March 10, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The No. 6 Tennessee (20-3) Lady Vol softball team prepares to host its final mid-week contest prior to entering the rugged Southeastern Conference schedule with a single game against in-state foe Belmont on Wed., March 11th, at 7 p.m. at the Lee Softball Stadium.
The Lady Vols maintain a perfect 13-0 record against the Bruins and are now 89-3 overall against a combination of 11 in-state softball squads since starting the UT program back in 1996. Co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly have tallied a 53-0 record against in-state programs since arriving at Rocky Top prior to the 2002 season. UT has also won 59 straight against "Volunteer State" opponents since suffering its last defeat back on March 22, 2000, against MTSU.
Faced with a daunting challenge last weekend at "The Preview" presented by WORTH in Norman and Oklahoma City, Okla., the Big Orange posted a 2-2 record, picking up a pair of victories over #5 Oklahoma (4-1, 6-5 in 8 inn.) but also suffering two defeats to No. 16 Northwestern (3-7, 3-11 in 6 inn.). UT stands at 4-3 overall against ranked foes in 2009, tied with No. 1 Florida for the most wins against rated squads in the SEC. By scoring in the opening frame twice at "The Preview," Tennessee has now registered at least one first inning run in 15 of its 23 total contests.
Big Orange junior catcher/first baseman Tiffany Huff continued her amazing offensive production, hitting .417 at the prestigious event with a pair of home runs and five more RBIs. The Saugus, Calif., native and reigning Lady Vol Athlete of the Week now possesses a SEC-high 45 RBI (1.91 RBI-per-game pace), rates third in the league in batting average at .485 and is currently on a career-long 12-game hitting streak. Her RBI total nearly eclipses her season-long RBI totals from her SEC All-Freshman (58 RBIs in 2007) and NFCA All-South Region (50 RBIs in 2008) campaigns. Sophomore catcher/first baseman Jennifer Lapicki, freshman third baseman Jessica Spigner (team-best seventh HR) and junior second baseman Erinn Webb each blasted homers during the four-game tourney. The fifth-ranked Sooners will probably have nightmares of Webb for awhile after the Hemet, Calif., native delivered a game-winning, three-RBI triple in the fifth inning of a 4-1 UT win and also homered and drove in the game-winner via double in the eighth frame of UT's 6-5 comeback win over OU.
Lady Vol freshman pitcher Cat Hosfield soldiered on from the circle, having to appear in all four contests in Oklahoma because of an illness that forced sophomore Ashton Ward to remain behind in Knoxville. The Murfreesboro, Tenn., native went 2-2 at the event, throwing 25 of UT's 27.2 total innings. She stands at 15-3 overall, owning the most victories by a pitcher in the SEC and having worked the most innings of any hurler in the league (112.0). The 5-9 right hander four-hit the Sooners in a 4-1 complete-game victory and, in relief, shut down #5 Oklahoma on zero runs and five hits over seven frames as the Orange & White rallied from a 5-0, first inning deficit to prevail, 6-5 (8 inn.).
Under the leadership of fourth-year head coach Amy Tudor, Belmont ventures to Knoxville at 8-6 overall with losses to common Tennessee opponents, North Dakota State (8-9) and Boston College (2-6, 1-5). Hitting a solid .284 as a team despite possessing a youthful squad with 10 freshman or sophomores listed on the 16-member roster, the Bruins are led offensively by sophomore Julie Harmon at .419 overall with a team-best four homers and 16 RBIs. Senior outfielder Elly Bennett adds a .367 average, four doubles, a pair of homers and 11 RBIs, while junior Dawn Thoni (.319) and freshman Hannah Brenzie (.316) complete a quartet above the .300 mark. A trio of hurlers has combined for a 4.00 team ERA, allowing the opposition to plate four runs per game. Freshman Devon Schmidt has seen the most action for the Bruins, tossing 47.1 frames while recording a 5-4 record, a 3.61 ERA and 46 K's. Senior Sammi Parks has fired 39.1 innings with a 2-2 record, a 4.81 ERA and 34 strikeouts. As a team, the Bruins have committed 24 errors for a .943 fielding average.