By Stephen K. Lee
For the 12th-straight season, the Tennessee softball program has finished the year ranked in both national polls.
UT closed 2015 ranked No. 8 the final USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Poll and the final ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25, both of which were released on Tuesday. It marks the seventh time that Tennessee finished the year ranked in the top 10 of both polls.
Tennessee finished the season with a 47-17 record and made its seventh appearance in the Women’s College World Series. UT posted its sixth-straight season of 45 wins or more (14th overall), smashing the team single-season home run record with 100 blasts this year.
Tennessee was outstanding in postseason play, taking down three ranked teams (Kentucky, LSU, Florida) in the SEC Tournament en route to a conference tournament runner-up finish and a No. 8 national seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Big Orange defeated Longwood and Utah (twice) to go 3-0 in NCAA Regionals and took two of three over No. 9 national seed Florida State in Super Regionals to punch its ticket to Oklahoma City.
Rainey Gaffin was named Tennessee’s 14th NFCA All-American (31st selection) and Erin Gabriel was tabbed UT’s 13th Academic All-American (23rd selection).
Co-head coaches Ralph Weekly and Karen Weekly also achieved milestone wins during the 2015 season. Karen Weekly earned her 900th career victory (42nd head coach to reach that mark) in a 14-3 (5) triumph over North Dakota State on March 7. Ralph Weekly became the ninth head coach to reach 1,200 wins when Tennessee crushed Mississippi State, 16-8 (6), on April 19.