May 14, 2005
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The University of Tennessee softball team (59-12) outscored the second seed and ninth-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (55-13) by a 3-1 score on Saturday night at the Southeastern Conference Tournament to move on to Sunday's action. The win was the third for No. 11 and fourth-seeded UT at the tournament, the most by Tennessee in any one SEC Tournament. The Lady Vols will play Alabama at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday. With a win in that contest, Tennessee would play in the title game for the first time in school history.
Lady Vol sophomore pitcher Monica Abbott stretched her scoreless innings streak to 59 innings, just one shy of tying for 17th place all-time in Division I history, in tossing a five-hitter and striking out nine.
Three Big Orange hitters contributed two hits each in the contest: freshman second baseman Kenora Posey, who started both of UT's early rallies by hitting singles and crossing the plate both times, sophomore shortstop Lindsay Schutzler and freshman first baseman Tonya Callahan.
The Big Orange have won 11-of-12 contests and is only one win away from the elite 60-win mark, which only 20 teams in NCAA Division I history have achieved.
Alabama immediately threatened to put runs on the board in the top of the first after the first two Crimson Tide batters singled, but Abbott started diffusing the threat by inducing a ground out double play which went to Posey, who tagged the runner going by and threw to first for the second out. A ground out to Posey ended the inning.
The Lady Vols took the lead, 1-0, in their half of the first. With one out, Posey started the rally with a chopper just in front of the plate which bounced high enough for the speedster to reach first easily. She then stole second and moved to third on a ground out before crossing home with two outs when junior third baseman Kristi Durant blooped a clutch single in front of the Crimson Tide leftfielder.
In the Lady Vol third, Tennessee took a 2-0 advantage. With one out, Posey started the rally again with an infield hit, this one to shortstop. Schutzler also singled to shortstop and a fielding error by the Alabama first baseman on the late throw allowed the runners to advance to second and third. An intentional walk to Durant loaded the bases for Callahan. On the second pitch, she launched a towering shot which sailed just to the left of the left field foul pole. She earned a RBI when Posey scored on a ground out to second by Callahan.
Leading off the sixth, Callahan hit a single to right and her pinch runner, sophomore Ashley Cline, moved to third when junior third baseman Katherine Card doubled down the right field line. Junior rightfielder Stacey Jennings proceeded to plate Cline with a one-bagger down the left field line.
With two outs in the seventh, Alabama Stephanie VanBrakle blasted a towering blast deep to left center to cut UT's lead to 3-1. After an error by Schutzler, Abbott struck out Dani Woods to end the game.
"Our speed game scored a lot of runs," Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. "We're struggling in that area, but the kids are fighting and giving a ton of effort and that's all you can ask.
The Lady Vols and Crimson Tide will meet at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday for a berth in the SEC Tournament title game. The victor in that contest will play either Auburn or Georgia at 2 p.m. in a contest televised live by SEC-TV (Fox Sports Net South in the Knoxville area). Tennessee has taken 3-of-4 meetings with Alabama this year, while the two have split their four all-time meetings in SEC Tournament play (UA won, 2-1, in 1998 and 3-2 (8 inn.) in 2003; UT won, 1-0, in 2004 and 3-1 today). In all-time meetings, Alabama holds an 18-9 lead.