Cheyanne Tarango stepped to the plate. The bases were loaded. She took a step forward and drilled the pitch. The ball took off.
 Tarango watched the ball head to the fence. She rounded first base as the ball fell over on the other side. Her grand slam blast capped an eight-run inning in the Lady Vols’ 8-2 comeback against the Radford Highlanders on Tuesday.
“They don’t really look that pretty,” she said and laughed. “When I hit it, it felt good. I didn’t know if it was going to go out or not, but I knew that it felt good and it was going to be a base hit at least.”
Growing up 23 minutes from Disneyland, Tarango was used to seeing others celebrated for their unforgettable moments.
The Anaheim Hills, Calif., native had her moment in the ISF World Championships in Cape Town, South Africa. The U.S. Junior Women had already been shut out 7-0 in the first game. The rematch was closer. Unlike the first matchup, Tarango was in the lineup. Tuesday’s at-bats were somewhat similar to the Dec. 17 final.
“We were having the same adjustment we were here,” she said. “Our teammates were getting under the ball and there was wind blowing inward and all the balls that everyone hit up were floating back this way.”
During Tarango’s first at-bat, she got out on a pop-up.
“So my first at-bat,” Tarango said, “I popped up and it went to deep left field, like foul, and she caught it. My first reaction was, ‘OK, I just need to get on top (of the ball).’ That was my whole thought process and when I hit it (the second time), I was like, ‘Ugh, it’s in the air.’”
Japan was leading 1-0 at the time of the hit. With the bases loaded and one out, Tarango didn’t know until she reached first base that the ball stayed in the air until it landed over the left field fence.
“When I finally got to first base, (my teammates) were like, ‘It went out, it went out,’” she said. “I think the one in Cape Town was more left field.”
The go-ahead grand-slam proved to be the game-winner. The U.S. Junior Women upset Japan, 4-1.
Tarango’s move to Knoxville was based on UT, family and a little help from above. She hasn’t had trouble getting used to the area, saying she “felt at home here.”
“I actually have some family here,” Tarango said. “My family’s kind of religious so we prayed over it and I felt like this was the right place to be with the chemistry and all of the fans and everything so I felt at home here.”
The fan increase from her days at Canyon High School stood out.
“I feel like it’s just being comfortable with the team and I guess the environment and what you’re playing in,” Tarango said. “High school, you don’t have this many fans out here cheering for you.”
The UT slugger’s home runs have come in critical parts of the game, creating unforgettable moments of her own.
She may not think her home runs — like the grand slam she belted Tuesday — look pretty, but the opposing pitchers never see the UT freshman coming.
“She has tremendous potential,” UT co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “She’s only a freshman. She’ll face some tough pitching this weekend. That’s one thing LSU features, but you know she hit .444 against Florida so we’re going to need her to have a big week the rest of the way.”
Tarango only has two home runs with UT, but they’ve come in crucial times. Her other homer was a two-run shot to left field against San Diego State earlier this season. The homer pushed the Lady Vols ahead 5-4.
San Diego State never saw it coming.