Tennessee softball in ‘final four’

Sandra ClarkFeature

And suddenly, there are four. The Women’s College World Series will be decided this week with four contenders: Oklahoma, Florida State, Tennessee and Stanford.

Behind the 4-hit pitching of Ashley Rogers, Tennessee defeated Oklahoma State 3-1 on Sunday to advance to today’s semi-finals. Stanford will play Oklahoma in the early game, while Tennessee takes on Florida State in the evening game.

Tennessee and Stanford must win two games to advance to the best 3-of-3 championship series. No. 1-ranked Oklahoma and Florida State need only win one to advance in the double elimination tournament.

Tennessee (51-9) scored twice in the third inning on three hits and defensive miscues combined with walks from Oklahoma State’s starting pitcher, Kelly Maxwell. Lexi Kilfoyl came on in relief and pitched well, giving up an unearned run in the fifth inning when Zaida Puni reached base on an error at second base and then scored on a throwing error by the OSU catcher.

Oklahoma State (47-16) scored on a two-out homerun by Morgyn Wynne in the sixth inning. It was too little, too late as Rogers struck out the next batter and then nailed the coffin with three-up, three-down in the final inning.

Tennessee pitcher Ashley Rogers’ post-game interview (screen shot)

Ashley Rogers, a native of Athens, Tennessee, posted her third 20-win season for the Volunteers. Earlier in the week, she won the Elite 90 award, a recognition of the student athlete in each sport who combines high grades with athletic achievement. Rogers graduated from UT with a master’s in kinesiology, finishing with a 4.0 GPA.

Next up: Tennessee plays Florida State today (6/5/23) at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. If UT loses, the team returns home and Florida State advances to the best 3-of-3 championship series. If Tennessee wins, it must play Florida State again with the winner advancing. That game would start roughly 35 minutes after the first game.

Pitching is problematic for both No. 4 Tennessee and No. 9 Stanford today. After playing on Sunday, each has to win two games on Monday to advance. No. 3 Florida State and No. 1 Oklahoma got Sunday off and must win just one game on Monday to advance. The bracket-makers are looking wise.

NiJaree Canady pitched flawless ball, striking out nine, for Stanford in Sunday’s 1-0 win to eliminate the Washington Huskies. Canady was named National Freshman of the Year by the National Fastpitch Coaches’ Association earlier in the week. With the win, Stanford advanced to play No. 1 Oklahoma at 11 a.m. today (Monday).

Sophomore Kylie Chung got the RBI on Stanford’s sixth-inning run. Here she is congratulated in the dugout by pitcher NiJaree Canady.

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