March 2, 2007
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Tennessee senior pitcher Monica Abbott struck out 18 in a 2-0, one-hit shutout of Illinois-Chicago at the Frost Classic in Chattanooga, Tenn., to tie former Southern Miss hurler Courtney Blades' NCAA Division I career victory record of 151 wins. The triumph improved the Salinas, Calif., native to a perfect 12-0 on the season while stretching her scoreless inning streak to 59.1. The 16-0 beginning to the 2007 season ties the 2005 UT squad for the second-best opening to a campaign in school history.
The Lady Vol offense managed eight hits and left eight on base against UIC pitcher Sarah Clynes as UT senior left fielder India Chiles led the attack with a 3-for-3, one run scored effort. Freshman catcher Tiffany Huff drove in a tally in the fifth inning on a double to left, and junior first baseman Tonya Callahan registered an RBI on a sacrifice fly in the third.
Tennessee's Abbott dominated through the first two innings to the tune of six consecutive strikeouts, four looking, to raise her "struck out the side" total to 40 in 67 frames to that point in the season.
After leaving a runner stranded in the bottom of the first following a Chiles single with one out, freshman designated player Alexia Clay got the Lady Vol offense started to lead-off the second by lacing a hard single into center field. Rookie Nicole Kajitani was summoned into the contest to pinch run for Clay and promptly swiped second to advance into scoring position. She was left stranded right there as sophomore right fielder Danielle Pieroni went down swinging, and sophomore Liane Horiuchi lined out sharply to UIC's Nicole Robinson at short to end the frame.
Illinois-Chicago first baseman Melissa Marinacci became the Flames' first base runner with one retired in the top of the third by singling through the left side. Abbott responded by punching out Clynes, before an infield error on a slow roller off the bat of center fielder Ashlee Ackerman granted UIC runners at the corners with two down. Left fielder Brittany Dixon grounded a ball to Horiuchi, who made the tough play to first in the nick of time, to keep the Flames off the scoreboard.
The speed game paid dividends for the UT offense in the bottom of the third as junior second baseman Kenora Posey, Schutzler and Chiles all beat out infield hits to load the bases. Huff hit into a fielder's choice to cut down Posey at the plate for the initial retirement of the frame. Callahan stepped to the dish and lifted a high fly ball to deep left to score Schutzler on the sacrifice fly for Tennessee's first run and Callahan's 17th RBI of the season. Clay drew a walk off UIC hurler Clynes to load the bases for junior third baseman Jennifer Griffin. The Whittier, Calif., native launched a grand slam bid to deep left, but Dixon tracked down the ball at the base of wall to retire the side with the Lady Vols up 1-0.
Two more strikeouts in the top of the fourth raised Abbott's total to 10 in the contest as the Salinas, Calif., native K'ed Illinois-Chicago's Robinson and right fielder Elizabeth Jacoby. The count grew to 13 to end the fifth as the 6-3 lefthander struck out the side.
With one down in the fifth, Chiles beat out an infield single and was cashed in on a Huff double to the left field wall to up the Tennessee lead to 2-0. For Huff, the RBI was her Southeastern Conference-best 25th of the campaign.
Abbott closed out her 151st career triumph by striking out eight of the final nine Illinois-Chicago batters she faced from the fifth through seventh innings.
No. 1 Tennessee will continue its opening day at the Frost Classic with a 12:15 p.m. match-up against Oakland University at Jim Frost Stadium on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com and periodic updates will be provided to the Lady Vol Hotline at 865-974-870 (box #6).