Spartans fall one strike short against Tennessee, before ousted by Longwood in softball regional

0520 loses Tennessee

The Spartans score against Tennessee to build a 3-0 lead. Tennessee scored seven runs in the seventh inning to beat Upstate, 7-3.
USC Upstate Photo

Staff Report
The Carolinian

Longwood eliminated the USC Upstate softball team from the NCAA Knoxville Regional Saturday, 4-2, at Tennessee’s Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.

But it was the University of Tennessee that ripped out the Spartans’ heart Saturday afternoon – one strike away for one out and a historic victory.

The Longwood Lancers scored four runs off Lexi Shubert (19-5) in the top of the first and held off a late rally to beat the Spartans (34-13) in their final game of the season.

Upstate’s Brittany Case, who doubled in the fourth, scored when Ryan Rector, who singled, was caught in a rundown between first and second. Case led off the sixth with a triple and scored on Rector’s single.

Upstate outhit Longwood 8-4.

Upstate’s game with Tennessee is more what could have been for the Spartans but turned out to be a Tennessee comeback of epic proportions.

Here’s how UT Head Coach Karen Weekly described the Vols’ stunning 7-3 victory over the Spartans, as reported by the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

“That was a heck of a game, probably the greatest comeback in the history of Tennessee softball,” said Weekly, in her 16th season on Rocky Top. “I certainly don’t remember a game quite like that where everything appeared to be lost from the outside at least going into the seventh inning. To put up seven runs in the seventh inning like we did, to be down two strikes to our last out, the team kept believing.”

Upstate pitchers Shubert and Holly McKinnon combined to hold Tennessee without a hit for 6 2/3 innings.

Tennessee pinch-hitter Haley Bearden started the final inning rally with a two-run single but Upstate still led, 3-2. Aubrey Leach followed with the go-ahead three-run home run for a 5-3 lead on a 3-2 pitch. Two batters later Meghan Gregg ended the scoring with a two-run home run.

Upstate couldn’t muster a rally in the seventh.

Upstate scored twice in the first inning when Ansley Gilstrap singled and scored on a fielder’s choice by Abbie Millete. Ryan Rector scored Megan Obier from third base on Ryan Rector’s sacrifice fly. Obier’s RBI single in the sixth scored Kendsey Chappelear for the 3-0 lead.

Shubert retired the first 16 batters she faced but walked the bases loaded in the sixth and gave way to Holly McKinnon to try closing out the game. McKinnon (25-8) was tagged for all seven runs, which were all unearned.

Tennessee (46-10) needs only one win to advance to the program’s fifth Super Regional in the past six seasons.

Tennessee plays Longwood on Sunday at noon in the regional final. If UT loses, the teams would play again at 2:30 p.m. in the double-elimination format. UT beat Longwood 5-0 on Friday night.

The Longwood Lancers scored four runs off Shubert (19-5) in the top of the first and held off a late rally as Upstate fell 4-2 in the elimination game.

Upstate’s Brittany Case, who doubled in the fourth, scored when Ryan Rector, who singled, was caught in a rundown between first and second.

Case led off the sixth with a triple and scored on Rector’s single.

Upstate (34-13) outhit Longwood 8-4.

Tennessee (46-10) needs only one win to advance to the program’s fifth Super Regional in the past six seasons.

Tennessee plays Longwood on Sunday at noon in the regional final. If UT loses, the teams would play again at 2:30 p.m. in the double-elimination format. UT beat Longwood 5-0 on Friday night.

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