April 3, 2007
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The No. 1 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (40-2) registered its fifth-consecutive 40-win season and improved its winning streak to 15 games with a commanding 12-0 (five inn.) victory over a quality Tennessee Tech squad (31-13) on Tuesday evening at Tyson Park. With the victory, UT also extended its non-conference regular-season winning streak to 78 games and its home winning skein to 18 straight. Junior first baseman Tonya Callahan made history by breaking the UT school record with her 31st career home run and seventh HR of the campaign in the fourth frame.
The offensive explosion was keyed by nine different Lady Vols that posted hits and eight Big Orange players that registered RBIs. Callahan led the way with a 2-for-2, two-run, three-RBI effort, while sophomore shortstop Liane Horiuchi knocked in a pair on a groundout. Freshman second baseman Nicole Kajitani was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI. Sophomore outfielder Lillian Hammond, redshirt freshman pinch hitter Allison Fulmer, junior catcher Shannon Doepking, freshman right fielder Erinn Webb and rookie pinch hitter Alexia Clay each registered a base knock and an RBI.
Junior pitcher Megan Rhodes was outstanding in the circle by striking out 12 while allowing just a fourth-inning single in her complete-game, one-hit shutout to move to 10-1.
Since the return of UT co-leading RBI producer and freshman designated player Tiffany Huff to the line-up following a two-week injury lay-off, Tennessee has averaged 11 runs a game over its last three contests while registering 31 base hits with eight doubles, a triple, two home runs and a .484 team batting average.
"Tennessee Tech is a very good offensive ball club," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "The 53 home runs they've hit are the most by any team that we've competed against this season to my knowledge. Megan Rhodes was superb in the circle, and it was great to have our speed game get our attack going. Lillian Hammond is really giving our team a boost. She is a great young athlete who will be a tremendous asset for us in the years to come. We started four freshmen in this contest and all four will be big contributors for Tennessee in the future. Tonya Callahan has worked hard on her hitting, and her home run to break the school record was a great shot over the left field wall."
Granted the mid-week start, Rhodes made the most of her opportunity by racing through the Tennessee Tech line-up in the top of the first inning by inducing a foul pop outside of first by lead-off hitter Beth Boden before posting consecutive strikeouts of third baseman Katie Speiser and second baseman Krystina Dobbs.
A fielding miscue by TTU left fielder Ashley Potts on a shallow fly ball opened the door for a two-run opening frame for the Big Orange. The Lady Vols garnered a lead-off base runner in speedy senior India Chiles on the dropped catch miscue. The Louisville, Ky., native immediately took off for second and swiped her team-best 28th bag of the campaign to reach scoring position. Hammond sacrificed Chiles to third on a perfect sacrifice bunt. Schutzler drew a free pass off starting pitcher Sarah Street and stole her 25th base of the year to improve the situation to runners at second and third with just one down. Street uncorked a wild offering that traveled to the backstop allowing Chiles to race across the dish with UT's first run. Down 0-2, Huff managed to work a walk and stole second, despite still recovering from ankle surgery, to once again make it base runners at second and third. Callahan drove a high fly ball into center that was plenty deep enough for a sacrifice fly to score Schutzler and improve the count to 2-0. A groundout back to the circle by Doepking ended the frame, but not before Tennessee registered two runs on no hits, two walks, an error and a passed ball.
Following another one-two-three inning from Rhodes with two more K's, the Lady Vol offense opened the bottom of the second looking to add to its two-score advantage. Webb christened the frame by drawing the third walk of the contest off Street. Another rookie, Kajitani, drove a deep shot to right field that drifted back to the wall, but Katie Sutherland managed to track the sphere down for the first out. Junior third baseman Kenora Posey sacrificed Webb to second on a slap, but the runner was stranded in scoring position as Chiles grounded out to second.
Tech received its first base runner with one down in the third inning as Rhodes walked first baseman Kerilyn Mongar. She was of little consequence as Rhodes continued her dominance by striking out shortstop Lauren Upton and Boden to punch out the side and up her total to seven through three frames.
Hammond continued her red-hot hitting to open the bottom of the third by registering her eighth straight hit in eight official at-bats, dating back to March 25 against Arkansas, with a slap double into right field. A groundout to the right side of the infield by Schutzler advanced the runner 60 feet to third where she was soon joined on the base paths by Huff via walk. That set the stage for Callahan who ripped a long two-bagger into the left field gap and to the wall to bring in Hammond for a 3-0 lead and her 31st RBI. The offensive assault continued as Doepking blasted a liner through the right side to set runners at the corners and bring Schutzler in with UT's fourth score. Webb produced the Orange & White's third consecutive hit with an RBI base knock into right field to score Callahan for a 5-0 lead. Kajitani ripped a shot that bounced under the second baseman's glove and rolled deep into right center field for a two-bagger to bring home another score while Clay blooped an RBI single into short left center to bring home Webb and improve the count to 7-0. Another pinch hitter, redshirt freshman Allison Fulmer, laced a high chopper that shortstop Lauren Upton managed to make an outstanding play on in front of second base to keep the orb from traveling up the middle for a base hit as Kajitani scored to make it 8-0. Tennessee added its ninth score on a fielder's choice off the bat of Hammond to cut down the runner at second. Unfortunately, the put out officially ended the Chattanooga, Tenn., native's streak of eight consecutive hits in eight official at-bats. A Schutzler base knock up the middle marked Lady Vol hit No. 8 in the inning, but two base runners were stranded on a looking strikeout to mercifully end the onslaught. In the frame, the Big Orange registered seven runs on eight base knocks as 12 UT hitters came to the plate.
The Golden Eagles managed to break-up the no-hit bid with two down in the top of the fourth on a clean single through the right side by catcher Stephanie Fischer, but Rhodes managed to punch out Bynum for her ninth K to strand the runner at first.
Callahan led off the fifth with some Tennessee history by blasting the first pitch she saw deep over the left field wall for her seventh homer of the campaign and her Lady Vol record breaking 31st big fly of her career. The Holden, Mo., native broke the record of 30 formerly held by Adrianna Wilson, who played for the Big Orange from 1999-2002. The offensive attack continued as a fielder's choice by Webb and consecutive singles from Kajitani and Posey loaded the bags with still just one down. A strange play boosted the lead to 12-0 as Horiuchi grounded a ball up the first base line that Mongar picked up easily. The Tech fielder couldn't decide whether to try to cut down the runner at first or throw home for the force. She delayed long enough that her eventual move to first was called safe by the first base umpire. Two runs crossed safely on the delayed move and the umpires then conferred to change their call to register UT's second retirement. A strikeout ended the inning, but not before Tennessee added three more tallies.
A Big Orange fielding error in the outfield granted Tennessee Tech a two-out base runner, but TTU couldn't scratch out any sort of threat. Rhodes struck out the side for the second time on the day as Potts, Sutherland and pinch hitter Kristyn Castonzo went down to mark her 10th, 11th and 12th K's of the match-up and secure her 10th victory of 2007.
No. 1 Tennessee takes to the road in conference play this weekend for a vital three-game series in Athens, Ga., against the Georgia Bulldogs. All three contests will be shown live on television as CSS will broadcast the Saturday doubleheader at 2 and 4 p.m. ET, with Sunday's contest scheduled for 2 p.m. ET on Fox Sports Net (FSN) as part of the SEC-TV package. 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).