March 24, 2007
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A sacrifice fly from senior center fielder Lindsay Schutzler in the bottom of the sixth inning was enough to back an outstanding combined pitching effort from junior Megan Rhodes and senior Monica Abbott (25-1) as No. 1 Tennessee (32-2, 10-2 SEC) continued the best start to a campaign in program history by sweeping a doubleheader from Arkansas (12-27, 0-7 SEC) on Saturday at Tyson Park with a 1-0 victory in the second contest.
After registering an inside-the-park homer during the 4-0 opening triumph, Schutzler (1-for-2, RBI) was responsible for the winning RBI in the finale with her sacrifice fly in the sixth. Senior left fielder India Chiles delivered a 2-for-2 effort at the dish, while junior second baseman Kenora Posey went 1-for-2 and scored the winning run. Freshman right fielder Erinn Webb singled in the second frame. Rhodes struck out 10 over five innings of work while allowing just one hit, but left the match-up with no score. Abbott worked two perfect innings and struck out four to pick up her 25th victory.
"We've been playing a lot of freshmen over the last few games looking for someone to emerge and take over at certain positions," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "They are performing pretty well, but no one's stepping up to grab a spot full-time. We'll continue to work on the offense and continue working to get better every day. Once again, Megan Rhodes and Monica Abbott pitched very well for us, and the defense was solid. We got clutch hits from Lindsay Schutzler in both games that were effectively game-winners."
The second contest started as a pitcher's duel between Tennessee's Rhodes and Arkansas' Katy Henry. The Big Orange received a lead-off single in the bottom of the first from Chiles, but the Louisville, Ky., native was thrown out on a steal attempt for the first time this season after going 23-of-23 to open the year.
Tennessee posted a pair of base runners in the bottom of the second on a two-out single from freshman right fielder Erinn Webb and an error committed by UA's second baseman Brandy Baze. Webb attempted to advance from first to third on that fielding miscue off the ground ball from freshman designated player Allison Fulmer but was thrown out on a rope from Baze to third baseman Dayne Huckabee to conclude the frame.
After Rhodes struck out five of the first six UA batters she faced, the Lady'Backs reached the Nashville, Tenn., product for a lead-off single from Samantha Buckner to open the top of the third. After retiring Baze by groundout and left fielder Jocelyne Moncrief by strikeout, Tennessee co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly made the decision to intentionally walk Arkansas' leading hitter, center fielder Jessica Bachkora. The strategy paid immediate dividends as right fielder Rachel LeMaster grounded out harmlessly to Manuma at third to strand the duo of base runners and maintain the scoreless deadlock.
With one retired in the top of the fifth, Chiles made an outstanding "web gem" style play, despite her ongoing struggles with a left shoulder injury, to save UT from a potential Arkansas two-bagger. Buckner drove a low drive down the left field line that was bidding to drop just inside the chalk. That forced Chiles to race over on a full run from her defensive position and slide on her stomach to make an outstanding catch to keep the base paths clear.
Still scoreless through five complete innings, Abbott was summoned into the contest in relief to open the sixth after throwing a complete-game shutout in UT's 4-0 triumph over the Lady'Backs in the opener. The 6-3 left hander immediately re-established her dominance in the circle by striking out Moncrief and Bachkora before inducing a weak pop-up to short by LeMaster.
Posey led-off the bottom of the sixth by reaching on a perfect bunt single to short, and advanced to second as Chiles bounced a base knock through the left side. With no one down and in a key position in the game, Horiuchi came through with a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance the runners up 60 feet and into scoring position at second and third. The sac play proved extremely important as Schutzler immediately delivered a sacrifice fly into left to plate Posey for a 1-0 lead.
One run proved to be plenty for Abbott as the Salinas, Calif., native struck out two of the last three hitters she faced to pick up her 25th victory of the campaign and grant the Lady Vols the doubleheader sweep.
No. 1 Tennessee will complete the three-game series against Arkansas on Sunday at 1 p.m. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com on Gametracker, and periodic updates will be provided to the Lady Vol Hotline at 865-974-8700 (box #6).