Tennessee's Ashley Rogers threw a one-hitter on 119 pitches, a sore back and bandaged finger

Rhiannon Potkey
Special to the News Sentinel

Ashley Rogers shrugged off her own pain to inflict some on Arkansas.

Pitching with a sore back and bandaged finger, Rogers threw a one-hitter with 12 strikeouts, and catcher Ally Shipman hit a solo home run as No. 7-seeded Tennessee upset No. 2 seed and co-SEC champion Arkansas 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament on Thursday at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Less than 24 hours after throwing 174 pitches and striking out 13 in nine innings of a walk-off win over Texas A&M, Rogers returned to the circle to throw 119 more pitches against the Razorbacks. 

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“Today was downright incredible,” Tennessee co-head coach Karen Weekly said. “Last night was pretty amazing, and I told her after last night’s game that I had never been more proud of her because she was so tough and threw over 170 pitches and just hung in there for us. And I really didn’t think she would one-up that one day later, but today she did.”

Tennessee plays No. 3 seed Alabama (43-7) in the semifinals on Friday at about 6:30 p.m. ET. The Lady Vols lost the regular-season series against Alabama by dropping the final two games.

Rogers, who missed last year’s shortened season with a back injury, was grimacing in the circle after pitches and had to take a timeout in the final inning to stretch. But the junior right-hander was determined to be in the circle to pitch against an Arkansas lineup that led the SEC in home runs.

“It’s just that competitor in me. I really just want to go out there and fight every single time and go out there and grit it out,” Rogers said. “I love playing softball and I like winning of course. But just going out there fighting for my team and fighting for this school – just a lot of pride. That’s who we are as a team and who I am as a pitcher, and I just want to show that every single time I step on the field.”

In the first meeting between the teams this season, Rogers and Arkansas redshirt junior Mary Haff engaged in a pitching duel throughout. Both carried no-hitters into the fifth inning before Shipman provided the only run of the game and one of only three total hits.

Shipman made an adjustment on a two-strike change-up and belted a home run over the left-field fence.

“I have been working on trying to be on time with that pitch,” Shipman said. “I have been working on some new mechanics, so my timing has been off the past few weeks. But that one I was definitely on time for.”

Shipman was happy to have her pitcher’s back, and was not surprised Rogers took the ball and pitched through discomfort.

“She is such an inspiration. She is such a competitor,” Shipman said. “Like she said, she just wants to go out there and win every single day no matter what she’s doing, if it’s a drill, if it’s a game, she goes out there and really gives it her all. So that inspires me; that inspires the rest of my teammates.”

Arkansas (40-9) was dealing with its own injury issues. The Razorbacks were missing SEC home run leader Braxton Burnside. But the rest of the lineup is still dangerous and Rogers limited the Razorbacks to only five base runners.

The fiery Meigs County High product showed her emotions with fist pumps and screams after strikeouts.

Weekly is not sure if Rogers will pitch for a third straight day when Tennessee (41-12) plays in the semifinals. She was questionable to even start against Arkansas, but “had enough in the tank to go.” 

The two tournament wins by the Lady Vols likely locked up their chances of hosting an NCAA regional game. Although they value winning an SEC Tournament title, they know they can’t go deep in the postseason without Rogers healthy.

But the gritty performance required by Rogers to lift Tennessee to the upset victory elicited awe.

“She went out there and shut down an amazing lineup,” Weekly said. “Arkansas set records for home runs and has so much power through that lineup and she was really, really special today. She just put the team on her back.”

The one-hitter is a new tournament record for fewest hits allowed, according to the 2021 SEC Softball Record Book. Several players were tied with two hits allowed before Rogers' performance.

Sister Sister

Shipman’s older sister, Madison, a former Tennessee All-American, is on site in Tuscaloosa working as an analyst for the SEC Network.

They were reunited on air after the game because of Ally’s big role in delivering the Lady Vols the win.

“All week I have been thinking, ‘Man, it would be so cool for Ally to be the hero of the game and get up there on the SEC Network set and be interviewed by her sister,’ ” Weekly said. “That is one of those once-in-a-lifetime things. So when she hit that home run, I kept thinking, ‘Man. I want this to stand up for our team to win, but also for she and Maddi to share that special moment.”