April 7, 2007
ATHENS, Ga. - The top-ranked Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (42-2, 13-2 SEC) rallied from a 1-0 deficit through four innings to post a 3-1 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs (31-18, 5-8 SEC) and sweep Saturday's doubleheader portion of a crucial Southeastern Conference Eastern Division series on a cold and windy day at the Georgia Softball Stadium in Athens, Ga.
Junior pitcher Megan Rhodes picked up her 11th win of the season by striking out eight and allowing just three hits and one unearned run in six innings of work. UT downed UGA by a 10-0 count in five innings during the opener.
Senior left fielder India Chiles continued her amazing day at the plate with a 3-for-4 effort, an RBI and a run scored to complete her DH hitting at an .875 (7-of-8) clip. Senior center fielder Lindsay Schutzler delivered a 2-of-4 effort with an RBI and a run, while sophomore shortstop Liane Horiuchi registered a 2-for-3 performance with a score.
Senior hurler Monica Abbott picked up her fourth save of 2007 after securing the victory with a perfect seventh inning of work. The 6-3 lefthander is now within just 111 strikeouts (2,155) of eclipsing the NCAA Division I career K record currently held by former Texas hurler Cat Osterman (2,265).
"Our team played hard all day," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "We hit the ball really well, got good pitching and strong defense. Georgia is a tough place to play and the Bulldogs are a tough team to play against. India Chiles has been phenomenal for our team over the last few weeks and continued her torrid hitting today by going 7-of-8. Monica Abbott pitched as well as we've ever seen her pitch. We also thought Megan Rhodes pitched very well today. I was especially pleased with the play of Liane Horiuchi. She is an excellent shortstop and proved today that she is capable of making noise with the bat."
Tennessee's Rhodes and Georgia's Kasi Carroll settled into a pitcher's duel through the opening two frames. UT's junior hurler from Nashville, Tenn., struck out four of the initial six hitters she faced, while her Bulldog counterpart permitted just a harmless two-out single to Schutzler in the first.
The Big Orange finally mounted a sustained rally against Carroll in the top of the third with two retired as Posey reached on a fielding error on a throw to first that was dropped by Georgia's Melissa Wood. Chiles singled back to the circle and sophomore designated player Lillian Hammond walked to load the bases for Schutzler. Unfortunately her bid for a hit was scooped cleanly by Megan McAllister at third and tossed on in time to first to retire the side and leave the bases juiced.
Entering their eighth consecutive inning over the two match-ups without a base runner, the Bulldogs finally recorded their initial hit of the doubleheader in the bottom of the third on a clean one-out single through the left side of the infield by shortstop Kristin Schnake. Catcher Becky Mohl ripped a line drive right at third baseman Tonya Callahan who made the grab. Unfortunately, her throw to first, in an attempt to double off the runner, drifted wide of the base for an error allowing Schnake to race into scoring position. That mistake hurt the Lady Vols as Kellie Middleton singled sharply up the middle to score the runner easily from second for a 1-0 UGA lead. Right fielder Charvi Greer grounded out to third to end the frame, but not before Georgia grabbed its initial advantage of the day.
Following a quiet fourth frame, Tennessee's Horiuchi ripped the first pitch she saw from Carroll up the middle and off the second base bag for an important lead-off single to start the fifth. Posey was asked to sacrifice and did so perfectly on a bunt back to the circle to advance the runner into scoring position at second. The "small ball" paid immediate dividends as Chiles bounced a base knock over Melissa Wood at first and into right field allowing Horiuchi to race around from second and cross the plate with the tying run. A groundout and a K eventually left Chiles stranded just 60 feet from paydirt at third, but UT managed to draw even in the contest.
Rhodes struck out a pair of Bulldogs in a one-two-three bottom of the fifth to bring up UT's offense searching for the go-ahead run. With one out, Callahan laced a ground ball that traveled just inside the third base line and down into the corner where the orb rattled around for a two-bagger. With freshman pinch runner Nicole Kajitani standing at second, junior catcher Shannon Doepking joined her on the base paths by drawing the second walk of the contest issued by Carroll. Webb grounded out for the second retirement of the frame. Horiuchi stepped in and bounced a shot to short where UGA's Schnake made the grab and launched a perfect throw to first. The hustling Horiuchi beat the toss, however, to load the bases for junior pinch hitter Danielle Pieroni. After falling behind 3-0 in the count, Carroll responded with three consecutive strikes to K Pieroni looking and maintain the 1-1 deadlock.
The Georgia infield was drawn-in to open the top of the seventh as Chiles stood at the plate with the Bulldogs expecting perhaps a bunt or a little slap hit. The senior from Louisville, Ky., crossed them all up by driving a hard single past the shortstop and into the left center field gap. The ball got on the fast track of the UGA outfield grass and rolled almost all the way to the wall for a lead-off triple. Following a groundout to the right side of the infield by freshman designated player Alexia Clay, Tennessee's all-time leader in three-baggers, Schutzler, came through with the 20th triple of her amazing career by ripping shot to the wall in deep left center. On the play, Chiles scored to grant the Lady Vols a 2-1 advantage. Schutzler raced home on an RBI groundout to first to bestow the Big Orange with an important insurance run and a 3-1 lead. Callahan drove a shot to deep right field, but UGA's Charvi Greer made an outstanding leaping grab at the base of the wall to end the top half of the seventh.
Down to their final three outs, Georgia needed something to happen in a hurry. Designated player Chelsea Cantillo got the Bulldogs off to a good start by driving a hard shot up the middle for a lead-off single. That signaled the end of the day for Rhodes who was superb in the circle by allowing just three hits and one unearned run while striking out eight in six innings of work. Abbott entered having thrown a perfect game in the 10-0 (five inn.) opener and picked up right where she left off. The Salinas, Calif., native struck out McAllister for the first out and then got some defensive assistance to clinch the triumph. UGA's Wood hit a ground ball to Huff at first who turned and threw to Horiuchi covering the bag at second. The Wahiawa, Hawaii, native then completed a perfect 3-6-4 double play by tossing on to Posey at first to conclude the contest and secure the doubleheader sweep.
No. 1 Tennessee will complete its series against the Georgia Bulldogs at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday from the Georgia Softball Stadium. The series finale will be shown live at 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).