KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The fourth-ranked Lady Vols softball team picked up two wins over Ole Miss on Saturday at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium, sweeping the Rebels to begin SEC play 3-0. UT won game one 8-2 before taking the series finale 1-0.
Tennessee (20-1, 3-0 SEC) has now won 15 consecutive games – its longest win streak since 2018. It is also the second year in a row the Lady Vols have opened SEC play with a series victory.
Pitching has played a key role in the current run of form for Tennessee and continued to play a big part in both wins on Saturday. Senior Payton Gottshall started game one and tossed a complete game, allowing just two runs on three hits, while striking out 10. With the win, the Massillon, Ohio, native is now 6-0 on the year.
In game two, true freshman Karlyn Pickens got the ball and threw a one-hit complete-game shutout. The righty struck out eight on the night as she picked up her fourth victory of the year.
Game One: #4 Tennessee 8, Ole Miss 2
After getting no-hit on Friday night, Ole Miss struck immediately on Saturday with a first-inning two-run home run off the bat of Jalia Lassiter to open the scoring. With its two runs, the Rebels are just the second team this season to score first on UT and the first team Tennessee has allowed to score in the first inning.
The lead did not last long as Tennessee hit back in the bottom of the first with three runs of its own. Shortstop Mackenzie Donihoo cranked her second home run of the year to right center to lead off the bottom half of the inning.
After a pair of walks drawn by Kiki Milloy and Rylie West, Giulia Koutsoyanopulos knocked a single to left to plate both runners and give UT the lead at 3-2.
Sophomore McKenna Gibson drove in a pair of runs in the second, extending Tennessee’s lead to 5-2.
In the fourth, Milloy launched a three-run homer – her 13th of the year – off the scoreboard in left field to give UT its final margin of victory at 8-2.
Game Two: #4 Tennessee 1, Ole Miss 0
Saturday’s second game and the final game of the series was tight as Tennessee and Ole Miss combined for just three hits.
Pickens worked out of several jams during the game, beginning in the first inning with a runner on third and just one out. The Weaverville, North Carolina, native proceeded to strike out the final two batters in the frame to leave the Rebel runner standing on third.
With the score knotted at 0-0 in the fifth, Ole Miss put the pressure on Pickens as it loaded up the bases with one out. The freshman rose to the occasion by striking out the Rebels’ leadoff hitter Tate Whitley before getting Lassiter to pop out to short to end the inning and escape the bases-loaded jam.
In the home half of the fifth, Donihoo lined her second home run of the day and third of the year over the wall in right to provide the game’s only run.
Pickens returned to the circle in the sixth and seventh, shutting down the Ole Miss offense to preserve the lead and the win.
GOING THE DISTANCE
In all four of Karlyn Pickens’ wins this season she has thrown a complete-game shutout. In her starts, Pickens has allowed just seven hits and stuck out 25. She surrendered the first three walks of her career in Saturday’s win over Ole Miss. The freshman pitched 26.2 innings before allowing a walk.
The Lady Vols head out for an extended spring break road trip, making a stop in Columbia, Tennessee, for the Mid-State Classic against Austin Peay on March 15. Tennessee then visits Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for a three-game set at LSU March 17-19.