TEMPE, Ariz. — Tennessee escaped upset-minded San Jose State by a 7-6 count under the blazing desert sun in the Kajikawa Classic Tournament at the Tempe Sports Complex.
The No. 11-ranked Lady Vols (4-0) were bailed out by a controversial call — the hitter ruled to have stepped out of the batter’s box — with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning and the bases loaded.
The defending Mountain West Conference Spartans (1-1) had chased starter Caylan Arnold and reliever Gabby Sprang by the start of the seventh inning.
Tennessee turned to staff ace Matt Moss (2-0) to close the game, and with two strike on the batter, she appeared in the process of doing so before the controversial call brought the game to an abrupt end.
“Hopefully today will be a wake-up call …. not pleased with the way we showed up,” said UT co-head coach Karen Weekly, who along with her husband Ralph has led Tennessee to seven Women’s College World Series appearances the past 13 years.
“We expect you to have a quality at-bat every single time, and to not give a pitch or an at-bat away, we’re not expecting anyone to go 4-for-4,” Karen Weekly said. “Same thing with the pitchers You can control your process 100 percent of the time, and we didn’t do that today.”
Reigning SEC Player of the Year Meghan Gregg remained a constant, though opponents have been quick to catch on, walking Gregg five out of her eight plate appearances on Saturday. Gregg was 2-for-3 in her at-bats against Western Michigan and San Jose State after opening the season with two home runs on Thursday.
Moss pitched her second complete game in as many days in the 6-2 win over Western Michigan (1-1) Friday morning. Moss allowed six hits while striking out six and not walking any batters against the Broncos.
Sprang, who picked up a win in her collegiate debut Thursday night against tourney host Arizona State, had some control issues in her relief appearance on Friday.
Sprang came on in relief of starter Caylan Arnold with the game tied up 3-3 in the third inning. Sprang went four innings, giving up four hits, two walks and two earned runs before being replaced after the sixth inning with Tennessee up 7-6.
“She wasn’t as sharp, the ball wasn’t breaking like last night,” said Karen Weekly, who calls the pitches. “She has to reflect and say, ‘What wasn’t I doing the same as last night, maybe my adrenaline needs to be pumping a little faster … ‘ Freshmen have to learn how to control what’s going on inside so they can bring their ‘A’ Game every time out.”
Sprang went four innings allowing four hits, two earned runs and two walks.
Arnold, the 2017 SEC Freshman of the Year, had pitched two innings and allowed two hits, a walk and a three-run home run before being replaced by Sprang on Friday.
Tennessee closes its portion of the tourney on Saturday with games against UC-Davis (11:15 a.m., ET) and No. 15-ranked Utah (4 p.m., ET). Games can be heard on UTSports.com.
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