No. 8 Lady Vols Split Final Day of Puerto Vallarta Challenge; Finish 3-1 in Mexico, now 6-1 on season

PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico – The eighth-ranked Tennessee softball team split its final two games of the Puerto Vallarta Challenge Saturday at Nancy Almarez Stadium. UT dropped game one to Cal State Fullerton 5-4 before bouncing back in the nightcap, defeating Liberty 5-1.
Senior Kiki Milloy had a stellar weekend in Mexico and continued her tear Saturday going 4-for-6 (.667) at the plate with three home runs, five RBIs and four runs scored over two games. For the weekend, she hit .615 (8-for-13), scored eight runs, roped three doubles and smashed four home runs with eight RBIs.
She was one of three Lady Vols named to the all-tournament team – with Mackenzie Donihoo and Giulia Koutsoyanopulos joining her in the honor.
Donihoo hit .429 (6-for-14) on the weekend, had a team-high four doubles and drove in five runs, while scoring four herself. Koutsoyanopulos was 7-for-15 (.467) at the plate over UT’s four games. The Arizona transfer scored three runs, hit three doubles and registered seven RBIs.
The Orange & White are now 6-1 on the year following three wins in Mexico.
Tennessee took advantage of the only error Cal State Fullerton made to score the game’s first run in the bottom of third. Shortstop Mackenzie Donihoo roped a single to center field that allowed Amanda Ahlin to score from second – Ahlin had reached on an error earlier in the inning. Fullerton’s Hannah Becer quickly tied the game in the next half inning with a solo home run to left.
With the bases loaded in the fifth, Megan Delgadillo pushed a single into the outfield to make it 2-1 Fullerton. After UT got the inning’s second out at home, Becer came back to the plate and was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to give the Titans a 3-1 advantage.
It was then Tennessee’s turn to answer back. With a runner on, Milloy hit her third career homer in Puerto Vallarta to tie the game at 3-3 with two innings left to play.
The Titans (5-3) had the response again. Alexia Lopez doubled to the gap in right center to put two runners in scoring position with one out. Deshea Hill would ground out to drive in the first run, then Antuanett Dean legged out an infield single to plate the second run and pushed Fullerton’s lead back out to two at 5-3.
The Lady Vols hit back in the bottom of the sixth as Milloy lifted a fly ball to right deep enough for a sacrifice fly to make it 5-4.
Tennessee threatened in the seventh, loading the bases with two out. Unfortunately, the Titans’ Myka Sutherlin ended the game with a strikeout.
Freshman Karlyn Pickens suffered the loss for UT and is 1-1 this season.
Milloy opened the scoring with her fourth career home run in Puerto Vallarta and fourth this season as she smoked a first-inning leadoff home run to right. The Woodenville, Washington, native has smacked three leadoff home runs this season – two coming in the game’s first at-bat.
The Lady Vols tacked onto their lead in the top of the fourth as Giulia Koutsoyanopulos stole home, sliding in under the tag to make it a two-run game.
The Milloy Magic continued in the fifth as she led off the inning with yet another leadoff blast, this time over the left field fence – giving UT a 3-0 lead. It marked her fifth home run hit during her career in Mexico, fifth of the 2023 season – fourth of the tournament – and her fourth leadoff homer this year.
Liberty (1-8) got a run back in the sixth as Devyn Howard hit a solo home run to left, cutting UT’s lead to two runs at 3-1. In the next half inning, the Lady Vols hit back with a pair of runs. With two away and Milloy standing on second, Zaida Puni lined a single to center, plating Milloy and restoring Tennessee’s three run advantage.
Freshman Brylee Mesusan came on to pinch run for Puni and moved up to second on a wild pitch before Koutsoyanopulos singled to center to push her across to plate – increasing the Lady Vols’ lead to 5-1 – the final margin of victory.
Bowling Green transfer Payton Gottshall was excellent in the pitcher’s circle for the Lady Vols, tossing 6.1 innings, allowing just one run on three hits and striking out six. She picked up the win and is now 2-0 on the year.
Tennessee’s offense has been humming along to start the year. Through seven games, the Lady Vols are out-scoring opponents 64-9. Additionally, eight Lady Vols who meet the minimum are hitting .300 or better – including four who are at .400 or higher.
Tennessee will make its second trip to Tampa this season as it plays in the USF Tournament on the campus of South Florida. The tournament runs Friday through Sunday, Feb. 24-26. UT will face Michigan State, USF, Clemson and UIC.


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