Friday – 2 PM, ESPNU, 107.3 FM
Regular Season Recap
The seasons didn’t get off to a great start for the Vols. Although they had a winning record during the out of conference part of the schedule, they lost all three of their matchups against ranked teams. Four losses if you throw in a non-SEC game against Alabama. UT made solid work of the SEC slate, sweeping Arkansas, Mississippi State and A&M, while picking up series victories against Georgia, Auburn and Mississippi State. Tennessee enters the tournament having won 14 of its last 19 games.
Tennessee’s offense is balanced and effective. The only categories the Vols lead the league in is sac flies, but they populate the top-5 in most of the other offensive areas. They rank third in the SEC in slugging and average, second in on base percentage, and fourth in stolen bases. Tennessee's lineup is deep with eight regular contributors hitting over .300 on the year. The trio of Meghan Gregg, Megan Geer and Lexi Overstreet are the most noticeable contributors with all three logging double-digit home runs and steals in 2016.
The Vol’s pitching is a solid but unspectacular unit. They rank fifth in the conference in ERA, fifth in opponents’ batting average, and sixth in strikeouts. UT rotates between Erin Gabriel, Matty Moss and Rainey Gaffin as its main hurlers. Moss and Gabriel are the two main starters, with Gaffin as the primary reliever. Gabriel is arguably Tennessee’s top hurler, leading the team in innings and strikeouts while posting an ERA of 2.42 and opponents hitting .214 against her. Moss has been slightly more effective with a 1.56 ERA but opponents are hitting .232 against her with just 75 strikeouts.
Tigers keys to success
Through two games, the Tigers offense hasn’t been dominant, but it has been very timely. LSU is 5-13 (.384) with runners in scoring position. Those numbers need to stay high if the Tigers want to keep playing on Saturday and against a Tennessee staff that isn’t as dominant as Kentucky, there should be more chances to drive runners in.
While the Tigers have had their share of timely hits through two games it is the pitching which has really shined. Sydney Smith and Carley Hoover were able to contain a great offense in Texas A&M, and completely dominate a lackluster Kentucky offense. Tennessee is another tough offensive team and the Tigers must at the very least, match their performance from Wednesday in order to win on Friday.
From here on, LSU is playing with house money. This team is playing with lots of confidence considering how effective the offense and pitching has been since the tournament started. Like A&M in the Tournament opener, the Vols have a strong offense and the Tiger pitching must do its best to manage the UT lineup. If that happens, and LSU continues to hit with runners on base, an appearance in Saturday’s game seems likely.