KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s softball team opens a three-game series at LSU riding a nation-long 18-game win streak.
Lady Vols co-head coach Karen Weekly, however, said the winning streak is not discussed by the team, nor is it viewed as being very important.
“I think at this point it becomes a distraction,” Karen Weekly said this week, after No. 9-ranked Tennessee (39-5, 11-3 SEC) swept a rain-shortened, two-game series against No. 12-ranked Alabama.
“I’m not saying we want to lose, but we just focus on trying to get better — mentally tougher, physically sharper. But to talk about a win streak is a distraction for us.”
The No. 16-ranked Tigers (33-12, 8-7) have Tennessee’s full attention, the series starting at 7 p.m. tonight and being aired on the SEC Network.
Co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly have led the Lady Vols to seven Women’s College World Series appearances the previous 15 seasons, and this year’s team is not yet up to snuff.
Indeed, there are plenty of challenges ahead with the pending series with LSU followed by a visit from No. 1-ranked Florida and then a road trip to No. 4 Texas A&M.
“There’s a lot for us to learn, and No. 1 we need to get stronger in the bottom of our order,” Karen Weekly said. “That is the difference in the teams that end up going to the world series and the ones that don’t, is what can you do 6 through 9 (in the batting order).”
Tennessee pitcher Caylan Arnold was among the Top 25 finalists for NFCA Freshman of the Year, but the Weeklys were in no mood to celebrate after Arnold got knocked out of the circle Monday night.
The game with the Tide was canceled with Alabama leading 3-1 and Arnold sitting on the bench after falling behind too many batters in the counts, and struggling to retire the side after getting the first two outs.
The Lady Vols’ win streak is intact, but there was no cheering in the clubhouse after the rain-shortened game.
“We need to mature,” Karen Weekly said. “I dint’ think we had as much toughness as we did the first two games against Alabama.
“Every time you go out there you have to be ready to throw punches.”
No doubt, seven SEC games last week were decided by walk-off hits, and a closer look at the RPI ratings reveals the conference might get all 13 teams into the NCAA tournament.
Other SEC softball series this week feature the Gators hosting No. 18-ranked Ole Miss, No. 7-ranked Auburn at South Carolina, and No. 4-ranked Texas A&M hosting No. 22 Georgia.
Here’s a look at the SEC teams’ RPIs as of Friday morning.
The SEC Tournament will take place in at Tennessee’s Lee Stadium Knoxville May 10-13.
1. Florida (40-3)
2. Auburn (36-7)
5. Texas A&M (37-4)
9. Tennessee (39-5)
12. LSU (32-12)
14. Alabama (36-9)
16. Kentucky (26-13)
24. Arkansas (26-16)
26. Georgia (29-15)
28. Missouri (24-18)
30. Ole Miss (30-13)
34. Mississippi State (31-14)
Note: Vanderbilt does not have a softball program
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