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Tennessee softball beats Virginia to advance to NCAA super regional

Rylie West broke into a grin as the ball left her bat.

The senior outfielder saw him fly toward left field as she began running toward first field. Once she saw him standing above the wall, West raised her arms in celebration as she walked around first base, her smile now stretching all over her face. Her solo home run gave Tennessee softball a six-run lead in the fifth inning, sealing the victory over Virginia.

The No. 3 seed Lady Vols (43-10) defeated Virginia (34-20) for the second time, although it took seven innings Sunday at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium. West’s home run and her fifth RBI of the game gave Tennessee the final score of 6-0, and the Lady Vols are headed back to the NCAA super regional.

Tennessee advances to the super regionals for the second straight season. It marks the first time since 2018-19 that the Lady Vols have made back-to-back trips to the super regionals. UT will host No. 14 seed Alabama (36-17) in a three-game series starting Friday.

Rylie West scores four RBIs in the second straight game

After a sacrifice fly and three-run homer Saturday against Virginia, West picked up where she left off Sunday.

West singled to left field to bring home both Kiki Milloy and McKenna Gibson and give Tennessee a 2-0 lead in the first inning. She then hit a double to center field to bring home two runners for a 5-0 lead in the third inning.

West hit .667 in two games against Virginia with two runs scored, nine RBIs and two home runs. She finished Sunday’s match three times shy of hitting the cycle.

The Lady Vols pitching is having a shutout weekend

The Lady Vols didn’t give up a single point all weekend, outscoring their opponents 21-0. Karlyn Pickens (21-6) gave up three, down three in the first three innings before a Virginia batter reached base in the fourth inning. It was the first time Tennessee walked in three games played.

Pickens and Payton Gottshall held opposing hitters to a combined .109 through three games. They combined for 24 strikeouts, while Pickens recorded 12 strikeouts in Friday’s win against Dayton.

LEADOFF HOMER: How Kiki Milloy broke out of the slump and led Tennessee softball to the run-rule victory over Virginia

Pickens’ ERA of 1.11 is tied for fourth in the nation, and Gottshall is No. 6 at 1.21. Pickens gave up a single in the fifth and sixth innings, bringing her total to just four hits allowed in two starts in the regional. She finished Sunday’s game with seven strikeouts, two hits and one walk in seven innings pitched.

Cora Hall covers University of Tennessee women’s athletics. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @corahall. If you enjoy Cora’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that gives you access to everything.