like you said we’re young and we need just a few more weapons, Texas A&M has a few more weapons then we do.”
Tennessee Senior Outfielder Megan Geer
(On her emotions after being so close to moving on)
“Obviously, it’s a big disappointment. Our team fought every single inning of the series. You can’t ask for much more. For it to not go our way, that’s our hats off to Texas A&M. They’re a great team. They had a little bit more than us today. That’s how it goes sometimes. It’s pretty disappointing, but our team has really enjoyed playing together all season. To get to do that one last time was very special.”
(On what she will remember about this year’s team)
“This team was different than any of the other teams I had been a part of. I think I will remember how much everyone loved each other. There were strong friendships made, and I think that is what all the girls will remember.”
Tennessee Junior Shortstop Meghan Gregg
(On Texas A&M’s pitching today)
“Trinity Harrington is a really good pitcher. We just weren’t able to get the momentum back on our side. Today wasn’t one of the better days that we’ve had, but we still got six hits off her. It would have been great if we could have gotten a couple more. I think we had quality at-bats today, so you can’t ask much more from our team.”
(On what she will remember about this year’s team)
“This is the most fun team I have ever been on. This team totally bought into everything that we were doing. Everyone had each other’s back and was having fun. We fed off each other’s energy. I couldn’t have asked for a better team.”
(On the hard work put in by this year’s team)
“Our team set the bar high, and we will expect the same next year. We have a lot of youth that will continue to do what they did this year. Everyone coming in can follow our lead and buy into it because it’s a lot of fun when you do.”