April 21, 2007
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - In front of a massive Saturday Tyson Park crowd with full bleacher capacity reached and fans standing several deep down both foul lines and setting up chairs behind the outfield fencing, No. 1 Tennessee (48-2, 18-2 SEC) stretched its winning streak to 23 games and its conference skein to 15 straight contests with a commanding 10-0 (five inn.) triumph over Auburn (22-28, 7-16 SEC) in the opener of a league doubleheader.
Senior pitcher Monica Abbott started the match-up in the circle for UT and worked two innings of one-hit ball with five strikeouts to cross the 500-K plateau. By crossing that milestone, the 6-3 lefthander became the first pitcher in NCAA Division I history to punch out 500 hitters during each of her four collegiate campaigns. With five K's in the 10-0 (5) victory, Abbott now stands just 47 strikeouts (2,219) from eclipsing the prestigious NCAA Division I career K record currently held by former Texas hurler Cat Osterman (2,265). Junior hurler Megan Rhodes improved to 12-1 on the season with three dominant innings of relief while allowing two hits and striking out eight Tigers to pick up the win.
With a perfect 3-for-3, two-run, one-RBI effort against Auburn in the opener, senior left fielder and current SEC Player of the Week India Chiles has now recorded two or more base knocks in each of her last 10 SEC tilts while recording a .757 average on a 28-of-37 performance at the plate. She's now hitting a mind-boggling .607 (34-of-56) counting just her 18 Southeastern Conference contests to this point in the season. Her 2007 batting average continues to climb as the Louisville, Ky., native now maintains a .489 overall mark.
Junior first baseman Tonya Callahan led the offense by delivering a 2-for-3, three-RBI effort with her team-best ninth home run of the campaign. Sophomore shortstop Liane Horiuchi was 2-for-3 with two RBI, while senior center fielder Lindsay Schutzler (1-for-3) and sophomore Danielle Pieroni (1-of-1) each knocked in a tally during Tennessee's eight-run second frame.
After throwing consecutive no-hitters in her two appearances against Auburn in 2006, second baseman Ashley Arcuri granted the Tigers a lead-off double versus Auburn to start the top of the first that dropped just inside the right field line. Tennessee's three-time All-American rebounded from the hit to strikeout center fielder Lauren Walton to record the first out of the frame. Designated player Holly Currie ripped a sharp ground ball to third, on which Griffin made a great play, before the UT third baseman threw across the diamond for the second out. During an intentional walk of right fielder Sara Ghezzi, Abbott unleashed a wild toss that traveled to the backstop allowing Arcuri to race into third. With the intentional free pass to Ghezzi and first baseman Whitney Wyatt being struck by a pitch, the Tigers a golden opportunity with the bases loaded against Abbott and just two outs. That brought left fielder Brittany Scott to the dish with a chance to grant Auburn an important advantage. She went down swinging against the 6-3 lefthander, however, as the Orange & Blue stranded three baserunners in the first. The K of Scott marked the 500th of Abbott's 2007 season as the Salinas, Calif., native became the first pitcher in NCAA Division I history to strikeout 500 hitters in each of her four collegiate campaigns.
Chiles battled starter Brittany Day to a 3-2 count and fouled off three pitches before continuing her amazing SEC hitting with a lead-off slap double over a drawn-in Auburn infield and into the gap in right center field. Following a strikeout, Chiles moved up 60 feet to third on a wild offering from Day that hit the dirt in front of the plate before escaping the clutches of catcher Jorja Bell. Freshman designated player Tiffany Huff grounded out sharply to short to force the runner to remain at third with two down. That brought Callahan to the dish with a golden RBI opportunity. With Auburn's outfielders standing almost on the warning track to keep a ball off the bat of the Tennessee power hitter from traveling over their head, Callahan took advantage with a single into short right field to plate Chiles and record her 41st RBI of the season and 11th two-out RBI. Doepking grounded out to second base to conclude things, but UT had grabbed an important 1-0 advantage. Entering today's opener, the Lady Vols were 41-0 on the year when scoring the game's initial run and 22-0 when plating a score in the first inning.
