March 22, 2005
LYNCHBURG, Va. - Freshman hurler Megan Rhodes came within one out of the third perfect game in Lady Vol history and junior third baseman Kristi Durant led the attack at the plate with a 2-for-3, three-RBI effort as No. 5 Tennessee (36-4, 7-1 SEC) swept a doubleheader from the Liberty Flames (8-15) with a 12-0 (5 inn.) rout at the LU Softball Field in Lynchburg, Va.
Rhodes (9-3) rolled through the opening 4.2 innings of work against Liberty with seven strikeouts. Rhodes retired all 14 batters she faced before allowing a two-out base hit into the hole at shortstop by the Flames' first baseman to bust up the freshman's perfect game opportunity. The Nashville, Tenn., native already boasts a pair of no-hitters in her collegiate career by blanking Charleston Southern (Feb. 18) and North Carolina A&T (Mar. 5) and has hurled three one-hitters (Georgia Southern, Northern Colorado and South Carolina).
The Lady Vols jumped right on the Flames in the first inning with two quick runs as a result of three hits and a Liberty error. Junior center fielder Sarah Fekete opened the outburst with a one out single to third base and promptly stole second to race into scoring position. Durant, fresh off a six-RBI, two home run effort in the 8-1 win over LU in game one of the doubleheader, continued her hot hitting with a double into the gap in left center to grant UT a 1-0 advantage. After a wild pitch advanced Durant to third with two down, sophomore pitcher Monica Abbott laced a RBI-single up the middle to score Tennessee's second run of the contest.
Following a two-bagger into left by leadoff hitter Lindsay Schutzler to open the top of the second, Fekete, the Southeastern Conference's leading hitter coming into the day, reached again with a base knock up the middle to score Schutzler and give the Lady Vols a 3-0 lead.
Tennessee effectively sealed the deal in the next frame by sending a dozen Lady Vol hitters to the plate in an eight-run top of the third inning.
Freshman first baseman Tonya Callahan started the offensive attack with a home run to left field to put UT up 4-0 before two consecutive popouts by Abbott and rightfielder Stacey Jennings threatened to derail the inning. With two down, sophomore catcher Brittany Bessho doubled to the gap in left center and was cashed in immediately by a two-run round-tripper to center by second baseman Ashley Cline. After a Liberty pitching change, UT continued the assault as a Durant bases loaded hit to center plated two more RBI to give Tennessee an 8-0 lead. An error on a Callahan shot to left extended the frame for the Lady Vols and plated an unearned run before Abbott closed the scoring in the third for Tennessee with a two-run scoring single down the left field line.
Up 11-0 heading into the top of the fifth, the Orange & White added a final tally when another Liberty error on a ball hit by Bessho allowed freshman LaDonna Oliver to scamper home with UT's 12th and final run of the lopsided contest.
The No. 5 Lady Vols will continue their trip through the Commonwealth of Virginia with a single match up in Charlottesville, Va., against the Virginia Cavaliers on Thurs., March 24. Check into utladyvols.com for postgame recaps and call the Lady Vol Hotline at 865-974-8700 (#6) for live game updates.