June 2, 2006
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - In front of 5,887 fans at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla., on Friday night, No. 11 Northwestern (49-13) utilized a one-hit shutout by hurler Eileen Canney and single runs in the sixth and seventh innings to defeat No. 5 Tennessee (59-11), 2-0, and send the Lady Vols into the elimination round. UT will now face-off against the winner of tomorrow's noon ET contest between Arizona State and Oregon State at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday evening on ESPN.
The loss was the Big Orange's first of this season in a night game and in a neutral site contest having entered today's match-up with Northwestern at 11-0 and 23-0 in both categories, respectively.
Freshman third baseman Jennifer Griffin registered the only hit of the night for the Lady Vol offense with a third-inning double. Junior hurler Monica Abbott suffered the hard-luck defeat after allowing two runs on five hits with 15 K's in seven innings of work. With the defeat the All-American dropped to 42-9 on the campaign. The strikeout total was the most in a single contest for Abbott since registering 16 K's on March 18 against No. 18 Auburn in a no-hit effort.
"What I told my team after the game was that I was proud of them, but quite frankly we met a team that wanted it more than us and was hungrier than we were," said Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly. "I think that Northwestern played a fantastic game. Monica (Abbott) pitched a great game. They just beat us. That's all there is to it. When we get one hit in our lineup we have a problem on offense. Monica pitched tremendously. She got us out of scrape after scrape after scrape. There is only so much a pitcher can do and she did it. I'm not saying this to be down on our kids. I am proud of our kids. We told them last night we didn't come here to beat number one, we came here to be number one. But I knew after last night that it would be very hard to get our kids up. We just ran into a buzzsaw and that buzzsaw was purple.
Abbott, the three-time All-American hurler for Tennessee, worked a perfect top of the first to set a dominant tone for the Lady Vols from the circle. Left fielder Katie Logan and shortstop Tammy Williams grounded out to open the inning before Abbott struck out Garland Cooper to bring up the nation's top offensive attack.
Northwestern's Eileen Canney, the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, looked just as strong in the circle for the Wildcats in the bottom half of the first by registering a pair of K's in sweeping through the frame. Fekete led off the inning with a walk, but was gunned down at second on a steal attempt by the combo battery of catcher Jamie Dotson to covering shortstop Williams.
The Wildcats came through with the first hit of the contest in the top of the third as rookie right fielder Erin Dyer led-off the frame with a line drive single into center. Abbott responded by striking out second baseman Ashley Crane and third baseman Darcy Sengewald to climb within one punchout of 500 K's for the third straight season. Logan grounded out to Jennifer Griffin at third to end the frame and leave NU's first runner stranded.
Griffin, the UT freshman from Whittier, Calif., posted Tennessee's initial base knock against Canney by ripping a long double to the wall in right center field with one retired in the bottom of the third. The hit was the first of her brief NCAA career after going 0-for-6 at the plate combined in UT's previous tourney action in `06. Unfortunately, she was stranded right there at second as rookie Kenora Posey went down on strikes and Fekete popped up a bunt to Canney in the circle.
Some program history was made by Abbott at 9:09 p.m. CT versus Northwestern lead-off batter Tammy Williams in the top of the fourth. With the Salinas, Calif., native's sixth K of the match-up, Abbott achieved her 500th strikeout of the season for the third consecutive season. With one retired the heart of the Wildcat order mounted a concerted attack as Cooper walked and Dotson singled up the middle to give NU a pair of base runners. Following a visit to the circle by UT pitching coach Marty McDaniel, Tennessee's 6-3 lefthander settled down to strikeout Wildcat designated player Kristen Amegin and center fielder Sheila McCorkle to halt any scoring threat.
The pitcher's duel continued right on through the fifth inning as Abbott had produced 10 strikeouts and NU's Canney seven to that point. Meanwhile the two squads had combined for just three total hits (Tennessee only one).
Wildcat lead-off batter Katie Logan got something started for Northwestern in the top of the sixth with a base hit up the middle past a diving Schutzler. After Williams went down on strikes for out number one, Cooper walked to grant NU a pair of base runners for the second time in the match-up. Dotson swung and missed at a wicked curve ball to mark K number 12 for Abbott. Amegin broke the scoreless tie, however, with a rocket shot past a diving Posey at second base to plate Logan for a 1-0 Northwestern advantage. McCorkle popped up to third, but the scoreboard damage had already been done as NU registered one run on two hits and a walk in the inning.
Now faced with a late deficit for the second consecutive night, the Lady Vols entered what had recently been a magical inning in NCAA Tournament play as Tennessee has outscored its opposition 9-2 overall in the sixth. The frame worked out extremely well last night when UT tallied three runs against No. 1 UCLA. Griffin led-off the promising inning with a walk and pinch runner Lillian Hammond advanced to second after pinch hitter Liane Horiuchi was struck by a pitch for the 18th time this season. A Fekete ground ball moved the duo up 60 feet on the basepaths for sophomore Natalie Brock. Unfortunately, the Nashville, Tenn., native went down swinging against Canney, and Schutzler lined out to short to conclude the attack with UT still trailing by a single run.
Northwestern added a crucial insurance tally in the top of the seventh as Sengewald drove an Abbott pitch deep over the left center field wall for a solo home run to grant the Wildcats a 2-0 lead venturing to Tennessee's last chance opportunity.
Callahan battled Canney for at least 10 pitches before going down on a 3-2 count for the first out of the bottom of the seventh. Card was retired swinging to bring up Durant with UT's last chance hanging in the balance. A harmless fly ball to left by Durant ended things as the Wildcats triumphed by two runs.
The No. 5 Lady Vols will now move to the other side of the WCWS bracket and face elimination on Saturday, June 3, in a 7 p.m. ET match-up on ESPN against the winner of an earlier noon ET contest between Arizona State and Oregon State. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com, and periodic updates will be posted on the Lady Vol Hotline at (865) 974-8700 (box #6).