College softball: Tennessee breaks through against No. 1 Florida's pitching, avoids sweep
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Megan Geer's grand slam in the bottom of the fifth inning gave No. 8 Tennessee the jolt it needed to knock off No. 1 Florida in front of a record-setting crowd of 2,239 at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.
Sunday's victory was the first for the Volunteers over a top-ranked opponent since 2015 when they defeated LSU 8-5. The win also snapped a six-game losing streak to the Gators (46-4, 20-3 SEC).
UT (42-8, 14-6 SEC) found its rhythm in the fifth inning after pinch hitter Tianna Batts and CJ McClain recorded back-to-back singles with two outs. Aubrey Leach drew a walk to load the bases for Geer before she launched her sixth home run of the season to give the Vols a 4-1 lead, their first of the series. The grand slam was only the third homer that Florida had given up this season.
Tennessee's four runs in the fifth inning were the first runs given up by the Gators in 47 consecutive innings during conference play. The Big Orange's five total runs scored on the afternoon is tied for the second-most runs given up by UF in a game this season.
The Vols added another insurance run in the sixth to push their lead to four. Haley Bearden doubled to right field and was able to advance to third on the throw before scoring on a single by McClain, who finished the day 3-for-3 with a run and an RBI.
South Carolina native Matty Moss started the game in the circle for UT but was relieved by freshman Caylan Arnold in the top of the second after giving up a solo home run to Jordan Roberts. Over her five innings of work, Arnold (19-6) struck out five of the 18 batters that she faced and allowed just one hit to earn her 19th win of the season. Moss reentered the game in the seventh inning to seal the victory.
Aleshia Ocasio (8-1) suffered her first loss of the season, giving up all five runs in a complete-game effort. Ocasio also had one of the Gators' four hits on the afternoon.
Tennessee snapped a season-long three-game losing streak with Sunday's win and currently sits in fourth place in the SEC standings with one series left to play.
The Vols close out the regular season next weekend with a trip to No. 4 Texas A&M. First pitch for Game 1 of the three-game series is set for 7 p.m. ET on Friday.
ATTENDANCE RECORDS: For Sunday's match-up against Florida, 2,239 fans were in attendance at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium. With over 2,000 fans attending each game throughout the series, Tennessee set a new three-game series record with a total attendance of 6,670.
GEER'S GRAND SLAM: Megan Geer's grand slam was her second of the season and third in her career. It was also the fifth grand slam hit by the Vols this season and was Geer's fourth game-winning home run of the year.
ARNOLD COMES UP BIG ONCE AGAIN: True freshman Caylan Arnold has shown that she performs her best in big moments. The Maryville, Tennessee, native has now won eight games against ranked opponents this season. Included in those eight wins are victories over Oklahoma, Alabama and Florida, which have combined to win the last five national championships.