Following a 5-1 loss to the three-seed Florida State Seminoles on Monday, the Tennessee softball team’s season came to an end.
The Lady Vols, who were making their first appearance in the semifinals since 2013, needed to win two games on that particular day to move to the WCWS Final, however, they were unable to accomplish so.
Payton Gottshall, a senior transfer and former MAC Pitcher of the Year who has been as dependable as they come for the whole season, was called upon by coach Karen Weekly as one of her workhorses.
Even though Gottshall’s outing was mostly good, things did not proceed as expected. She pitched for three and third innings in total (two and a third as a starter and one in relief), allowing five hits, but only two of them were solo home runs. Karlyn Pickens, the SEC Freshman of the Year, took over for Gottshall right away after a tough performance against the Sooners in which she gave up two hits and threw 73% of her pitches for strikes.
The “dagger” came in the top of the sixth inning when senior Ashley Rogers allowed Hallie Wacaser to hit her fourth home run of the season, scoring two runs. This made the score 5-1 and eliminated any remaining momentum Tennessee had.
Except for Zaida Puni’s solo shot in the bottom of the first inning, Tennessee’s offense remained ineffective, managing just three hits.
What can we learn from today, other than the defeat? It’s difficult to see this season as anything other than a success, though. The last several years have been strange for Tennessee softball, which has maintained a regular rank in the Top 25 but hasn’t been able to demonstrate any postseason success, whether it be in conference or world championships.
These women altered it. They were simply unique. Maybe not as unique as Oklahoma’s 51+ game winning streak, but still noteworthy. At the top of their lineup, they had one of the nation’s most lethal trios, one that terrified both spectators and opposition pitchers. They used a mixture of freshmen, upperclassmen, finesse, and fireball pitchers in their pitching rotation.
They concluded the year with a 51-10 record, becoming the first team in program history to win both the SEC Regular Season and Tournament Championships. For the eighth time in school history, they qualified for the Women’s College World Series, and they made it as far as the semifinals.
They excelled. No, I retract that; they were excellent. The team was excellent. Players like All-American and National Player of the Year reject Kiki Milloy and still have to make a big decision about whether or not to play one more season. And we thank you for creating the greatest, most enduring season in Tennessee softball history for players like Rogers, whose college careers came to a close this evening.