Softball Preview: No. 12/11 Lady Vols at the Kajikawa Classic

Credit: UT Athletics

The Lady Vols will kickstart the season with a 10-day road trip, journeying west to Tempe, Ariz., for the first leg of the trip before continuing on to Mexico. Set to participate in the competitive Kajikawa Classic for the fourth time in program history on Feb. 8-10, No. 12/11 Tennessee will face three top-25 opponents in its opening weekend of play.

In its 2020 lid-lifter, UT is pitted against No. 14/15 Northwestern on Feb. 8 at 3:30 p.m. (ET), before finishing double-header Saturday against Kansas at 8:30 p.m. Both outings will be played at Tempe Sports Complex (TSC) on Field 1.

Tennessee will open against Western Michigan on Sunday morning at 11:30 a.m. again on TSC Field 1 before facing off against powerhouse No. 5/5 Arizona at 6:30 p.m. at Farrington Stadium. The Lady Vols-Wildcats matchup will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.

UT concludes opening weekend with a Monday night game against host-team No. 22/22 Arizona State at 9 p.m., which will also be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.

Broadcast Info

Fans can listen to the action online at utsports.com by clicking the listen link on the schedule page or by downloading the Tennessee Gameday App, with Brian Rice calling all of the action.

Tennessee’s games against Arizona and Arizona State will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks. Check your local listings for channel information.

The Lady Vols matchups with Northwestern, Kansas and Western Michigan will be live streamed on FloSoftball.com and require a subscription.

Quick Hits

Lady Vols Key Returnees

UT looks to have a strong showing offensively returning nearly 70 percent of its runs and hits this season. The Lady Vols look for leadership on the infield from senior and Preseason All-SEC selection Chelsea Seggern, who will be moving to shortstop from the hot corner. Seggern finished 2019 with a .366 hitting clip and started 54 games for the Orange and White. She led the team with 16 doubles, accounted for 35 runs and is the team’s top RBI returner after recording 46 RBIs last season.

Tennessee also expects a jolt from the return of Ally Shipman who was sidelined after 22 games last season due to injury. Shipman, a sophomore, is the Lady Vols top catcher and showed much promise during her freshman campaign tabbing a .328 batting average, 21 hits, and 20 RBI in her limited time.

In the circle, sophomore and Preseason All-SEC honoree Ashley Rogers will look to have another impressive year. Rogers was a standout freshman and quickly became the team’s ace as she spun her way to 21 wins, third most in the SEC and 209 strikeouts, second in the SEC and 36th in the nation. The Athens, Tenn., native finished with a 1.94 ERA in 173.1 innings of work. She steps into a new role as the team’s veteran pitcher, despite only being in year two of her collegiate career after the departure of Matty Moss and Caylan Arnold.

Newcomers, New Energy

The Tennessee roster looks to be energized by a talented young freshman class. Comprised of eight newcomers: Anna Fox (Columbia, Tenn.), Kiki Milloy (Woodinville, Wash.), KK McCrary (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), Josie Willingham (Medon, Tenn.), Callie Turner (Land O’Lakes, Fla.), Amanda Curran (The Woodlands, Texas), Anna Hazlewood (Martin, Tenn.) and Madison Webber (Sevierville, Tenn.) – the first-year Lady Vols were ranked the No. 6 recruiting class by Softball America. The UT staff expects to start several of the freshmen out the gate and give significant playing time to the entire group.

The group is highlighted by the No. 5 recruit in the nation Milloy, daughter of former NFL player Lawyer Milloy. Kiki Milloy won a Washington state championship in 2017 and was also named as the Defensive Player of the Year in basketball in 2018 and proved to be equally versatile and athletic during the Lady Vols’ fall season. Milloy’s sister, Amirah, plays softball for the top-ranked Washington Huskies. Kiki Milloy could potentially lead off the offense for UT this season.

Hail Tennessee

Nearly half of the Lady Vols squad is made up of in-state talent. There are nine Tennessee natives on the 2020 roster, believed to be a record for the program. Seniors Treasuary Poindexter (Covington, Tenn.) and Cailin Hannon (Franklin, Tenn.) and sophomores Kaili Phillips (Ooltewah, Tenn.) and Ashley Rogers (Athens, Tenn.) are joined by freshmen Anna Fox (Columbia, Tenn.), KK McCrary (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), Josie Willingham (Medon, Tenn.), Anna Hazlewood (Martin, Tenn.) and Madison Webber (Sevierville, Tenn.).

