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THREE EARLY RUNS ENOUGH AS NO. 1 UT CRUISES PAST MICHIGAN STATE, 3-0
Jennifer Griffin

Jennifer Griffin

Feb. 24, 2007

Box Score

CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. - Run scoring singles from sophomore shortstop Liane Horiuchi and freshman catcher Tiffany Huff over the first three innings proved to be plenty as senior hurler Monica Abbott struck out 16 in a two-hit, 3-0, shutout of Michigan State on the final day of action at the Palm Springs Classic in Cathedral City, Calif. With seven additional shutout frames versus MSU, Abbott's scoreless skein now stands at 52.1 straight innings.

Senior left fielder India Chiles and sophomore third baseman Jennifer Griffin each registered a pair of hits in the victory, while Horiuchi knocked in a run and Huff a pair on base hits. By tallying three times in the opening three innings, Tennessee has now scored 66 of its 101 total runs this season over the first three frames.

With one down in the top of the first inning, Chiles reached safely on a perfect bunt back to Spartan pitcher Megan Hair. Freshman catcher Tiffany Huff just missed a pitch, driving a ball to the base of the wall in left for a very loud out number two. Junior first baseman Tonya Callahan ripped a shot down to third that tipped off the end of the glove of diving MSU third baseman Caitlin Mahoney to place runners at first and second. Sophomore third baseman Jennifer Griffin laced a sharp grounder to second, but State's Gina Mondo dove to her left to corral the ball and threw in time to retire Griffin to end the frame with no scoreboard damage.

 

 

Abbott blew through the Spartan line-up in the bottom of the first striking out center fielder Nikki Nicosia and catcher Kara Weigle. The 6-3 lefthander also induced a grounder that sophomore shortstop Liane Horiuchi nabbed in an outstanding backhanded play while moving to her right at short. She threw across her body for the out that concluded the inning.

Tennessee tallied first on the scoreboard in the top of the second as the result of a two-out walk, a single and a wild pitch. Freshman second baseman Nicole Kajitani drew a base-on-balls off Hair and advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch that rolled to the backstop. Horiuchi lined a base knock into left field allowing Kajitani to race home for a 1-0 lead. On the play, however, the Wahiawa, Hawaii, product was gunned down at second on a questionable call for the third out.

After Abbott struck out the side for the 36th time in 2007 during the bottom of the second, the Lady Vol bats came alive in the top of the third. Schutzler beat out an infield single to lead-off the frame and was immediately followed by a long double from Chiles that dropped just past the outstretched glove of diving MSU right fielder Nicole Mercado to place a pair in scoring position. Huff stepped into the batter's box and ripped the first offering she saw up the middle to plate two for a 3-0 lead and her team-best 21st and 22nd RBI of the season. After a Callahan pop fly on the infield, the hit parade continued as Griffin drove a single down the right field line. Huff attempted to advance all the way to third on the play and was caught on a perfect throw from Mercado for the second retirement. Following a Griffin swipe of second, junior designated player Shannon Doepking drew a free pass from Hair to, once again, grant Tennessee a pair of baserunners. Freshman right fielder Erinn Webb made strong contact with a pitch but lined it on a rope right at Mercado to retire the side.

Michigan State got their first baserunner of the contest on an infield single with two down in the bottom of the third as designated player Jessica LeFevre slapped a ball to Kajitani's right at second and beat out the throw to first. With Nikki Nicosia at the plate, LeFevre took off and swiped second to get into scoring position. The steal didn't matter as Abbott ended the inning by striking out Nicosia for her eighth K of the contest.

After a quiet fourth frame, UT's three-time All-American punched out the Michigan State side in order in the bottom of the fifth to improve her season "striking out the side" total to 38 in 63 innings.

Griffin christened the top of the sixth with a bouncer over the third baseman's head for a lead-off single. Following a popped-up bunt for out number one, Webb hit into a fielder's choice to cut down the lead runner Griffin at second. Kajitani popped out to second to leave junior pinch runner Kenora Posey stranded at first.

Down by only three runs, Michigan State attempted to mount a one-out rally in the bottom of the seventh. Left fielder Traci Nicosia hammered a drive into left center field but Schutzler tracked the liner down on the run for the second retirement. Abbott made Mahoney her 16th strikeout to end the contest and secure both her 11th victory and No. 1 UT's 14th straight triumph.

No. 1 Tennessee will wrap up its 11-day West Coast road trip this afternoon against Oklahoma State at 3:30 p.m. Periodic updates will be provided on the Lady Vol Hotline at 865-974-8700 (box #6).

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