Feb. 18, 2005

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STATESBORO, Ga. - Junior third baseman Kristi Durant drilled an RBI single in the bottom of the first, sophomore second baseman Ashley Cline went deep to center for her first career home run in the fourth and sophomore pitcher Monica Abbott picked up her sixth victory of the season with seven strong innings of two-hit, 12-K ball as the No. 7 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team improved to 9-0 overall with a 2-0 triumph over Illinois-Chicago at the Georgia Southern Invitational in Statesboro, Ga. The Orange & White also ran aggressively as UT tied a record for single-game stolen bases (4/21/00 vs. Radford) with six against the Flames.

"I feel like we can still play a lot better brand of softball than we did today," said Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly. "This was Illinois-Chicago's first game of the season, and they played hard against us. I thought we were on cruise control for most of the game. As a team we need to improve on that aspect of our performance. We are obviously happy to pick up an important victory.

Abbott, the reigning USA Softball National Player of the Week, struck out the first three UIC batters she faced to open the contest. UT fed off the hurler's momentum in the bottom of the first as junior centerfielder Sarah Fekete started a one-out offensive outburst with a single back to the pitcher. After Fekete's aggressive base-running advanced the Maryville, Tenn., native into scoring position with a swipe of second, Durant cashed in Tennessee's initial run by drilling a hard lazer by UIC's diving second-baseman Nicole Robinson.

Neither team threatened again until the third when the Orange & White again mounted an attack. Fekete led off the inning with a base knock to shortstop and stole her second base of the contest. After Durant walked and freshman LaDonna Oliver was brought on to pinch run for the Placentia, Calif., native, junior rightfielder Stacey Jennings hit into a fielder's choice to cut down Fekete at third and place UT runners at first and second with one down. A single to right center by junior utility player Katherine Card, the current Southeastern Conference Player of the Week, loaded the bases, but two Lady Vol strikeouts ended the scoring threat.

With Tennessee's 6'3" lefthander on cruise control through four innings having allowed just one hit, UT added to its advantage with one down in the bottom of the fourth as Cline hammered the first pitch she saw from UIC hurler Brittany McIntyre to deep center for her first career home run and a 2-0 Lady Vol advantage.

The Flames best chance to get on the scoreboard occurred in the top of the seventh as leftfielder Cameron Astiazaran drove an Abbott offering to left center for a leadoff double. However, the All-American closed the door on any rally by forcing two harmless fly balls and by registering her 12th strikeout of the contest. For the Tennessee hurler the double-digit K performance was the 39th of her career.





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