Abbott settled in after her difficult opening frame to punch out catcher Jorja Bell, third baseman Nicole Russo and shortstop Lindsey Harrelson in order in the second to strike out the side for the 96th time in 2007.
Tennessee's offense exploded in the bottom of the second as Griffin led off the inning with a single through the left side to open the assault. The Whitter, Calif., native swiped second to reach scoring position and advanced to third on a wild pitch from Day. Horiuchi followed with an RBI single through Day's legs in the circle and up the middle to score Griffin and make it 2-0. Hammond delivered a base knock to advance the runner to third as she raced into second on the throw that attempted to nail Horiuchi. Sophomore pinch hitter Danielle Pieroni bounced a ball to short for a hit to bring in Tennessee's third score of the contest. Posey re-entered to run for Pieroni and took off for second on a steal attempt. The throw down to the bag by AU's Bell in an attempt to get the runner was high for an error as Hammond raced across home for a 4-0 lead. Chiles singled to knock in Posey and improved to third on the throw as a result of the second miscue of the frame by Auburn as Ghezzi's throw home got away. An RBI-single by Schutzler improved the count to 6-0 in favor of the Big Orange and signaled the end of the afternoon for Auburn pitcher Day as the Tigers summoned Holly Currie into the circle. The AU senior didn't fare much better despite retiring Doepking for the first out of the inning. After Schutzler swiped second and advanced to third on the groundout, Callahan blasted her ninth home run of the campaign deep to left center field and off the "Black Monster" fencing above the wall to improve the score to 8-0. In her second at-bat of the frame, Griffin walked and then scored on a triple to deep right field by Horiuchi as the Wahiawa, Hawaii, native registered her second RBI hit of the inning. Hammond drew a walk, and then Posey was called out for making contact with the sphere outside the batter's box to mercifully end the inning for the Tigers. Tennessee sent 13 hitters to the plate in the second and plated eight runs on eight hits with the assistance of two Auburn miscues.
The nine runs allowed co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly to grant Abbott some rest as Rhodes was brought on to complete the opener. The Nashville, Tenn., native permitted a lead-off single to Arcuri to begin the third, but quickly exerted her dominance from the circle with consecutive K's of Walton, Currie and Ghezzi to retire the side.
The top of the third opened with Chiles lacing her second double of the contest into left field to improve to 3-for-3 on the afternoon. Freshman Erinn Webb entered the contest to run for Chiles and advanced to third on a long fly out to left center by Schutzler. The Monterey, Calif., product's tailing shot into the gap was corralled on a terrific diving grab by AU's Walton. Just seconds later, a wild pitch sent Webb racing toward the plate as the rookie from Hemet, Calif., slid in safely under Currie's tag with UT's 10th score in just three innings of play.
Rhodes was thoroughly in control into the fourth frame by registering two more K's to up her total to five through just a pair of innings of work. Pinch hitter Jessica Martin entered to bat for Auburn's catcher Bell with a pair of outs, but popped up harmlessly to Griffin at third to retire the side.
Following the first one-two-three retirement suffered by the Tennessee offense, Auburn entered the top of the fifth requiring three tallies to avoid the collegiate softball run-rule. The Tigers sent pinch hitter Taryn Gray to the plate to lead off the frame against Rhodes, but she was quickly retired to the bench on Rhodes' sixth strikeout. Another pinch hitter, Myesha Finney, went down swinging to make it seven K's as Arcuri looked to improve upon her 2-for-2 day. She ripped a Rhodes offering to the wall in left for a double for her third straight hit of the afternoon. UT's hurler responded by striking out Walton on a perfectly thrown change-up to record her eighth K and wrap-up the Lady Vols' 15th straight league victory.
No. 1 Tennessee will continue its doubleheader against Auburn at approximately 3:15 p.m. ET at Tyson Park. 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). Sunday's series finale will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Net at 2 p.m. ET as part of the SEC-TV package with Bernie Guenther and Cheri Kempf on the call.