May 28, 2005
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee softball team (63-13) took a 1-0 advantage in its three-game NCAA Super Regional series with Stanford (43-15) on Friday night with a 2-0 victory over the Cardinal. Junior third baseman Katherine Card lined a home run over the centerfield fence in the sixth and drove in a run in the first to lead the offense, while a pair of local players in pitcher Monica Abbott and shortstop Lindsay Schutzler played huge roles as well.
Monterey, Calif., native Schutzler used her speed and aggressiveness to plate UT's first run of the contest. while Abbott, a native of Salinas, Calif., struck out 12 and tossed a two-hit shutout, her 30th blanking of the season.
In the top of the first, Schutzler led off with a four-pitch walk and junior centerfielder Sarah Fekete bunted her over with a perfectly-placed nubber to the third baseman, almost reaching herself before being nailed on a bang-bang play at first. Junior third baseman Kristi Durant found herself at first after an error was committed by the Stanford shortstop.
After a strikeout gave the Lady Vols two outs with runners on first and second, Card hit a soft grounder to second and sped down the line to just beat the throw. On the play, Schutzler never stopped, rounded third and crossed the plate without a throw.
Stanford had a number of rallies throughout the early innings. In the bottom of the second, Leah Nelson walked and Jackie Rinehart hit a bloop single to left to put runners at first and second with nobody out. Abbott responded by squelching Stanford's hopes of plating a tying and possibly go-ahead run by striking out the next three Cardinal hitters, the last one on a beautiful pitch over the plate which caught the batter frozen.
In the Cardinal third, Katherine Hoffman walked on four pitches and advanced to second on an infield ground out. After a walk, Abbott struck out the last hitter looking on a pitch which floated over the plate.
Stanford's last opportunity to get on the scoreboard came in the fourth as, once again, the first two hitters reached. Rinehart singled and advanced to second on a throwing error, but she could not be moved any closer to home as Abbott escaped that rally unscathed once again on a strikeout and two ground-outs.
Card then gave the Lady Vols their second run of the contest with a sizzling line shot over the centerfield fence on a 2-2 count with two away in the sixth.
Abbott proceeded to retire the last 12 hitters (the final four on strikeouts) as Tennessee completed the victory. Abbott has now struck out 565 hitters on the season, the third-highest total in NCAA Division I history. Her 582 strikeouts tallied last season as a freshman is second on the list. As a team, Tennessee has now thrown 47 shutouts, tying the NCAA Division I record with the 1997 UCLA Bruins.
The 6-3 sophomore also extended her spectacular current stretch in the circle, allowing just one run and 27 hits in her last 88.1 innings of work (0.08 ERA and 2.14 hit ratio). She has not allowed a run in the last 29 innings she has tossed. Tonight's outing marked the 60th double-digit strikeout total of her career.
The win gave UT 63 on the season, tied for the ninth-highest total in Division I history. UT has now won 15-of-17 contests and has shut out its opponent 10 times in its last 13 games, including in all four of the Big Orange's NCAA Tournament games played so far.
A crowd of 1,068 watched the game, the largest crowd in the Boyd and Jill Smith Family Stadium's history.
The Lady Vols and Stanford conclude the best-of-three series on Saturday. Game two of the set begins at 1 p.m. PDT, while the third game, if necessary, commences at 3:30 p.m. The winner of the three-game series moves on to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla. The tournament will run from June 2-8.