May 14, 2005
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - With three runs in the third, the 11th-ranked and fourth-seeded University of Tennessee softball team (58-12) stayed alive in the Southeastern Conference Tournament with a 3-0 victory over the seventh-seeded Mississippi State Bulldogs (33-29) on Saturday morning.
A pair of junior outfielders in left fielder Katherine Card and right fielder Stacey Jennings earned RBI in the third, while sophomore pitcher Monica Abbott tossed a sterling one-hit shutout to extend her scoreless innings streak to 52.1 In that stretch, she has tossed seven complete-game shutouts and has only allowed 14 hits (1.87 ratio) and three walks (0.40 ratio).
The Big Orange has now won 10-of-11 contests and have shut out its opposition in 6-of-7 games. The latest shutout was the 43rd that Tennessee has recorded as a team, which ties for the third-highest total in NCAA Division I history with the 1997 South Carolina and 1991 UCLA squads. Cal State Fullerton's 1986 team is second all-time with 44, while the 1997 UCLA Bruins hold the record of 47.
Tennessee threatened in the top of the first, loading the bases but Bulldog pitcher Stephanie Comeaux squeezed herself out of the jam to keep the Lady Vols off the scoreboard. Junior centerfielder Sarah Fekete led off with an infield hit, was sacrificed to second by freshman second baseman Kenora Posey and, with two outs, joined on the base paths by junior third baseman Kristi Durant (walk) and freshman first baseman Tonya Callahan (hit by pitch) before the third out was recorded.
The Big Orange saw two more runners reach in the second. Card lined a single to right to lead off the frame, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt executed by sophomore designated player India Chiles and advanced to the third sack when Fekete beat out her second infield hit of the contest, but the two were stranded on the bases.
The Lady Vols finally broke through with three runs in the third. With one out, third baseman Kristi Durant walked, Callahan reached on a fielding error by Comeaux and freshman catcher Shannon Doepking took four balls to load the bases. Card then came through with a sacrifice fly to center, scoring freshman pinch runner LaDonna Oliver. Jennings followed with a line drive single to left, plating Callahan and Doepking and UT grabbed control of the game with the 3-0 advantage.
With two outs in the Bulldog fourth, Courtney Bures became the first MSU player to reach base with a two-out double over Card's head and to the left field wall. The Bulldogs however were only able to see one other player reach (Jennifer Jessup on a hit batter in the sixth) the rest of the way.
"We're really excited to get the win and to move on in the tournament," Fekete said. The junior went 3-for-3 in the contest.
"We're pleased that we came out here fired up at the beginning of the game and hung in there even though we didn't get some runs early," Co-Head Coach Karen Weekly said.
The Lady Vols will take on the second-seeded and ninth-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (55-12) at 5 p.m. on Saturday. If Tennessee wins, the teams will play again at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday for a berth in the SEC Tournament title game. A win for the Crimson Tide in either contest would move Alabama into the championship contest.
In the SEC-opening series for both teams from March 12-13, the Lady Vols swept the Saturday doubleheader, 3-1 and 7-1, before the Crimson Tide game back to claim the series finale, 8-1. In all-time action at the SEC Tournament, Alabama has claimed two-of-three meetings (UT won, 1-0, in 2004; UA won, 3-2 (8 inn.) in 2003; and UA won, 2-1 in 1998). Alabama has won 18-of-26 meetings in all contests between the schools.