Kiki Milloy chases softball history

Maria M. Cornelius2MCsports

As Kiki Milloy circled the bases in Waco, Texas, after tying the all-time home run record at Tennessee, her coach already began to miss her.

“As she’s coming around the bases, I just thought, ‘Man, it’s going to be tough next year not to write number nine into the top of the order,’ ” coach Karen Weekly said. “It’s been a blessing to coach her and she’s one of the great Lady Vols of all time and I’m not just talking softball.”

Milloy notched career homer No. 57 by sending an offering from Baylor deep into the night on Feb. 9 and well out of Getterman Stadium.

“I think she should get two for that one,” Weekly said. “That was hit so far, I don’t know that I’ve seen a ball hit that far.”

The shot tied Milloy with Meghan Gregg for most all-time in Lady Vols softball history. Milloy reached the mark in her 203rd career game. Gregg crushed 57 home runs in 245 career games.

Milloy first chance to claim the record outright is tonight, Wednesday, Feb. 14, against Kennesaw State in Georgia, a one-game stopover for Tennessee en route to Clearwater, Florida, for the Shriners Children’s Clearwater Classic on Feb. 16-18 against a loaded field that includes Florida State, Texas, Stanford, UCLA and Georgia Tech.

Karen Weekly’s SEC ring. (UT Athletics)

The Valentine’s Day game will be streamed at 6 p.m. HERE by Kennesaw State. The Florida tourney will be either broadcast on linear television or streamed and the schedule HERE specifies the time and viewing options.

Tennessee has started the season in warm locations and is 3-0 with wins in Arlington, Texas, and the doubleheader sweep of Baylor.

After the trip to Florida, the Lady Vols will cross the country and close out February in Cathedral City, California, for another stacked field in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.

Local fans can see the team at the Tennessee Classic on March 1-3 at Lee Stadium, which sold out of season tickets nearly two weeks ago.

Rylie West (UT Athletics)

The Lady Vols swept the SEC regular season and tourney titles in 2023 – the staff and players got their championship rings before the 2024 season started – and made it to the final four of the Women’s College World Series.

This year’s team could be just as good or even better but needs to navigate being the hunted after playing in 2023 with a chip on its shoulder to get back to the big stage.

The sweep of Baylor was a promising start for Tennessee, which is ranked either No. 2 or No. 3 in four national polls.

Senior Rylie West earned the first SEC Player of the Week honor of her career after hitting .714 with six runs scored, two doubles, two home runs and six RBIs.

“I think Riley has decided in her career that she’s just going to let go, and whatever happens happens and trust all the preparation she put into it,” Weekly said. “Riley has spent a lot of extra time with strength and conditioning, not just going to the workouts that are required but doing extra stuff. She would be the first one to tell you that has given her so much more confidence in how she feels coming to the ballpark.”

Teammates swarm Destiny Rodriguez after her game-winning homer. (UT Athletics)

West broke up a no-hitter by Baylor in the sixth inning with a double down the left field line and sparked a come-from-behind win that sophomore pinch hitter Destiny Rodriguez finished with her first career home run when Tennessee was down to its last out in the seventh inning for a 2-1 win.

“What a shot and she followed the game plan,” Weekly said. “She came in and she jumped on the first pitch that was over the plate that she could do something with. I’d been looking for a place to pinch hit her, and it worked. A lot of times it doesn’t, but that time it did.

“But it’s all credit to Dez. She works really hard. She gets in there and fights. That moment is never going to be too big for her. She’s just going to stay within herself and try to keep the game moving.”

Weekly’s full interview can be watched HERE.

The SEC will honor its 2024 Class of Women’s Legends at the SEC women’s basketball tourney on March 6-10 in Greenville, South Carolina. The selected legends, who hail from various sports, are recognized individually during halftime of their team’s first game of the tournament and as a group at halftime of the second semifinal game on March 9.

The Tennessee legend will be softball pitcher Monica Abbott, one of the most decorated players in the history of the sport who threw 23 no-hitters and six perfect games as a Lady Vol from 2004-07 and still holds multiple Tennessee and NCAA records. Abbott was SEC Pitcher of the Year three times and is still the only three-time winner in conference history.

Tennessee softball legend Monica Abbott. (UT Athletics)

Basketball: The SEC tourney promises to be an entertaining one as multiple teams are jockeying for seeding behind South Carolina, which has separated itself this season in the conference and nationally. The undefeated Gamecocks are No. 1 in the country and destroyed UConn last Sunday despite the fact that starting center Kamillo Cardoso was in Brazil to help her home country qualify for the Olympics.

Cardoso will be back for the Tennessee game this Thursday, Feb. 15, in Knoxville at 7 p.m. (TV: ESPN). The Lady Vols are tied with LSU for second place in the SEC and also have the toughest finish over the last five games of the regular season with two against South Carolina and one against LSU with a trip to Vanderbilt this Sunday as part of a three-game week and a rematch with Texas A&M, which won in College Station.

Pat Summitt and Nikki McCray (Tennessee Athletics)

Honoring Nikki: Thursday’s game will honor the memory of former Lady Vol Nikki McCray-Penson, who died July 7, 2023, at the age of 51 after battling breast cancer. McCray-Penson also was a longtime assistant coach at South Carolina and was on the staff for the Gamecocks’ first national championship in 2017.

Tennessee honored former Lady Vol Tasha Butts during Monday’s win over Arkansas as part of the annual Play4Kay game to raise cancer awareness. Butts died Oct. 23, 2023, from breast cancer at the age of 41.

“We’re in a very unique situation that we’ve got two amazing players that we lost and (we focused more) on Tasha in our Monday game,” Tennessee coach Kellie Harper said. “Thursday we’re going to turn it into an alumni-type game and be able to honor Nikki McCray-Penson and be able to celebrate her and then allow South Carolina to do that as well, because she obviously had a huge impact on that program.”

Maria M. Cornelius, a writer/editor at Moxley Carmichael since 2013, started her journalism career at the Knoxville News Sentinel and began writing about the Lady Vols in 1998. In 2016, she published her first book, “The Final Season: The Perseverance of Pat Summitt,” through The University of Tennessee Press.


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