You could say Karen Weekly learned everything she knows about softball from her husband, Ralph.
Or you could say, after Ralph got out of the way, moved down from co-coaching to consulting, Karen demonstrated how smart she is in charge of Tennessee’s team.
Or you could say the Weeklys were very good together for all those years and Karen is outstanding individually and that these Lady Vols are an exceptional group bound for the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
That last part is for absolute certain.
“I love coaching this group,” said Coach Weekly. “I honestly got tears in my eyes just thinking about how much I love coaching this group.”
Tennessee is 49-8. It qualified for the main event with consecutive victories over a good Texas team, 5-2 and 9-0, in the Knoxville super regional at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.
Weekly was very happy to see the Vols advance.
“Just joy,” she said. “I don’t know how to describe it. Just joy for so many people.”
The coach really likes her team.
“They’ve totally bought in to what the coaching staff is teaching them. They bought
into the process and just the joy of going out and competing every day. When a team does those kinds of things, you just want success for them. I’m just so, so happy for them.”
The coach said she was grateful for the “phenomenal fans.” She thought they were the loudest they have been since she’s been at Tennessee.
“That was not a 9-0 game. I mean that was a close, tough game. Texas is an extremely good team.”
Tennessee probably needed the noise.
Zaida Puni was the heavy hitter and Ashley Rogers the complete-game pitcher in the Friday victory. On Saturday Payton Gottshall (16-1) had a no-hitter through five innings and wrapped up a two-hitter. Destiny Rodriguez had three hits for the champs. Texas contributed five errors.
Eight teams remain in the race for the national crown. Tennessee next plays on Thursday against the winner of No. 5 Alabama and No. 12 Northwestern.
The super-regional final really did not look like a rout. Tennessee got a run in the first inning off a double by Kiki Milloy, a misplay on a throw and a Zaida Puni grounder to short.
The Vols added two runs in the sixth. Rylie West walked, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Rodriguez. Giulio Koutsoyanopulos walked, made it to third on the Rodriquez hit and scored when Texas donated some Little League throw-and-catch mistakes.
Tennessee, batting as the visiting team, was a smashing success in the seventh inning –walk, double, walk, single, single, single, an error or three and six runs.
“I just knew going into regionals and then obviously coming into super regionals, I knew that we were doing it,” Milloy said. “We were making it. Doesn’t matter what needed to happen to do it. I knew this team was going to get after it and win these games that we needed to win.”
Milloy, senior outfielder from Woodinville, Washington, has been a powerful influence throughout the season. She has batted .420 and hit 25 home runs. Her dad is former NFL star Lawyer Milloy.
Winning pitcher Gottshall was emotional. This was her last home game. She’ll never forget the dugout emptying and everybody rushing toward her after the final out.
“It was just crazy. Thinking about where I came from (transfer as a senior from Bowling Green) and coming here … it’s just awesome.”
She praised teammates and how the defense produced some tough outs for her.
“They’re just amazing. They do that stuff in practice all the time. And they just work so hard at
being able to make those plays, so when the game comes, it’s like nothing to
them. I absolutely love them, and it takes a weight off me knowing that I have all of them there behind me.”
Weekly was generous in sharing success.
“People want to make a big deal out of ‘You’re coaching on your own now.’
“I don’t coach on my own. I don’t do anything on my own. I’ve got so many people that helped me every single day, and probably the best thing I do is hire people smarter than me. We can do this together.
“Ralph is a huge part of this. Heck, Ralph was a big part of recruiting Kiki. He’s recruited all these girls. He’s not gone. He’s just as much a part of this.”
Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is email@example.com