The cheers were loud over Rocky Top Saturday night. The Tennessee Lady Vols won the 2023 Southeastern Conference softball championship with a 3-1 win over South Carolina.
The SEC championship was earned through a gauntlet of games last week. The Lady Vols defeated Florida and Alabama on Friday to set up the championship opportunity for Saturday.
In the nightcap on Friday night against Alabama, Tennessee nursed a one-run lead into the fourth inning when a familiar name struck a two-run homer to center field to provide the final margin.
Sophomore Katie Taylor from East Coweta High School hit a two-out, two-strike pitch from Alabama pitcher Jaala Torrence to give the Lady Vols a 7-4 lead. It was Taylor's third home run of the season.
The former Lady Indian star started 48 of her team's 52 games this season, drove in 13 runs, and is a perfect 6-for-6 in stolen bases. She hit her first collegiate home run on Feb. 24, ending the 13-0 game against Michigan State.
In the championship game on Saturday, Taylor led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk but was stranded and could not advance. She also recorded two putouts from her rightfield position.
While at East Coweta, Taylor was a part of three state championship teams under the leadership of Head Coach Franklin DeLoach. She hit .414 in her senior year with 14 doubles.
One of the biggest games of her senior year was in the region tournament when she hit two home runs and drove in four runs in the Lady Indians' 12-4 win over Newnan on Oct. 14, 2020.
With the conference championship, the Lady Vols will host a super regional next weekend in Knoxville. The other teams in their regional include Northern Kentucky, Louisville and Indiana.
The SEC runner-up South Carolina Lady Gamecocks had three local players on their roster. Those include Taylor's former teammates at East Coweta, Olivia Cook and Rachel Vaughn, along with former Northgate Lady Viking Natalie Heath.