March 29, 2005
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - In what proved to be the first extra-inning contest for the No. 4 Lady Vol softball team (38-5, 8-2 SEC) in 2005, Tennessee came out on the short end of the result after suffering a tough, 2-1, eight-inning loss in the nightcap of a doubleheader with the Kentucky Wildcats (15-26, 2-12 SEC). UK's Brooke Marnitz provided the difference with a leadoff solo blast in the top of the eighth inning off sophomore hurler Monica Abbott (26-2) that bounced off the top of the 40-foot screen in left center field and onto Alcoa Highway. The Salinas, Calif., native threw her second career perfect game and seventh collegiate no-hitter in the opener as UT downed Kentucky 5-0.
"Kentucky played very well tonight and deserved to come out victorious in this second game," said Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly. "I have told our team over and over that we cannot leave runners in scoring position and still win games. We believe in our kids and realize that these types of games are all part of the process. Hopefully, we will become a better team as a result of this contest.
With freshman hurler Megan Rhodes (9-3) starting on the mound for the Lady Vols in the nightcap, Kentucky managed to scratch out a run in the top of the first inning on a pair of hits. After a leadoff single by Marnitz and a swipe of second base, pitcher Meghan Cooper helped her own cause with an RBI-double to right center field to grant UK its first lead of the series at 1-0.
After a three-up and three-down bottom of the first, the Lady Vols threatened to get on the scoreboard in the bottom half of the second as a lead off double to center by freshman first baseman Tonya Callahan seemed to give Tennessee the offensive life it needed. However, a fielder's choice by junior center fielder Katherine Card cut down Callahan at third for the first out of the inning. Despite the momentum-halting play, the Orange & White managed to load the bases with two down after a single to third base by sophomore catcher Brittany Bessho and a throwing error by UK third baseman Ashley Fertic allowed junior right fielder Stacey Jennings to reach safely. Unfortunately, a hard grounder back to the mound by sophomore second baseman Ashley Cline was snared by Cooper and thrown to first to register the third out.
Tennessee finally managed a breakthrough in the bottom of the third after sophomore left fielder India Chiles reached first on an error by Kentucky first baseman Megan Glenn. A single through the right side by junior third baseman Kristi Durant advanced Chiles to third where she was cashed in on a sacrifice fly by Callahan to knot the count at 1-1.
Neither squad mounted a serious threat until the sixth inning when the `Cats managed runners at first and second with just one out. However, Abbott quickly closed the door on the scoring opportunity by inducing a Jessica Nance fly out to center and by registering a strikeout of Glenn.
The Orange & White utilized a two-out single through the right side by Card and a base knock to center by designated player Shannon Doepking to threaten in the bottom of the sixth, but another hard shot back to the mound was snared by Cooper as UK escaped trouble once again.
Jennings reached base safely to lead off the seventh on Glenn's second error of the contest and found herself in scoring position after Cline laid down a sacrifice bunt. After sophomore shortstop Lindsay Schutzler lined out hard, pinch hitter Natalie Brock laced a single into the hole at short to place runners at the corners with two down. Once again a groundout ended the scoring opportunity as Durant's shot to first base was snared by Glenn for an unassisted put-out.
Trouble reared its head to lead off the top of the eighth as Marnitz drove a ball deep to center field off Abbott to put Tennessee in a 2-1 hole. The run was just the sixth allowed by the 6-3 lefthander in 179.2 innings of work in 2005 as she currently boasts an earned-run-average of 0.23. With eight more strikeouts in the four-inning relief effort during the second game against UK, Abbott now has 319 K's this season and 901 strikeouts in her two-year career.
Callahan led off the last of the eighth with a walk and was promptly removed for pinch-runner LaDonna Oliver. After a Card fly out to left, Doepking singled through the left side to place runners at first and second with one down. As was the theme for the entire contest, a grounder by Bessho back to the mound was nabbed by Cooper who started a 1-5-3 double play to end the game.
No. 4 UT will contest the rubber match of the series versus Kentucky on Wed., March 30, at 4 p.m. at Tennessee Field at Tyson Park. The No. 4 Lady Vols will continue SEC play with a three-game set this weekend against the Arkansas Lady'Backs over April 2-3. Check into utladyvols.com for live stats of all home contests or call the Lady Vol Hotline at 865-974-8700 (#6) for voicemail updates during games.