May 19, 2006
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Behind four innings of perfect relief from winner Megan Rhodes, Tennessee (54-9) fought back from a two-run deficit after three innings to drop Tennessee Tech (50-14), 6-4, and advance to Saturday's winner's bracket contest against Virginia Tech. The Hokies downed Louisville, 1-0 (12 inn.) during the day's opener in the longest game in the history of Tyson Park.
Senior center fielder Sarah Fekete, the nation's leading hitter at .524, led the offensive attack with a perfect 4-for-4, three-RBI effort, while senior right fielder Katherine Card and freshman second baseman Liane Horiuchi both knocked in a run in the win. Junior hurler Monica Abbott started the game but allowed four runs on five hits in just three innings of work.
"They came out and hit us in the mouth," said Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly. "It was a street fight, but our kids refused to buckle, and they fought back. We knew it would be a battle. Our kids were ready to play. I'm proud of our kids. We used our speed game about as well as we possibly could have. All that matters are the results.
Tennessee Tech wasted no time in jumping to an early lead against UT's
two-time All-American hurler Monica Abbott. Golden Eagle shortstop Beth Boden
led-off the top of the first by being struck by an Abbott offering to grant
TTU a quick base runner. Following a strikeout by third baseman Katie
Speiser, second baseman Krystina Dobbs doubled into the gap to allow Boden to
score the game's first run. Left fielder Ashley Potts struck out and first
baseman Steph Fischer grounded out to Kenora Posey at third to close out the
frame with TTU up 1-0.
Senior center fielder Sarah Fekete led off the bottom of the first by bouncing a ball to short and out-racing the throw to first for a single. The Maryville, Tenn., product was cut down in a controversial call, however, while attempting to steal second for the initial retirement of the frame. The inning ended as junior left fielder India Chiles grounded to third, and junior shortstop Lindsay Schutzler flied out to left.
Despite allowing a one-out walk to Tech catcher Kristyn Castonzo, UT's first-team All-South Region hurler struck out the side to improve her total to five K's through just two innings of work.
Down a run venturing to the bottom of the second, sophomore first baseman Tonya Callahan ripped a Bonnie Bynum offering through the left side for a lead-off single. Senior right fielder Katherine Card was called on by the UT coaching staff to sacrifice the runner up 60 feet, and she did her job perfectly with a bunt up the third base line. Designated player Natalie Brock drove a hard shot up the middle to place runners at the corners with one down. That's when Tennessee pulled off a little trickery as freshman second baseman Liane Horiuchi bunted on a squeeze attempt as Brown raced towards the plate. The ball rolled about eight feet out in front of the dish, and Castonzo's throw home was late allowing Brown to slide around the back of the plate to equal the count at 1-1. Posey slapped a high bouncer to short that Boden misplayed for an error to load the bases for the nation's leading hitter Fekete. She came through with a high chopper to short for an RBI single as Brock raced home to grant the Big Orange a 2-1 advantage.
The Golden Eagles answered back immediately in the top of the third as Speiser ripped a one-out single to short to reach base safely. That set the stage for Dobbs who drove an Abbott pitch off the tall screen in left field for a two-run home run to give Tech back the lead at 3-2. That seemed to open the door for TTU as Potts doubled into the gap in right and then raced home for a 4-2 lead on an RBI single by Fischer. Abbott struck out designated player Danielle Wallace and induced a fly out to the base of the left field wall by Bynum to end the scoring outburst by Tennessee Tech.
With one retired in the bottom of the third, Callahan drove a pitch from Bynum into the gap in right center for a two-bagger. Card followed immediately with a sharp base knock into right to bestow UT runners at the corners for Brock. The Nashville, Tenn., native grounded to short for a fielder's choice that cut down Card at second base. On the play, Callahan held her ground at third to once again make it Lady Vols at the corners. Horiuchi popped out harmlessly to short to preserve TTU's 4-2 advantage as Bynum escaped the jam with no damage done on the scoreboard.
Four runs on five hits were enough for Abbott as co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly made a move to the bullpen to christen the top of the fourth by summoning in sophomore Megan Rhodes. The Nashville, Tenn., native had good stuff right from the start by striking out Castonzo for out number one. She retired the side in order as Tech center fielder Jennifer Markham flied out into foul territory in right, and Boden grounded back to Rhodes in the circle.
The one-two-three inning by Rhodes seemed to give UT some momentum to open the bottom of the fourth as sophomore catcher Shannon Doepking drove a shot through the left side for a lead-off single. Posey stepped to the plate and bunted a perfect ball out in front of the dish for a hit to improve the Big Orange situation to runners at first and second with no one retired. With a 0-1 count on Fekete, the duo on the basepaths pulled off a perfect double steal to advance 60 feet and both improve into scoring position. That was a perfect situation for the nation's leading hitter as Fekete came through with a single to second that got through the infield to plate a pair of runs to knot the score at 4-4. Chiles bunted a ball out in front of the plate and beat the throw to first to reach base safely. On the play, Castonzo's throw went wide of first and into right field allowing Fekete to cross the dish and grant UT a 5-4 lead. Chiles swiped second and moved to third on a base knock up the middle by Schutzler. After the Monterey, Calif., native swiped second for her team-best 27th steal of the campaign, Card drove a high sacrifice fly into deep right to score Chiles and make it 6-4. A fly ball to center ended the UT attack, but the damage had been done as Tennessee strung together five consecutive hits to plate four runs as eight Lady Vols came to the plate.
The Big Orange registered a two-out threat in the bottom of the fifth as the speed game played dividends for the Lady Vols. Posey bunted for a single and swiped second to move into scoring position. Fekete dropped a bunt for her fourth consecutive base hit of the day and advanced up 60 feet on a heads-up play as no TTU player was covering second. With runners on second and third, Chiles bounced a ball back to the circle that Bynum corralled and threw on to first to nip the speedy left fielder by a half a step to end the frame.
Rhodes made it nine straight Golden Eagles she had retired with her third consecutive one-two-three inning in the top of the sixth. Fischer popped up to short, Wallace flied to left field and Bynum fouled out outside of first for a quiet Tech inning.
Tennessee Tech center fielder Markham made a sterling "web gem" play in the top of the sixth as Schutzler drilled a shot deep into the gap in left center. Running at full stride to her right, Markham made a fully-extended, backhanded catch.
Down to their final opportunity in the top of the seventh, Rhodes struck out pinch hitter Kristan Glover for her fourth K of the contest, Markham fouled out to third and Boden grounded to third to end the UT victory and secure four perfect innings of work for the UT hurler.
The double elimination event will continue through Sunday with live stats posted on utladyvols.com through Gametracker. UT will face off against Virginia Tech in the day's first game at 1:30 p.m. Periodic updates will be posted on the Lady Vol Hotline at (865) 974-8700 (box #6).