May 28, 2005
STANFORD, Calif. - The zeros on the scoreboard just keep coming. The University of Tennessee softball team (64-13) completed a two-game sweep of the Stanford Cardinal (43-16) with a 6-0 victory on Saturday afternoon to move on to its first Women's College World Series in school history. With the blanking, the Lady Vols have now shut out 48 opponents on the season to set an NCAA Division I record, replacing the 1997 UCLA Bruins on top of the list.
Sophomore pitcher Monica Abbott tossed the complete-game shutout, her fifth in five games in the NCAA Tournament and her 31st of the season, tied for the second-highest total in history (currently held by UL-Monroe's Sarah Dawson, set in 1997). The record holder is Debbie Nichols of Louisiana Tech with 36 in 1988. In her last 95.1 innings of work, she has allowed just one run (0.07 ERA) and 28 hits (2.06 ratio). She has not allowed a run in her last 36 innings thrown.
With the win, Tennessee now has 64 on the season, tied for the eighth-highest total in Division I history. The record of 67 is co-held by the 1999 Illinois-Chicago club and the 1998 Arizona Wildcats. The Lady Vols have won 16-of-18 contests, including shutout victories in all five NCAA Tournament games and 11-of-14 games.
Stanford threatened to take an early lead, as Abbott hit Catalina Morris to lead off the game. After she was bunted to second, Morris was stranded there.
In the second, Erin Howe singled to left with one out when Meghan Sickler popped a bunt over Lady Vol first baseman Tonya Callahan and toward the ground when a sprinting Tennessee second baseman Kenora Posey almost grabbed it, but it went off her glove. Luckily for the Lady Vols, it bounced toward Callahan who threw over to sophomore shortstop Lindsay Schutzler covering second for the put-out. A ground out ended the inning.
Tennessee almost put a tally on the scoreboard in the second. Junior leftfielder Katherine Card lined a double off the left-center fence to lead off the frame and advanced to third when freshman catcher Shannon Doepking hit a slow grounder off the Stanford first baseman's glove and into right field, but the Lady Vols could not plate a run.
The Big Orange put the contest away with a five-run outburst in the third. With one out, junior centerfielder Sarah Fekete faked a bunt and swung away, dropping the ball in front of the Cardinal rightfielder for a single. Junior third baseman Kristi Durant followed with a hard single to center. Callahan put UT on the scoreboard with a high bouncer which bounded into center field as Fekete rounded third and crossed home plate.
Card followed with a sharp liner right through the pitcher's legs and into center field to load the bases with one out. Doepking then battled through a seven-pitch at-bat before hitting a liner to the second baseman, who dropped the ball accidentally and then threw to second, but the shortstop pulled off the bag while attempting to turn two and everybody moved up the base and UT took a 2-0 lead.
After a strikeout, Posey reached when the second baseman threw the ball on a bounce to first and it could not be handled. Callahan scored on the play and UT had a 3-0 advantage. Freshman pinch hitter Natalie Brock singled in the fourth and fifth runs with a hard-hit ball to left center, scoring Card and Doepking.
The rest of the game went pretty quietly as neither team would garner a hit with the exception of the Tennessee half of the sixth m. With one out, Schutzler beat out a bunt single, was sacrificed to second by Fekete and scored on an RBI single to center by Durant.
The final out came on a running, back-handed sliding catch by Card as she hit the ground, crossing into foul territory.
Tennessee will now move on to the Women's College World Series and will take on Arizona at noon CDT on Thursday in Oklahoma City, Okla. The contest will be telecast live by ESPN2 with the announcing team of Pam Ward and Lisa Fernandez, while live audio coverage will be aired on 990 AM, 99.1 FM and 99.3 FM with Mickey Dearstone announcing.