March 24, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - With a tough weekend series now in its rear-view mirror, No. 9 Tennessee (24-6, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) looks to quickly rebound within the league by hosting SEC Western Division foe Arkansas (18-10, 7-1 SEC) for a mid-week doubleheader on Wed., March 25th, at the Lee Softball Stadium. First pitch for the two-contest set is slated for 4 p.m. ET.
The Lady Vols hold a commanding 23-11 advantage over the Razorbacks in a series that dates back to the league's inaugural season of softball in 1997. UT has emerged victorious from 11 of the last 12 overall meetings between the two programs and maintains a 14-1 record versus UA in Knoxville. The Big Orange's lone home defeat to Arkansas occurred back on April 14, 2001, by a 3-0 count, the year prior to the arrival of co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly to helm the program. Tennessee went 2-1 last season in its trip to Fayetteville, Ark., losing the opener, 5-2, before rebounding to take the series with 11-2 and 4-2 victories.
Last weekend's visit to Gainesville, Fla., to battle No. 1 Florida ended in a difficult sweep at the hands of a veteran Gator squad. If history is any guide, Tennessee will learn from the experience and bounce back quickly as the last time UT was swept on the road in league play occurred back during the 2006 campaign. Following that tough weekend, the Big Orange immediately embarked on an eight-game win streak and won 20 of its next 22 contests on its path to an eventual Women's College World Series berth and a top three national finish.
From an individual standpoint, junior outfielder Nicole Kajitani took advantage of her chance to start during all three games of the Florida series by hitting a team-best .286 overall while tallying a RBI off UF All-American pitcher Stacey Nelson. Sophomore catcher/first baseman Jen Lapicki, senior outfielder Lillian Hammond and junior second baseman Erinn Webb each posted doubles during the three-contest set.
Entering Wednesday's mid-week doubleheader in Knoxville, fifth-year head coach Jamie Pinkerton has his Arkansas Razorbacks playing with a lot of confidence, having started their conference season at 7-1 overall to lead the SEC Western Division. UA will be looking to prove something to any naysayers by facing top-10 rated Tennessee, however, as those seven league victories have come at the expense of teams currently in possession of the two worst conference records in the SEC (South Carolina and Mississippi State) and a 5-4 Kentucky club.
Arkansas rates second in the SEC in batting average counting only league contests at .306, but sits just eighth considering all match-ups on the season at .263, while plating 4.5 runs per game and having blasted 26 homers in 28 contests. The 'Backs currently rate third in SEC ERA at 1.72 but only ninth counting the entire campaign (3.21 ERA).
Senior catcher Whitney Cloer guides the UA offense with a .386 batting average and team-highs in both home runs (7) and RBIs (24). Freshman infielder Brittany Griffiths (currently the SEC Freshman of the Week) has contributed a .340 average, while junior outfielder Jessica Bachkora is hitting .311 with seven doubles, five HR's and 20 RBIs.
Five hurlers have contributed this year to the team's 3.21 ERA with reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week Miranda Dixon having worked the most innings (96.0). The junior from Edmond, Okla., is 11-2 overall with a 2.26 ERA and 81 K's. Sophomore right hander Kim Jones has added a 5-5 mark with a 2.93 ERA and 50 strikeouts. Freshman Kelsie Vallies (6.52 ERA in 9.2 innings), sophomore Layne McGuirt (9.55 ERA in 3.2 IP) and junior Teighynne Hulsey (11.55 ERA in 6.2 frames) have combined for a 2-3 record and 14 K's. From a defensive standpoint UA has struggled, having committed 38 errors for a .955 fielding percentage, rating last in the 11-team league.
First pitch for Wednesday's doubleheader with Arkansas is set for 4 p.m. ET at the Lee Softball Stadium with the second match-up currently slated to be broadcast live on "The Sports Animal" (AM 990, 99.1 & 99.3 FM). Live stats and video will be available through utladyvols.com.