The Tennessee softball team huddled in a room separated from the dugout by just a few steps and a door.
And they remained there for more than 30 minutes.
They had some figuring out to do.
Circled, each player was given the chance to voice their opinion as to what happened Sunday afternoon.
What didn’t happen was easy enough to spot.
Hits were scarce. Pitching was sluggish. Alabama was dominant.
A day removed from an emotionally-charged, series-clinching victory over the defending national champion Crimson Tide, No. 8 Tennessee (21-4, 2-1 SEC) was throttled by No. 1 Alabama, 7-1 at Lee Stadium.
“I think we’re lucky we escaped with seven runs,” Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “They’re a good team.”
One of Weekly’s explanations for the drubbing was the exceptional outing from Alabama’s (23-3, 1-2 SEC) two-time All-American pitcher, Jackie Traina.
Traina brought a no-hitter into the sixth inning before a Kat Dotson chopper weaved through the infield.
Immediately following Dotson, Lauren Gibson grounded into a 6-3 double play on Traina’s first offering.
It was that kind of afternoon for the Lady Vols.
Dotson was hit by a pitch in the first inning and stole second. It was the only time a Tennessee runner reached scoring position.
The next two batters were set down on strikes.
“We came ready to play. We met last night and had a good meeting this morning,” Weekly said. “I just think we ran into a buzzsaw and didn’t respond to it.”
Traina struck out three, allowed just two hits and a walk during her complete-game performance.
While Traina was a stalwart, Tennessee had three different pitchers toe the circle. They combined to allow 11 hits and issued four walks.
Freshman Erin Gabriel started the contest and was tagged for six runs through her brief two innings of work.
Gabriel’s outing was spoiled by three consecutive infield singles to load the bases in the third inning, as Alabama cashed in to plate five runs.
Even though Gabriel was nicked, Weekly said the experience will be beneficial for both the freshman and the team down the road.
“Are we gonna be better in May because I started Erin there? Absolutely,” Weekly said. “Erin is a good pitcher and that was our thoughts.”
Sisters Ellen and Ivy Renfroe came on in relief and combined to surrender six hits and one earned run.
“Everything wasn’t firing on all cylinders, but we have to have each other’s backs,” Tennessee shortstop Madison Shipman said.
UT etched its lone run on a Shipman solo home run in the bottom of the seventh.
In a swing admittedly filled with frustration, Shipman turned on a pitch that didn’t reach its arch until it safely cleared the left field fence.
“Yeah, I guess it got to the point where I was a little frustrated with myself,” Shipman said. “Finally, I guess I over exaggerated my adjustment and it worked out pretty well.”
Riley Blevins is a freelance contributor.