Feb. 19, 2005

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STATESBORO, Ga. -­ The No. 7 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team advanced into Sunday's GSU Invitational championship game and improved its overall record to 12-0 after downing the homestanding Georgia Southern Eagles, 5-0, in Saturday afternoon action at Eagle Field in Statesboro, Ga. The Orange & White were led to victory by a one-hit, 12-K performance from sophomore pitcher Monica Abbott and by the clutch hitting of junior third baseman Kristi Durant (3-for-4, 2 RBI).

"Kristi Durant came through big against Georgia Southern on two occasions with runners in scoring position," said Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly. "Lindsay (Schutzler) and Sarah (Fekete) really keyed our offensive attack from the top of the lineup. Monica Abbott pitched extremely well today to allow us to advance to tomorrow's championship game.

Tennessee got off to a solid start against the homestanding Eagles by plating a run in the top of the first inning to grab an early lead. Schutzler began the effort with a leadoff single to shortstop and promptly swiped second to get into scoring position. A sacrifice bunt by junior centerfielder Sarah Fekete advanced Schutzler to third where she was cashed in by a Durant single to second base. On the ground ball Georgia Southern second baseman Gina Sterchi attempted to come home with the throw and try to nail the fleet-footed Schutzler at the plate, but the throw was late. Durant was caught trying to advance to second on the play by a precise throw from GSU catcher Sam Steiner to shortstop Maria Laurato for the second out of the inning. A UT strikeout ended the frame and brought the Eagles to the plate for the first time to face the All-American Abbott.

Georgia Southern threatened to scratch out a run in the bottom of the second inning against the 6'3" lefthander as a walk to GSU third baseman Robyne Siliga and a throwing error in a play at first base placed runners at first and second with no outs. However, Abbott forced leftfielder Aurora Johnson to foul out to first baseman Tonya Callahan, induced a popped-up bunt attempt by Eagle catcher Sam Steiner and struck out designated hitter A.J. Street to end the rally.

The Lady Vols loaded the bases in the top of the fourth inning but suffered from some bad fortune as a pop-up by junior leftfielder Katherine Card traveled right to the GSU shortstop who caught the ball and immediately stepped on second base for a double play to snuff the UT momentum.

After Abbott wiped out Georgia Southern in the bottom half of the fourth, UT exploded for three runs in the fifth. Freshman catcher Shannon Doepking ignited the rally with a base knock to second and her pinch runner, freshman LaDonna Oliver, was advanced into scoring range by an Abbott sacrifice bunt. After a base-on-balls by freshman Kortney Bell, Schutzler tallied her second hit of the contest with a sharp single to third to load the bases with one out. Fekete walked to plate Oliver, and Durant stepped to the dish with a chance to add to UT's lead. The Placentia, Calif., native did just that with a base hit down the left field line to score Bell and grant UT a 3-0 advantage. Sophomore second baseman Ashley Cline followed with a lazer through the left side to plate Schutzler with the Orange & White's fourth run. A fielder's choice that forced Fekete at the plate and a Tennessee groundout to second ended the inning.

UT would add to its advantage in the sixth as Doepking again ignited a scoring burst with a single up the middle. Abbott reached on a fielder's choice and was replaced on the bases by pinch runner India Chiles. The move to put the speedy UT sophomore at first paid immediate dividends as Bell slammed a long double to center to score Chiles with Tennessee's final run of the contest.

While the Lady Vols were getting things done at the plate, Abbott was solid once again on the mound by striking out 13 while allowing just a fourth inning single to Siliga. The current USA Softball National Player of the Week has allowed just a single earned run in 53 innings of work (0.13 ERA) in 2005 and has 40 double-digit strikeouts performances in her career.

No. 7 Tennessee will continue play at the Georgia Southern Invitational on Sun., Feb. 20, against an opponent still to be determined. As the number one seed in the event, UT will await the winner of playoff rounds between the #2 through #5 seeds. After contests matching the 2-5 and 3-4 seeds at 4 p.m. on Saturday, the winners of those games will meet at 10 a.m. on Sun. for the opportunity to face the Orange & White for the title. Check into or the Lady Vol Hotline (865-974-8700, #6) for more updates as they become available.





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