May 13, 2005
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The 11th-ranked and fourth-seeded University of Tennessee softball team (57-12) fell to No. 8 Georgia (50-12), the regular-season Southeastern Conference champions, in Friday night's action at the SEC Tournament by a 5-3 score. The Lady Vols took a 2-0 lead with a pair of tallies in the third but the Bulldogs rallied back to end UT's shutout streak at five games and winning streak at eight contests.
Both teams had their chances in the first. For the Lady Vols, sophomore shortstop Lindsay Schutzler easily beat out an infield hit, stole second and moved to third with one out on a ground out, but was stranded there. Georgia saw its leadoff hitter, Katie Vickers, hit a bloop single and move to second on a sacrifice bunt, but she was not able to advance any farther.
After the Lady Vols stranded another runner in scoring position in the second, they broke through for a pair of tallies in the top of the third. With two outs and nobody on, junior centerfielder Sarah Fekete reached on an infield single to short, stole second and scored easily when junior third baseman Kristi Durant powered a triple deep to right center and off the glove of diving Bulldog right fielder Courtney Knight and to the wall. The three-bagger was the second of Durant's career. Freshman first baseman Tonya Callahan followed by lining a single down the left field line to plate Durant and give UT a 2-0 advantage.
Georgia would break through itself and end Tennessee's scoreless innings streak at 44.2 in its half of the fourth. The first batter of the inning, Kim Wendland, singled to left and Megan McAllister reached after Lady Vol pitcher Megan Rhodes dropped a sharply hit line drive, went to pick it up and bobbled it. Jessica Doucette singled to left center to load the bases and Courtney Knight drove in UGA's first run with a sacrifice fly to left. Jessica Gilmore followed with a triple just over Fekete's glove and to the wall to give Georgia the 3-2 lead.
The Bulldogs then added to its lead in the fifth with a pair of two-out blasts by Wendland (to left center) and McAllister (to left) in the sixth.
Now down, 5-2, Tennessee would not go quietly. In its half of the sixth, Durant walked and Callahan singled to center. After a fielder's choice and a walk to freshman catcher Shannon Doepking loaded the bases with one out, junior right fielder Stacey Jennings earned a RBI with a fielder's choice ground out, freshman pinch runner Kortney Bell scoring on the play to cut Georgia's lead to 5-3. Although a passed ball allowed the runners to advance to second and third with two outs, the Lady Vols could not get any closer.
The Lady Vols now will play an elimination game at 11 a.m. on Saturday versus Mississippi State (33-28). Tennessee swept the Bulldogs, 1-0, 8-4 and 3-1, from March 19-20. The teams have split their two meetings all-time at the SEC Tournament. MSU won in 2004, 8-2, while UT was victorious, 4-2, in 1999. The winner of that contest will play Alabama (55-12), who has yet to lose in the tournament, at 5 p.m.