March 20, 2007
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - No. 1 in the nation for the sixth consecutive week and off to the best 30-game start in program history at 28-2 overall (6-2 SEC), top-ranked Tennessee will look to continue its momentum by hosting an important Wednesday league doubleheader against Southeastern Conference Eastern Division foe South Carolina (24-7, 3-3 SEC). First pitch at Tyson Park is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET, with a live broadcast of the day's second contest on The Sports Animal (99.1, 99.3 FM, 990 AM, on Yahoo Sports through utladyvols.com) at approximately 6:30 p.m. with the "Voice of the Lady Vols" Mickey Dearstone on the call.
The Orange & White will be looking to extend their current 10-game winning skein against the Gamecocks and improve their overall series lead of 17-15 over the Garnet & Black. This is the second consecutive season that USC has ventured to Knoxville to play the Lady Vols after UT swept a three-game home set from South Carolina over April 18-19, 2006. Monica Abbott picked up the victory in the circle in all three match-ups as Tennessee prevailed in the hard-fought series by scores of 7-0, 5-3 and 3-0. Then-shortstop Lindsay Schutzler led the offensive attack at .556 (5-of-9), while first baseman Tonya Callahan delivered an impressive four RBI in the series opener with a two-run home run, a run-scoring groundout and an RBI single.
South Carolina, under the guidance of 20th-year head coach Joyce Compton, enters Wednesday's action mired in a four-game losing streak after suffering a disappointing sweep at the hands of No. 2 Alabama in Columbia, S.C., last weekend. The next victory for Compton will be one for the history books as the long time coach enters the doubleheader against UT with 999 career triumphs, requiring just one win to become the sixth coach in NCAA Division I history to achieve 1,000 victories. Tennessee will be USC's third ranked opponent of the campaign as the Gamecocks have struggled against Top 25 teams in 2007 to the tune of a 0-4 mark. Sophomore utility player Ashton Payne leads the SEC's seventh-rated offensive attack (.261) with a .362 average (34-of-94) over 26 starts with one home run, 12 RBI and a team-high six stolen bases. Senior McKenna Hughes (.312) has been responsible for eight of the Garnet & Black's 14 team home runs while registering a squad-best 22 RBI. The pitching staff consisting of junior Kate Pouliot (0.98 ERA, 12-2, 93 K's in 85.2 IP), junior Melissa Hendon (1.10 ERA, 10-4, 146 K's in 108.2 IP) and freshman Krystle Robinson (2.30 ERA, 2-1, 14 K's in 24.1 IP) have combined for the league's fourth-best ERA at 1.18 with 11 shutouts. The defense has also been solid with just 26 errors in 31 contests for a .971 fielding percentage to hold down the No. 4 spot in the league ratings.
With injuries to several key contributors including senior India Chiles (third in the SEC in hitting at .440) and freshman Tiffany Huff (third in the league in RBI with 32) currently limiting the offensive options, Tennessee will be forced to count on the contributions of its younger players as the rugged SEC schedule continues. UT swept a crucial conference series from Mississippi State last weekend at Tyson Park by 3-0, 2-1 (eight inn.) and 5-1 scores. Abbott improved to 22-1 on the season with victories in all three match-ups, while clutch RBI hits from Callahan, junior catcher Shannon Doepking, Schutzler and freshman second baseman Nicole Kajitani paved the way to the sweep. Doepking came through with a game-winning double in the eighth inning of UT's 2-1, extra-frame win. Schutzler and Kajitani were responsible for two hits and a pair of RBI each in the finale. Callahan's RBI single in the first inning of the opener proved to be the game-winner as UT rolled to a 3-0 triumph.
Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com (Gametracker) for both contests between the Lady Vols and Gamecocks, and periodic updates will be provided to the Lady Vol Hotline at 865-974-8700 (box #6).