March 28, 2007
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Despite intermittent showers that popped up during the game, No. 1 Tennessee (36-2) strung together a nine-hit offensive attack to back another commanding Monica Abbott pitching effort as UT registered a solid 6-0 victory over Western Kentucky (14-19) at Tyson Park in the opener of a Wednesday doubleheader.
Junior first baseman Tonya Callahan was the offensive superstar for the Big Orange with a perfect 3-for-3 performance and two RBI, both coming on her fifth home run of the campaign. The big fly was the 29th of the Holden, Mo., native's career moving her within one HR of tying former Lady Vol Adrianna Wilson, who posted a UT-best 30 during her playing days from 1999-2002.
Senior center fielder Lindsay Schutzler registered a 1-for-3 effort with a two-RBI double in the decisive five-run fifth. Senior left fielder India Chiles (1-of-2) and freshman pinch hitter Anita Manuma (1-of-1) each knocked in one of UT's six tallies.
Abbott improved to a staggering 29-1 on the season after a two-hit, 14-K effort against the Hilltoppers. She now stands just 139 strikeouts (2,127) from eclipsing the NCAA Division I career K record currently held by former Texas hurler Cat Osterman (2,265).
Western Kentucky lead-off hitter Rachelle Boucher worked a 3-0 count against Abbott to begin the top of the first, but UT's 6-3 lefthander responded with three consecutive strikes to register the first out. Falling behind to the initial batter seemed to focus Abbott as she also punched out right fielder Sam Cronk before inducing a ground ball that was handled easily by freshman second baseman Nicole Kajitani to retire the side.
Chiles opened Tennessee's half of the first with a perfect bouncing slap to shortstop. Racing up the line, the Louisville, Ky., lead-off hitter appeared to have beaten Ashley Contreras' throw to the bag, but was called out on a controversial call by the first base umpire. That seemed to take the life out of the offense as Posey popped out to second and Schutzler flied harmlessly to left center.
The first player to reach base safely for either squad was WKU's designated player Lindsay Antone who singled into right center field with one retired in the top of the second. She was stranded where she stood as Contreras and first baseman Shelby Smith struck out to raise Abbott's total to five through two innings of work.
The Big Orange garnered their initial base runner in the bottom half of the second as Callahan ripped a pitch through the left side. She was sacrificed up 60 feet into scoring position on a perfect bunt by Doepking. Unfortunately for the Lady Vols, Kajitani grounded out routinely to short and Clay drove a shot deep to center that was tracked down by Renikka Toliver to strand Callahan at second.
Following a drive to left field by freshman right fielder Erinn Webb that was tracked down at the base of the wall by Towns to open the bottom of the third, sophomore shortstop Liane Horiuchi drew a one-out free pass off WKU hurler Jennifer Kempf. The base runner from Wahiawa, Hawaii, native swiped second and moved to third on a sacrifice slap by Chiles. In the obvious RBI situation, Tennessee co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly made the decision to have Manuma bat in place of Posey. The move paid immediate dividends as the rookie pinch hitter ripped a single off the glove of diving WKU second baseman Terri Ellingsworth to plate Horiuchi and bestow UT a one-run lead. A fly out to left center by Schutzler ended the frame, but not before the Big Orange jumped in front in the match-up. That first score had proven plenty important for the Lady Vols during the 2007 season as the Orange & White entered Wednesday's doubleheader a perfect 33-0 when plating the game's initial tally.
With Abbott thoroughly in control in the circle having retired eight consecutive Hilltoppers, Callahan started the offense off with a single up the middle to open the fourth. Sophomore pinch runner Lillian Hammond was brought into the contest to run at first, but was promptly called out for leaving the base early. Once again, the tough call at first killed any offensive momentum as Doepking flied out to center and Kajitani grounded to third to keep the contest at 1-0.
With the skies darkening by a minute, Abbott's roll through the Hilltopper line-up continued into the fifth as Abbott struck out Antone, Contreras and Smith in order to improve her total to 11 K's on the afternoon. By completing the top of the fifth, the contest became official by rule if halted due to inclement weather.
For Western Kentucky the rain wouldn't come fast enough as Webb ripped a one out base knock through the right side of the infield in the bottom of the fifth to begin a huge scoring assault. The Hemet, Calif., native moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Horiuchi. Looking for a valuable insurance run, Chiles, Tennessee's leading hitter coming into today at .454, drove a clutch two-out, RBI single up the middle to allow Webb the opportunity to round third and slide in just under the tag of WKU catcher Boucher for a 2-0 lead. The hit parade continued for UT as Posey joined Chiles on the base paths on a slap single to third. With runners at the corners and two retired, Schutzler continued her amazing two-out production (21 of her 31 RBI this year are of the two-out variety) in 2007 with a double into left center to plate a pair for a 4-0 advantage. Callahan stepped into the box and guided her fifth home run of the campaign just over the right field wall to improve it to a six-run lead. Doepking flied out to left to end the attack, but not before Tennessee registered five runs on five hits.
A lead-off single by Ellingsworth and a wild pitch in the top of the sixth didn't come back to haunt Abbott as Toliver and pinch hitters Kelsey McCauley and Amanda Ford-Feitz went down swinging to strand WKU's second base runner of the day.
With the Weeklys looking for some contributions from the bench in the bottom of the sixth, junior pinch hitter Caitlin Ryan came through with her second hit of the season by blasting a sharp two out single into center field. UT didn't add to the lead, but Ryan's base knock was Tennessee's ninth of the contest.
Needing just three outs to pin down her 29th win of the campaign, Abbott induced a foul ball just to the left of home plate. Posey raced in from her third base position and made an outstanding grab up against the backstop fencing for the first out of the frame. WKU's Horesky grounded out to short for the second retirement. Antone bounced a ball back to the circle that Abbott controlled before turning and throwing to first from her knees to wrap-up the contest and secure Tennessee's 36th win.
No. 1 Tennessee concludes its Western Kentucky doubleheader on Wednesday evening at Tyson Park at approximately 7:10 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). The second match-up will be broadcast live on The Sports Animal (99.1, 99.3 FM, 990 AM, Yahoo Sports through utladyvols.com).