March 14, 2007
OXFORD, Miss. - On a very blustery evening at the Ole Miss Softball Stadium in Oxford, Miss., with winds gusting straight in from right center field as high as 25 m.p.h., the No. 1 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (25-1, 3-1 SEC) outlasted a game Ole Miss squad (9-16, 1-3 SEC) to post a 1-0 victory in opening a key mid-week league doubleheader.
Junior catcher Shannon Doepking registered the hit of the contest for UT by ripping an RBI single down the right field line with two down in the top of the seventh to plate freshman Erinn Webb with the game's lone run. Senior pitcher Monica Abbott was also outstanding in the circle by striking out 17 in a seven-inning, one-hitter to up her season mark and career-best winning streak to 19-0.
After a one-two-three top of the first for the Big Orange against Ole Miss starter Tara Willitt, Emily Sarver dropped a lead-off bunt and beat the throw to the bag to give the Rebels an immediate base runner. The UM right fielder remained right there as Abbott struck out the side for the 58th time in 2007 as second baseman Lisa Conchos, third baseman Lauren Grill and designated player Mary Jane Callahan all went down swinging.
Webb became the Lady Vols' initial base runner by drawing a free pass off Willitt with two down in the top of the second. She advanced 60 feet into scoring position with the first stolen base of her collegiate career. Unfortunately, the rookie was stranded at second as junior third baseman Jennifer Griffin grounded out sharply to Ashley Dowdy at short to end the frame.
Abbott continued her dominance from the circle in the bottom of the second by raising her strikeout total to six through two innings of work as Dowdy, Ole Miss catcher Amber Tramp and left fielder Alyssa McGovern each were retired by K.
Rebel center fielder Vanessa Gibbs opened the bottom of the third by dropping a bunt and reaching on a Lady Vol fielding error. Following strikeouts of first baseman Lauren Rowe and Sarver, Gibbs successfully swiped second to move into scoring position with Conchos at the plate. The UM second baseman ripped a shot right at Tennessee first baseman Tonya Callahan that ricocheted off her arm and into foul territory. The Holden, Mo., native stuck with the play, retrieved the ball and tossed to junior Kenora Posey covering the bag to conclude the inning with no scoring.
After taking part in a good play in the field, Posey got the offense started with her bat in the fourth by bunting in front of the dish and beating the toss to the bag for UT's initial lead-off runner of the contest. With freshman designated player Tiffany Huff standing in the batter's box, Posey took off on a steal attempt, but was called out for apparently leaving the base early. That hurt UT as Huff immediately blasted a single through the left side of the infield. Callahan grounded to third, but Grill booted the play for an error to grant the Big Orange a pair of base runners with just one down. A Tennessee substitute to start the bottom of the second frame, sophomore right fielder Danielle Pieroni worked the count to 3-2 against Willitt before grounding out slowly to second to advance the duo on the base paths up 60 feet. Unfortunately, the promising frame ended on a swinging strikeout of Webb to keep the contest scoreless.
A single by Grill granted the Rebels another lead-off base runner in the bottom of the fourth. Mary Jane Callahan successfully advanced the runner to second on a perfect sacrifice bunt for the first out of the inning. UT's 6-3 lefthander responded in another clutch situation to punch out Dowdy and Tramp to improve her K total to 10 through four frames and keep UM off the scoreboard.
The fifth inning was quiet for both offensive sides as Tennessee was retired in order and the Rebels' McGovern, Gibbs and Rowe became Abbott's 11th, 12th and 13th strikeout victims of the match-up.
With one down in the bottom of the sixth, Lady Vol junior catcher Shannon Doepking made a solid "web gem" style play by tracking down a foul ball off the bat of Conchos up against the screen near the Tennessee dugout. The K count grew to 15 as Grill was punched out to conclude the sixth inning of a 0-0 contest.
Pieroni granted the Orange & White a crucial opportunity with one retired in the top of the seventh by working the count full against Willitt before drawing a free pass. Sophomore pinch runner Lillian Hammond advanced into scoring position by stealing her fourth base of 2007 and moved to third on a single to second base by Webb. With runners at the corners and just one retired, Griffin drove a shot to deep right that drifted foul. Ole Miss right fielder Sarver played the ball smartly by letting the orb drop harmlessly to avoid a sacrifice fly situation. The squeeze was on but Griffin's bunt traveled straight to Willitt who threw to Tramp covering home for a crucial fielder's choice. With two down Doepking stepped to the plate with the chance to be the heroine. The Acton, Calif., native came through in the clutch situation with an RBI single down the right field line to grant the Big Orange a 1-0 advantage.
That proved to be plenty of support for Abbott as the Salinas, Calif., product and three-time All-American retired the Rebels in order in the bottom of the seventh with two strikeouts to secure the 1-0 triumph. She now boasts 1,997 career strikeouts to stand just three K's from becoming only the second pitcher in NCAA Division I history to cross the 2,000-strikeout plateau (Cat Osterman, Texas, 2,265).
No. 1 Tennessee will continue its Wednesday conference doubleheader against Ole Miss at approximately 8:30 p.m. ET. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com, and periodic updates will be provided to the Lady Vol Hotline at 865-974-8700 (box #6).