Tennessee softball: Three takeaways from Lady Vols’ mixed results at Mary Nutter Classic

Feb 24, 2022; Cathedral City, CA, USA; During the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic at Big League Dreams. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 24, 2022; Cathedral City, CA, USA; During the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic at Big League Dreams. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

What began as a promising start ended in California heartbreak. Tennessee softball beat the BYU Cougars 10-3, the UC Davis Aggies 11-0 and the UC San Diego Tritons 8-0 to begin the Mary Nutter Classic in Cathedral City, Calif., last week. However, then they lost 5-2 to the Oregon State Beavers on Friday.

A rebound with seemed on the horizon Saturday, as they took two top 10 teams to extra innings. Both ended in heartbreaking fashion though, starting against the No. 1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners. UT had an 8-7 lead in the bottom of the 10th with two outs, but then Jayda Coleman hit a walk-off two-run homer. They lost 2-1 in eight innings on a sac-fly to the No. 6 ranked UCLA Bruins.

Karen Weekly’s team, ranked No. 17, falls to 9-6 after the event and has its first home game set for Tuesday against the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles before hosting the Tennessee Invitational starting Friday. Here are three things we learned from Tennessee softball’s outing last week.

1. Home runs cost them in their losses.

Against both UCLA and Oklahoma, the Lady Vols blew leads thanks to home runs. We mentioned the walk-off against OU. Well, UT was up 1-0 on UCLA as well before allowing a homer in the fourth, which is what resulted in the extra innings. They also gave up a run against OU when up by one in the bottom of the seventh and the ninth, so they just couldn’t hold those leads.

Anyway, OU built a 4-0 lead on UT to begin with thanks to home runs, and two homers producing three runs was the difference on Oregon State’s win over Rocky Top. Although they had their own power with 15 runs on seven homers this past weekend, power proved costly to them.

2. Scoring in wins came in bunches.

The offensive clinics Tennessee softball put on in the first three games of the series actually came from just a few innings. They got things started early against BYU, scoring eight runs in the first inning. That was all they needed to win.

Against UC Davis, they were up 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth before scoring eight runs to win on a run rule. They then scored four runs in both the first inning and the third inning with no runs at any other time to beat UC San Diego.

3. Defense is improving but not where it needs to be.

Given the fact that the Lady Vols’ fielding percentage is .948 for the year, which is 11th 13 teams in the SEC, there are still some issues. However, they showed dramatic improvement last week with just five errors in five games and a .971 fielding percentage.

No game was lost on an error disparity, as they and OU both allowed two unearned runs while they only allowed one to Oregon State. None came against UCLA. Now, that’s still not where it needs to be for SEC play, but Tennessee softball showing improvement here is certainly an encouraging sign going forward.