April 9, 2007
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Fresh off becoming the first Southeastern Conference team to sweep rival Georgia in Athens, Ga., since 2001, No. 1 Tennessee (43-2, 14-2 SEC) will put both its 78-game non-conference regular-season winning streak and 18-contest victory skein on the line by stepping out of the league for a single contest against the Memphis Lady Tigers (23-15) on Tuesday at the rare early start time of 2:30 p.m. ET. The original game time was altered to avoid conflicting with an athletic department event.
The Big Orange and Lady Tigers have never met on the softball diamond during an official campaign, but UM has visited Tyson Park the last two years for the annual Lady Vol Fall Tournament. UT is a perfect 5-0 this season against in-state foes with victories over Tennessee Tech (4-0 & 12-0 in five inn.), Austin Peay (2-0) and East Tennessee State (13-3 & 8-0 both in five inn.), while the Lady Tigers are even better at 9-0 with three wins over Middle Tennessee and a pair of triumphs each over Lipscomb, Tennessee-Martin and Belmont. Memphis is 0-4 all-time against ranked opposition and 0-3 during the 2007 slate.
The Lady Tigers enter Tuesday's match-up at 23-15 overall having been swept in their most recent action by Tulsa over three contests from April 6-7. Head coach Windy Thees' charges have registered a .275 team batting average with 164 runs scored and 28 home runs, while permitting the opposition to hit at a .253 clip with 150 tallies and 25 big flies. Senior Kara Ross guides the offensive effort with a .324 average in 37 starts with two homers and a team-high 27 RBI. Fellow senior Bridgette McNulty is the only other Lady Tiger above the .300 mark at .302 and has contributed a team co-best five home runs with 22 tallies knocked in. Sophomore Leila Dolfo (.294, 15 RBI) has equaled McNulty in power shots with five big flies, while junior Lindsay Kelso is hitting .293 with four HR's and 18 RBIs. The pitching staff has totaled a 3.07 ERA while allowing 113 earned runs in 257.1 innings of work. Senior Jenna Kubesch has seemingly been the ace of the staff with a 14-7 mark, a 2.89 ERA, three solo shutouts, and 126 K's in 133.1 frames. Senior Nicki Johnson has been the obvious second choice by compiling a 9-8 record with 80 punch outs in 119.1 innings and a 3.11 ERA. The defense has compiled a .953 fielding percentage with 53 errors to undermine the pitching staff's efforts by helping contribute to 37 unearned runs.
Tennessee made quite a statement this past weekend with its sweep of Eastern Division rival Georgia in Athens as UT became the first SEC program since 2001 to perform that feat. During the three-game set, senior left fielder India Chiles hit a remarkable .833 (10-of-12) at the dish while recording a triple and three RBI. The Louisville, Ky., native raised her batting average from .427 to .467 at UGA and is now hitting an incredible .561 counting only SEC contests after entering the weekend at .448. As a team, the Big Orange hit at a .381 clip and the Tennessee pitching staff limited the Bulldogs to just a .082 average. Senior center fielder Lindsay Schutzler registered a .500 (8-of-16) stint versus Georgia and upped her hitting streak to a career-best equaling nine games. Since drawing a start six games ago on Friday, March 30, in the first game of a doubleheader against East Tennessee State, sophomore slapper Lillian Hammond is leading the squad in hitting at .688 (11-of-16) with six runs scored, three RBI and two doubles. Over that same stretch, junior first/third baseman Tonya Callahan has recorded a .429 mark with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBI. Senior pitcher Monica Abbott was chosen as the new SEC Pitcher of the Week (4/9) after throwing her sixth career perfect game in the 10-0 (five inn.) whitewashing of Georgia in the series opener, while junior Megan Rhodes was 2-0 last week with victories over Tennessee Tech and UGA while posting a 0.00 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 11 innings of work to improve to 11-1 on the campaign.
First pitch is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET at Tyson Park between Tennessee and Memphis. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com via Gametracker, and periodic updates will be posted to the Lady Vol Hotline at 865-974-8700 (box #6).