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No. 12 Tennessee Ventures Up I-75 for Bluegrass Battle at Kentucky
Ashton Ward

Ashton Ward

April 7, 2009

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The No. 12 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (29-8-1, 6-5-1 SEC) looks to continue the momentum it gained from last weekend's successful road trip to nationally-ranked LSU by venturing up I-75 to Lexington, Ky., for a Wed., April 8th, doubleheader against SEC Eastern Division foe Kentucky (24-13, 7-8 SEC). First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. ET with live stats available through utladyvols.com.

The Big Orange maintains a 27-8 advantage in the overall series versus the Wildcats and is 13-4 all-time in Lexington. Despite dropping last season's rain-plagued series opener to UK in Knoxville by a 2-0 count in eight innings, the Lady Vols rebounded to win the three-game set by taking both ends of a Sunday doubleheader, 5-1 and 2-0. In Tennessee's last visit to Kentucky during the '07 campaign, UT swept a three-contest series in frigid conditions over April 14-15 by scores of 12-0, 8-2 and 9-4.

With every win in league play vital as teams begin looking towards seeding for the annual Southeastern Conference Tournament, the Orange & White tallied a 2-0-1 record last weekend on the road in a high-profile series at No. 18/17 LSU. After the Lady Vols swept Saturday's doubleheader (2-1, 7-4), the two squads battled to a 3-3 tie in the finale. The deadlock is believed to be the first in the 13-year history of SEC-sponsored softball.

Sophomore catcher/first baseman Jen Lapicki continued her outstanding offensive production since entering league play by hitting .444 (4-for-9) during the LSU series. The Oldwick, N.J., native currently leads the SEC (counting league games only) in batting average at .457 while rating third in on-base percentage (.525) and fourth in slugging percentage (.743).

By blasting her 14th home run of the year during the 3-3 tie with LSU, freshman third baseman Jessica Spigner broke the 13-year-old UT freshman single-season HR record formerly held by Carrie Swinford. The Santa Clarita, Calif., product stands just two big flies from equaling the Lady Vol single-season home run record of 16 HR's established just last year by three-time All-American Tonya Callahan. Spigner currently leads the SEC in home runs and now rates second on the team in RBIs with 41.

From the circle freshman right hander Cat Hosfield (20-7) fired a team-high 14.2 innings against the Bayou Bengals, tallying a 0.95 ERA, a 1-0 record and a save. The Murfreesboro, Tenn., native is currently second in the league in victories and among the conference's top 11 in overall ERA.

A resurgent Kentucky squad, under the direction of second-year head coach Rachel Lawson, enters Wednesday's doubleheader versus Tennessee with a 24-13 overall record, a 7-8 mark in SEC action and is just outside the top 25 in the NFCA poll, having received 25 votes to rate 28th. The 'Cats have already beaten Oregon and Hawai'i this season, own series triumphs over Auburn (three-game sweep) and Ole Miss and came within single-run defeats of taking road series' from both LSU and Arkansas. The Wildcats enter hitting .265 as a team, ranking seventh in the conference, while plating exactly five runs per game. UK also possesses a great deal of speed as the Blue & White have swiped 62 bases this year, rating fifth in the SEC.

Junior Molly Johnson heads the Kentucky offensive attack with a .418 batting average, seven doubles, a team-best seven homers, 26 RBIs and 18 stolen bases in 20 attempts. The Tucson, Ariz., native currently rates third in batting average (counting only league games) and sixth in average over all match-ups. Sophomore Meagan Aull (.341) leads the squad in doubles with 10 while also contributing 21 RBIs and a team-best 19 steals. Fellow sophomore Megan Yocke (.324) possesses a .432 average since entering SEC play, good for fourth in the conference right behind her teammate Johnson (.440), with seven doubles, four triples, four homers and 26 RBIs. Freshman Brittany Cervantes (.253) has added 20 RBIs to round out a UK quartet above the 20-RBI plateau.

Kentucky possesses the seventh-rated pitching staff in the league by ERA (3.02), while boasting a pair of exciting contributors in freshman Chanda Bell and junior Amber Matousek. Bell, a native of Indianapolis, Ind., holds a 2.63 ERA over 149.0 innings of work and currently rates second in the SEC in strikeouts (193), tied for third in wins (16) and ninth in batting average against (.211). Matousek, who picked up the victory in UK's 2-0 win over Tennessee in 2008, has tallied a 3.20 ERA and an 8-3 record with 52 K's.

The Wildcats have proven to be very successful in close games during the 2009 campaign, maintaining a 12-4 overall record in one and two-run contests. UT is 9-2 in such match-ups this season.

 

 

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