As Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly pointed out last week, they don’t call it fast-hit softball or fast-run softball.
The sport is fast-pitch softball, emphasis on pitch.
And the emphasis will be on pitching this weekend as Tennessee (47-10), the No. 7 national seed, and No. 10 Alabama (45-13) square off in a best-of-three NCAA Super Regional at Lee Stadium.
When a good pitcher is on her game, her team is tough to beat.
UT fans and an ESPN2 national audience will find out which team’s pitcher is on her game Friday at 7 p.m.
Saturday’s game is at 5 p.m. on ESPN, followed, if necessary, by a third game, also on ESPN.
Tennessee’s Renfroe sisters, Ivy and Ellen, were both razor sharp last weekend in the regional round, combining to throw three shutouts.
“It helps take the pressure off our backs (as hitters),’’ said shortstop Madison Shipman, “knowing we have pitchers who can hold teams to no runs.’’
Alabama’s ace is no stranger to the Lady Vols — or to anyone in women’s softball.
Jackie Traina, a junior from Naples, Fla., hurled the Crimson Tide to the Women’s College World Series title last year.
She had one of the great pitching seasons in NCAA history, going 42-3, and capped it by being named most outstanding player at the WCWS.
“Jackie is experienced, she’s taken her team to a national championship,’’ said UT co-head coach Karen Weekly.
“Jackie has been there on the big stage so (this) weekend won’t be anything new
or different for her.’’
But Traina’s success is based on more than big-game experience.
“Obviously,’’ said UT senior Raven Chavanne, “she has good pitches. But she’s tough.
“You can’t teach that. It’s something natural and she has that. She never gives up.’’
Traina has faced Tennessee five times in her career, going 3-2. One of her wins was last year in the WCWS in Oklahoma City.
Another was in the regular season. She hit a walk-off home run in the 11th to win it 3-2.
Yep, she can swing the bat, too. Traina is hitting .333 with 13 home runs.
For whatever reason, Traina’s junior season hasn’t come close to matching her sophomore dominance.
She’s 19-6 this season, sharing the circle with Leslie Jury (18-7). Traina’s sophomore ERA was 1.87. This year, it’s 2.49. Last year, opposing batters hit .186. This year, they’re hitting .212.
What’s up? A mystery injury?
“We’ve heard rumors,’’ Karen Weekly said. “The gossip is out there. But nothing has been confirmed and I’m sure nobody at Alabama is going to confirm anything for us.’’
Earlier this year, the Lady Vols beat Traina 4-3 on Shipman’s walk-off single. But two days later, Traina threw a two-hitter to beat Tennessee 7-1.
“She throws the ball hard,’’ Karen Weekly said. “Like Ivy, she can get that ball up in the high 60s (mph).
“When Jackie’s on her game, she’s difficult to deal with because of the speed. And when her off-speed pitch is working well, it really sets up everything she does.
“She knows how to put a team on her back and carry a team.’’
So do the Renfroes. Ivy is 19-4; Ellen is 17-4. Both are coming off masterpieces last weekend.
Ellen shut out N.C. State for 11 innings last Saturday. Ivy threw a one-hitter at the Wolfpack the next day to run her NCAA tournament record to 15-4.
“If the pitchers are doing a good job,’’ Ralph Weekly said, “you’ve got a really good shot at winning.’’