25th Anniversary

On Feb. 23, 1996, Tennessee fielded its first softball team at the 10th Annual Louisiana Classics in Lafayette, La. A 1-0 loss to Baylor, a program that had been around since 1979, marked the beginning of what would become one of the Vols and Lady Vols premier athletic programs. The Lady Vols bounced back the following day to pick up the program’s first win, a 5-4 victory over the Bears and eventually took the series in a rubber match on Feb. 25, a 9-8, eight-inning victory. Fast forward to 2020 and 1,124 wins later, the Orange and White opens the programs 25th year in extant as the season commences on Feb. 8 in Tempe, Ariz., against Northwestern.

All-American Homecoming

In late January, Tennessee announced that it would host the U.S. Women’s National Team as part of Team USA’s “Stand Beside Her” Tour – a nationwide tour where the Red, White and Blue will face top Division I collegiate teams in preparation for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. On April 8, the Lady Vols face off against the WNT at Sherri Parker Lee and will welcome back Tennessee great Monica Abbott, a four-time All-American (2004-07), three-time SEC Pitcher of the Year (2004, 05, 07), USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year trophy winner and NCAA/UT program record holder. Tickets for the event are currently sold out, but the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

SCOUTING REPORT

No. 14/15 Northwestern

2019 record: 47-13, 21-2 (Big Ten)

Series record: 6-6

Last outing: A No. 11 UT won 6-1 in Cathedral City, Calif., on Feb. 24, 2018

Key player/stat: Sophomore pitcher Danielle Williams, who became the first player in Big Ten history to win NFCA National Freshman of the Year Award after leading the Big Ten with 31 wins and 13 shutouts to go along with a 1.55 ERA (51 ER/230.0 IP) and 317 strikeouts in 2019. Williams was recently named to the Collegiate Player of the Year Watchlist by USA Softball.

 

Kansas

2019 record: 15-36, 3-15 Big 12

Series record: 4-2

Last outing: UT run-ruled Kansas 9-0 in five innings in Knoxville on Feb. 22, 2019

Key player/stat: The Jayhawks return sophomore infielder Morgyn Wynne who led the team with a .298 batting average and eight home runs. KU also has a six-member pitching staff that includes three upperclassmen.

 

Western Michigan

2019 record: 18-28, 9-11 MAC

Series record: 2-0

Last outing: Exactly two years ago, in Tempe, Ariz., the Lady Vols downed the Broncos 6-2 on Feb. 9.

Key player/stat: Sydney Stefanick returns for her junior season after a campaign that earned her NFCA DI All-Region First Team and All-MAC First Team accolades. The pitcher led the Broncos with a 3.05 ERA and a 10-10 record with 97 strikeouts.  The Broncos outhit opponents 353-325 in 2019 and limited batters to a .261 average, while totaling a team hitting average of .276.

 

No. 5/5 Arizona

2019 record: 48-14, 19-5 Pac-12

Series record: 5-14

Last outing: On May 22, 2016 the Wildcats downed the Lady Vols 4-3 in Knoxville

Key player/stat: Arizona boasts 14 returners of which three are All-Americans, making UA one of just three teams in the NCAA to have three-plus All-Americans returning: seniors Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, shortstop Jessie Harper (the 2019 NCAA home run leader (29), and Reyna Carranco (2019 Pac-12 Batting Champion (.433 reg. season avg.).

 

No. 22/22 Arizona State

2019 record: 35-20, 13-11 Pac-12

Series record: 3-2

Last outing: On Feb. 8, 2018, the Lady Vols beat the Sun Devils 7-4 in Tempe.

Key player/stat: Picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12, ASU returns its offensive leader in senior Kindra Hackbarth who finished 2019 with a .412 hitting clip, 67 runs, 70 hits, 18 doubles and 17 homers. She added 57 RBI to the ledger and earned a .841 slugging percentage. Hackbarth also proved stealthy around the bags, swiping 15 bases on 16 attempts.

On Deck

The Lady Vols continue on to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico from Tempe for the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge Feb. 13-15. Tennessee will face the Mexican National Team to open the five-game outing, before rivaling Colorado State, Utah, No. 6/6 Texas and California Baptist. The games will be held at the Campo de Softball Nancy Almaraz. FloSoftball will live stream all of the action with a subscription fee.

 

UT Athletics

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