TEMPE, Ariz. — Tennessee senior All-America Meghan Gregg got off to a hot start in the opener, and freshman pitcher Gabby Sprang cooled down the competition in the nightcap.
The No 11-ranked Lady Vols beat No. 19 Arizona State by a 7-4 count under the lights at Farrington Stadium on Thursday in the Kajikawa Classic after opening their season with an 8-1 victory over Boise State earlier in the day.
Gregg, the 2017 SEC Player of the Year, opened her candidacy for national player of the year with a 3-for-3 performance at the plate against the Broncos, hitting 2 home runs with 5 RBI.
“It’s a really good start; I was just seeing the ball really well today,” Gregg said. “We loved the warm weather and all of the sun; that makes playing the game more enjoyable.
“Preseason tournaments like this one lets us see what we have and what we need to work on, and it’s exciting to see what we can do.”
Sprang, a 6-foot-1, left-handed freshman who ranked as the nation’s No. 2-ranked player in the 2017 signing class, came on in relief against the Sun Devils to get the win.
“When I stepped [in the circle] that first inning I pitched, there was a ton of butterflies,” Sprang said. “But after I got that first pitch behind me, I was ready to roll. It was a good experience for me to come in when I did, and I just had to hold them.”
Sprang allowed 1 earned run in her 4 innings of work, scattering 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 3 in her much-anticipated collegiate debut.
Sprang entered the game in the top of the third inning with the Lady Vols up 5-3, a move co-coach Ralph Weekly said he and his wife, Karen, didn’t hesitate to make.
“The decision was, the freshman [Sprang] was the No. 2 recruit in the country, and though she hadn’t pitched in this kind of game, she throws the down ball,” Ralph Weekly said. “It was something we needed. I just told the team that for the first time in a long time, we have a pitching staff. We have three pitchers that I know can get it done.”
Tennessee 2017 SEC Freshman of the Year Caylan Arnold started the Arizona State game but was pulled after giving up 6 hits and 3 earned runs in 2 innings.
Scarlet McSwain blasted a 3-run home run to put the Lady Vols up in the second inning, and Chelsea Seggern hit a 2-run home run in the third inning to make it 5-3 after the Sun Devils tied the score.
Gregg came through with an RBI double in the fifth inning, providing her freshman pitcher more of a cushion.
The Lady Vols continue play in the Arizona State tournament with a pair of games on Friday, at 1:45 p.m. (ET) against Western Michigan and at 4:15 p.m. against San Jose State. Tennessee concludes the tournament on Saturday against UC Davis (11:15 a.m.) and No. 15 Utah (4 p.m.).
Junior Matty Moss, who allowed just 4 hits in her complete-game win against Boise State, looks to get the first start on Friday.