KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The fourth-ranked Tennessee softball team punched its ticket to Super Regionals with a 7-3 victory over Indiana on Sunday at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.
Tennessee (47-8) will play in its first Super Regional since 2019 and will host supers for the first time since 2017. The Big Orange will matchup with No. 13 seeded Texas who won its regional by knocking off Seton Hall before taking two games against Texas A&M.
Junior Zaida Puni led UT offensively all weekend and continued her hot streak, knocking a pair of home runs to help propel the Lady Vols past Indiana. The Carson, California, native hit .556 with four home runs and seven RBIs during the regional.
In the circle, Payton Gottshall picked up the win for UT as she tossed five innings of shutout ball. The senior gave up five hits and a pair of walks to the Hoosiers but struck out six and stifled their offense all game.
Gottshall picked up two wins on the weekend and did not allow a run in 10 innings of work. The righty struck out 15 and held opposing batters to a .143 average.
Puni opened the scoring on Sunday with a two-run blast to right – her third long ball of the Knoxville Regional – in the top of the first.
Playing as the home team, Indiana (44-18) loaded the bases in the first and second innings – but Gottshall escaped the jams to keep Indiana off the board. The Hoosiers loaded the bases in both innings with just one out before Gottshall fired key strikeouts for the second and induced inning-ending pop-ups to Puni at third base.
Tennessee added to its lead in the fifth, scoring five runs to take a 7-0 lead. Senior Kiki Milloy laced a one-out triple into the right-field corner and came home on a wild pitch. With the very next pitch, Puni launched her second home run of the day and fourth of the regional – increasing her season total to 12.
The Lady Vols then loaded the bases with a pair of singles and a walk before Lair Beautae knocked a sacrifice fly to drive in UT’s third run of the frame A passed ball advanced runners to second and third for Giulia Koutsoyanopulos to clear the bases with a single through the left side.
Freshman Karlyn Pickens came on in relief for Gottshall in the sixth and tossed the final two innings. The Hoosiers got to her in the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits and a walk.
Heather Johnson started in the circle for Indiana and went two innings, allowing two runs on four hits. Sophie Kleiman relieved her in the third and surrendered five runs on four hits in 2.2 innings of work. Brianna Copeland finished the final 2.1 frames for the Hoosiers.
Tennessee will play host to Texas next weekend at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium in a best-of-three series. The winner of the Knoxville Super Regional will advance to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.