June 6, 2005
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - At 1:21 a.m. CDT on Monday morning, University of Tennessee freshman first baseman Tonya Callahan brought the Lady Vols out of the dugout and onto the field in spirited celebration with a blast high into the night before it landed 10 feet beyond the left field fence and 10 feet to the right of the foul pole. The shot gave UT (67-14) a dramatic 2-0 win in 11 innings over a top-ranked and No. 1-seeded Michigan squad (62-6).
Both teams now each have suffered a loss in Women's College World Series action and will play at noon CDT on Monday to determine which will become the first eastern time zone team to play for a national title. That three-game title series will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Monday. Two-time defending champion UCLA (39-18) awaits the victor.
The win was also historic for another reason. Now with 67 victories, the Lady Vols have tied for the highest win total in NCAA Division I history; currently sharing it with the 1999 Illinois-Chicago Flames and the Arizona Wildcats of 1998. Tennessee has now won 19-of-22 contests.
With the victory, Tennessee earned its first-ever win over a top-ranked squad. Coming into the contest, the Lady Vols were 0-6 all-time versus teams ranked No. 1.
The game tied for the longest in school history at 11 innings. On April 12, 2003, the Lady Vols fell to Auburn in 11 by a 1-0 score.
As a team, Tennessee now has 51 shutouts on the season (extending its NCAA Division I record), while sophomore pitcher Monica Abbott earned her 34th, the second-highest total in Division I history (trailing only Louisiana Tech's Debbie Nichols' total of 36 in 1988). The Big Orange has shut out its opponent in 14-of-18 games.
The homer gave the Big Orange 52 on the season, tying a school record with the 1996 and 2002 squads.
Each team was able to build minor rallies throughout the first 10-1/2 innings, but pay dirt could not be hit. In the top of the first, Michigan saw Alessandra Giampaolo hit a double to the left-center fence right between the Lady Vol left and centerfielders. She was however stranded.
In the UM half of the second, Stephanie Bercaw singled to center with two outs and Becky Marx was hit by a pitch, but neither was able to find home.
Freshman first baseman Tonya Callahan singled through the left side to lead off the UT second, but she was not able to advance.
In the top of the fifth, Bercaw hit a hard single to left to put herself at first with nobody out. She was however stranded at second after stealing the bag with two outs.
With one out in the bottom of the sixth, sophomore shortstop Lindsay Schutzler laid down a slap bunt midway between the circle and home and just beat out the throw, but she was not able to move off of first before the side was retired.
Michigan had an opportunity in its half of the seventh as the leadoff hitter, Grace Leutele, led off with a drive to the right-center fence for a double.
Abbott then struck out Bercaw for her 594th of the season, moving herself back into second on the NCAA Division I all-time charts. Texas' Cat Osterman had gone up to 593 in the Longhorns' 3-0 loss to UCLA earlier today, meaning Abbott is assured of not being passed again. The record of 663 is held by Southern Miss' Courtney Blades in 2000.
Now with Leutele at second with one out, Marx hit a ground-out to short and, on the throw to first, Leutele broke for third and was nailed by Callahan.
Tennessee almost broke through in the eighth. With one out, freshman designated player Natalie Brock singled to right. Freshman second baseman Kenora Posey hit a grounder to the circle and, when the pitcher looked at second, she ended up with no time to nail the speedy Posey. Unfortunately for the Lady Vols, the next two hitters struck out and the game went to the ninth.
In the top of that frame, Leutele hit a towering blast with two outs which Card went back to the wall and corralled it at the warning track.
Bercaw led off the 10th with a single and, after a couple of fielder's choice groundouts, Tiffany Haas lined a shot off the glove of a speeding Posey and into center to move Rebekah Milian to third, the first runner of the game for either team to reach the third bag (and last prior to Callahan's homer). Abbott then struck out the last batter to escape another jam unscathed.
In Tennessee's half of the inning, sophomore designated player India Chiles beat out a hit to short with one out and moved to second on a sacrifice executed by Posey. Following a walk issued to Schutzler, a strikeout ended the rally.
Michigan once again threatened in the 11th. Merchant was hit by an Abbott offering to reach first with nobody out. After a fielder's choice was recorded, Nicole Motycka found herself at first after a fielding error by Posey, while Samantha Findlay advanced to second, but Abbott struck out the next two hitters to bring the game to the dramatic bottom of the 11th.
The Lady Vols and Wolverines will battle at noon CDT on Monday live on ESPN2 for the second and final berth into the national championship series. That three-game set will feature UCLA and the Tennessee/Michigan winner and begins on Monday night and will continue on Tuesday before concluding, if necessary, on Wednesday. All three games begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN. Every Lady Vol contest can be heard on 990 AM and 99.1 and 99.3 FM.