May 20, 2006

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -­ Senior right fielder Katherine Card drilled a first-inning grand slam while knocking in five runs, junior hurler Monica Abbott allowed just one tally on five hits over five innings of work and junior shortstop Lindsay Schutzler registered a pair of RBI as No. 5 Tennessee (55-9) battled the elements to advance into Sunday's NCAA Knoxville Regional title game (1:30 p.m.) with a commanding 9-1 (5 inn.) victory over Virginia Tech (39-20). The Hokies will play the winner of today's Louisville/Tennessee Tech contest for the chance to face UT tomorrow for a berth in the Super Regional round.

"There was a lot of energy in the game on both sides," said Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly. "You had two great pitchers who got fired up. Both coaching staffs were fired up. Both benches were fired up. The final score didn't belay the game. I've got a lot of respect for Virginia Tech and for (pitcher Angela) Tincher. Facing Emily Turner last week for LSU helps us face a pitcher like Tincher who throws a nice rise and a nice drop. We were able to lay off the rise.



After struggling in last night's NCAA opener against Tennessee Tech, Abbott appeared on her game early by striking out left fielder Callie Rhodes looking and inducing a foul out off the bat of Erin Ota to freshman second baseman Liane Horiuchi for two quick outs. Tech right fielder Kelly Brown fought to draw a walk off the two-time All-American and advanced to second on a stolen base. Abbott closed out the threat, however, by striking out center fielder Jessica Everhart swinging.

Fekete got the Lady Vol offense off to a fast start in the bottom half of the first by drawing a walk against Atlantic Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year Angela Tincher. During junior designated player India Chiles' at-bat, Fekete swiped her 20th base of the season to move into scoring position. Junior shortstop Lindsay Schutzler walked to bestow UT a pair of baserunners. That's when Tincher got herself in a real jam by plunking sophomore first baseman Tonya Callahan with a pitch to load the bags for Tennessee without allowing a hit in the inning. That brought to the dish "Miss Postseason" herself in the form of senior right fielder Katherine Card. After her heroic two-RBI single in the SEC Tournament Final against No. 12 LSU, the Soddy Daisy, Tenn., native came through once again by driving a towering shot to deep center field that ricocheted off the black screen for a grand slam and a 4-0 lead. Left fielder Danielle Pieroni flied out to right field to mark the second out of the inning and was followed by a Horiuchi walk to mark the third base-on-balls permitted by Tincher in the frame. Sophomore catcher Shannon Doepking fought to a 3-2 count against the Tech hurler before taking a ball the other way for a single to advance the runner to third. The frame ended on a strikeout but the damage had been done as the Lady Vols sent nine batters to the plate in registering four runs on just two hits, three walks and a hit batter.

Tech's third baseman Charisse Mariconda answered UT's volley with one of her own by taking the very first Abbott offering of the top of the second inning deep over the left center field wall to cut the Tech deficit to 4-1. Catcher Kelsey Hoffman singled just inside the bag and down the right field line to reach base safely. First baseman Beth Walker appeared to deliver a base knock up the middle, but the hit was taken off the board as pinch runner Crystal Beach was called out for leaving first early. Walker eventually popped out to short, and designated player Kelsy Rokey grounded out to Schutzler to complete the Tech inning.

Tennessee got a pair of baserunners on in the bottom of the second but was unable to add to its lead to bring up the Tech offense looking for more. Shortstop Alisia Narodowski singled to left to lead-off the frame, and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Rhodes. She was stranded right there as Schutzler made an incredible putout on a tough running short hop behind the circle for the second out. Abbott struck out Brown to conclude the Tech frame with no scoring.

With one down in the bottom of the third it looked as if a walk to Horiuchi would do no harm as Doepking grounded into a fielder's choice to cut down the runner at second for out number two. Consecutive singles by sophomore third baseman Kenora Posey and Fekete allowed pinch runner Alicia Brown to race home to make it 5-1 in favor of the Lady Vols. Chiles dropped a perfect bunt out in front of the plate to load the bases and end the day for Tincher in the circle as Virginia Tech head coach Scot Thomas summoned in new hurler Katie Maynard. She entered the contest and promptly drilled Schutzler in the helmet with her initial offering to force in UT's sixth run and keep the bases juiced for Callahan. The Holden, Mo., native gave a ball a ride to deep center field but came up just short of a home run at the base of the wall as Everhart made the grab to end the frame with the Big Orange maintaining a 6-1 advantage.

Card led off the bottom of the fourth by reaching on a dropped throw at first by Virginia Tech's Walker to grant the Lady Vols a base runner. Pieroni coerced a walk off Maynard, and Horiuchi laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt up the first base line to improve the situation to UT runners on second and third with just one retired. On a 3-2 pitch, Doepking ripped a shot into right for a sacrifice fly to score Card to improve the count to 7-1, UT.

With ominous skies darkening by the second as severe thunderstorms threatened the Knoxville area, Abbott rolled through Rokey and Narodowski on swinging strikeouts to make it six so far in the contest. Rhodes ripped a single off Abbott's glove in the circle to reach safely and swiped second to advance into scoring position. The UT hurler K'ed Ota to end the frame as the skies opened up causing a rain delay to be called at 3:13 p.m. ET. The rain break ended up at officially 42 minutes as play resumed at 3:55 p.m. heading to the bottom of the fifth.

When play resumed Fekete was retired to lead-off the fifth on a routine ground ball to short. Chiles followed by ripping a double into the gap in left center field to grant UT a golden opportunity to play for the run-rule. Schutzler did her job by hammering a two-bagger to right field to plate Chiles for an 8-1 advantage. Callahan flied out to right for the second out, but Card came through again with an RBI double to the left field wall to plate Schutzler and end the contest by run-rule.

The double elimination event will continue through Sunday with live stats posted on utladyvols.com through Gametracker. UT will play either Virginia Tech or the winner of today's Louisville/Tennessee Tech match-up for the regional title at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. Periodic updates will be posted on the Lady Vol Hotline at (865) 974-8700 (box #6).



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