May 21, 2006
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - No. 5 Tennessee registered its sixth consecutive NCAA regional victory stretching over two seasons behind a 10-hit attack and a masterful performance from pitcher Monica Abbott (7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 12 K's) as the No. 5 Lady Vols (56-9) defeated No. 18 Louisville (45-11), 8-1, on Sunday afternoon in front of 983 fans at Tyson Park. With the triumph, UT advances on to NCAA Super Regionals for the second straight season and will face-off against a tough Michigan squad next weekend in a best-of-three format. Game times and official dates are still to be determined and will be posted on utladyvols.com as soon as they become available.
Junior designated player India Chiles and sophomore catcher Shannon Doepking
each knocked in two runs as part of a 2-for-3 effort at the dish. Senior
center fielder Sarah Fekete, the nation's leading hitter coming into the day
at .521, was 3-of-4 with a run scored and an RBI while senior right fielder
Katherine Card and sophomore pinch hitter Natalie Brock each registered an
"Both Karen (co-head coach Weekly) and I are extremely proud of our kids and the way they battled to the championship of the NCAA Regional," said Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly. "The mark of a great team is having people step up when injuries are taking a toll. Shannon Doepking and India Chiles each had two big hits for us today. Sarah Fekete, Lindsay Schutzler and Katherine Card each provided leadership to our team and knocked in key runs. Now we begin preparation for next weekend and the NCAA Super Regionals.
Junior designated player India Chiles got the "visiting" Lady Vols started on a potential scoring threat in the top of the first inning by chopping a ball over UL third baseman Audrey Rendon's head for a single. On the play shortstop Courtney Moore, trying to race over to keep the ball from bounding into left, ended up knocking the orb into the Louisville dugout for an error to allow Chiles to advance to second. Junior shortstop Lindsay Schutzler sacrificed the runner over to third on a perfect sacrifice bunt for the second out of the frame. With UT sophomore first baseman Tonya Callahan at the dish, Cardinal catcher Lacy Wood hurled a return throw to UL pitcher Catherine Bishop. Attempting to be aggressive, Chiles was sent on a steal of home, but Bishop cut down the runner with a quick toss back to the plate to end the scoring threat.
Abbott stepped into the circle to face the Louisville line-up for the initial time in the bottom of the first frame. The two-time All-American looked solid early by registering consecutive strikeouts of left fielder Leslie Garland and Rendon before inducing a harmless flyout to left by Moore.
A scary moment for the Lady Vols at the plate in the top of the second as a two-out offering from Bishop apparently ricocheted off freshman left fielder Danielle Pieroni's hand and then off the top of her helmet. After taking a minute to collect herself, she trotted down to first base apparently no worse the wear.
The domination from the circle continued for the Lady Vols' Abbott in the bottom of the second as the Salinas, Calif., native struck out the side to improve her K total to five through the opening two frames.
Sophomore catcher Shannon Doepking ripped a lead-off base knock to left to christen the top of the third inning and grant UT its third base runner of the contest. Sophomore third baseman Kenora Posey was called on to protect a stealing pinch runner Alicia Brown. Unfortunately for the Lady Vols offense, she failed to make contact with the ball allowing Wood the chance to gun down Brown at second for caught stealing number two for UT on the day. Following a K, senior center fielder Sarah Fekete slapped a bouncer over Rendon's head at third for a two-out single. With Chiles at the plate facing a 1-1 count, Fekete took off for second and reached safely to improve into scoring position. On the very next Bishop offering, the Maryville, Tenn., native swiped third as the count on Chiles went to 2-2. Tennessee made it two runners left stranded through three frames as Chiles was retired looking at strike three.
It didn't seem to concern Abbott that her offensive teammates had yet to push across a run as she struck out two more Louisville hitters in the bottom of the third to complete three perfect innings of work from the circle with seven K's.
Schutzler christened the top of the fourth with a base knock to left that Garland misplayed for an error to allow the runner to improve into scoring position at second. Callahan went down looking to bring "Miss Postseason" Katherine Card to the dish looking to be a heroine once again for Tennessee. During the Soddy Daisy, Tenn., native's at-bat, Bishop uncorked a wild pitch that rolled to the backstop allowing Schutzler to race down to third just 60 feet from giving UT the lead with only one down. Once again presented with the chance to register a crucial postseason hit after her SEC Tournament single against #12 LSU and Saturday's grand slam against Virginia Tech, Card ripped a 2-2 pitch from Bishop up the middle to plate Schutzler for a 1-0 advantage. Freshman second baseman Liane Horiuchi drilled a high-bouncer to short that Moore misplayed for Louisville's third miscue of the contest. With Lady Vols standing at first and second with two retired, the floodgates opened as Doepking coerced a walk to load the bags for pinch hitter extraordinaire Natalie Brock. The Nashville, Tenn., product managed to draw a base-on-balls to force in UT's second tally of the contest. Fekete stepped in and slapped her second hit of the match-up off the glove of a leaping Rendon at third to make it 3-0. Chiles picked on Rendon again with a sharp grounder that ricocheted off her body and into left field to score two more Lady Vols for a 5-0 advantage. When the frame ended finally on a Schutzler grounder back to the circle, 10 Lady Vols had stepped into the batter's box and five runs had crossed the dish on four hits, two walks and two UL errors.
Another perfect Abbott inning brought the Big Orange offense to the plate in the top of the fifth looking to add to its lead. Callahan led off by being struck by a pitch but pinch runner Lillian Hammond was forced out at second on a fielder's choice off the bat of Card. A groundball from Pieroni to second advanced the runner up 60 feet into scoring position. That's when another Louisville error on a bouncer to short set the stage for another Lady Vol tally. With runners at the corners and two down, Doepking improved to a perfect 2-of-2 on the day with a sharp RBI single through the right side of the infield to bring Card home for a 6-0 lead.
The Lady Vol defense decided to get in on the day's highlight reel as newly inserted left fielder Sarah Vaughn made a superb diving grab of a ball off the bat of Wood in short left. Not to be outdone, Fekete raced in from center field on a bloop into left center by second baseman Michelle Vasquez and stretched out horizontally to make an incredible catch to preserve a potential perfect game. Abbott induced a liner to short to close out a defensively dazzling fifth.
After her incredible grab in center, Fekete registered her third hit of the day at the plate by beating out an infield single to open the sixth. She advanced to second on a sacrifice by Chiles and to third on a wild offering from Bishop in the circle. Schutzler grounded out for an RBI to score the base runner and make it 7-0 in favor of Tennessee. With two down Callahan drove a ball to deepest right field but Louisville's Kassie Stanfill tracked the shot down at the base of the wall to close the top of the sixth.
The Lady Vols added another run in the seventh on a single by Sarah Vaughn, two wild pitches and an RBI groundout by Doepking to improve the count to 8-0.
With Abbott needing just three more outs for a perfect game, Garland broke it up immediately with a hard single deep into the hole at short. Schutzler made a diving stop on the ball, but a long throw from her knees was too late to get the runner. With all of that pressure off, the 6-3 lefthander set to work closing out the match-up. She struck out Rendon swinging, but walked Moore to give Louisville runners at first and second with one down. Wood followed with a double that dropped in down the right field line to score Garland to cut the deficit to 8-1. Abbott settled down to strikeout Vasquez and Navarette to improve her total to 12 K's for the contest and officially close things out.
The No. 5 Lady Vols will prepare for next weekend's NCAA Super Regionals to be hosted at Tyson Park in Knoxville preliminarily over May 26-27. Check into utladyvols.com for more information about the event as it becomes available.