April 30, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A challenge from a longtime rival awaits No. 15 Tennessee (37-13-1, 12-10-1 SEC) over May 1-2 at the Lee Softball Stadium as No. 3 Alabama (43-8, 19-6 SEC) visits Knoxville for a three-game set to conclude the 2009 regular season. First pitch for Friday night's single contest is set for 6 p.m. ET, with a doubleheader slated for Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.
The Sports Animal (990 AM, 99.1, 99.3 FM) will radio broadcast all three match-ups in the series. Live stats will be available for the trio of contests and web-streamed video is expected to be provided for Saturday's doubleheader through utladyvols.com.
Recent history in the all-time series between Tennessee and Alabama has seen the home team possess a distinct advantage over its visitor. The Big Orange swept a doubleheader from the Crimson Tide at then-home Tyson Park back in 2007 and holds a 4-1 record versus UA over the last five meetings in Knoxville. In the all-time series Alabama leads 24-14, but the Lady Vols have taken nine of the last 16 overall match-ups.
With no mid-week action because of final exams, Tennessee enters its series against 'Bama with its last memory on the field of play being a stirring 6-3 win over #8 Georgia last Sunday as UT salvaged a triumph in a hard-fought road series in Athens, Ga. Freshman Jessica Spigner was called on to move from her usual third base position into the circle and certainly didn't disappoint. The Santa Clarita, Calif., native allowed just one run on four hits over 3.2 innings of relief in the Big Orange's 6-2 loss to UGA on Saturday. The righty was also summoned in for relief work during the third inning of Sunday's finale with a Bulldog runner aboard and the score deadlocked at 3-3. Spigner settled things down, allowing just one hit over the final five innings as UT eventually prevailed.
Tennessee's offense broke out in the series finale against Georgia, banging out six runs on seven hits with home runs from junior second baseman Nicole Kajitani and freshman designated player Shelby Burchell. The big blow of the contest occurred in the top of the seventh with a 2-2 count, two outs and the game tied. Sophomore center fielder Kelly Grieve battled UGA starter Christie Hamilton over an extended at-bat before slapping a pitch down the left field line that landed just inside the chalk for a two-RBI triple as UT grabbed a late lead. Junior catcher/first baseman Tiffany Huff followed immediately by knocking in her team-best 65th run of the season, providing the Orange & White some valuable insurance.
A staple of the nation's top 5 all-season long, Alabama enters this weekend's final regular-season series at 43-8 overall, 19-6 in SEC play and in possession of the second seed for next week's SEC Tournament. Boasting five very experienced seniors, the Crimson Tide currently rates second as a team and 15th in NCAA Division I in earned run average (counting all games) at 1.64 and third in batting average at .318 (14th in nation), having scored at a 6.4 run per game clip. UA has demonstrated its ample power by blasting 46 home runs to go along with 63 doubles and is the top base stealing team in the country with 151 thefts. In all 11 Alabama players possess 11 or more RBIs on the season. From the circle, three hurlers have combined for 20 shutouts, 35 complete games and 349 strikeouts while limiting opponents to just a .205 batting average.
From an individual standpoint, the Crimson Tide is led offensively by junior Charlotte Morgan and senior Brittany Rogers. Morgan currently guides the way (counting league contests only) in batting average at .452 with a league-best 33 RBIs in 25 SEC contests. For the entire campaign, the Moreno Valley, Calif., native boasts a .415 average with eight doubles, eight HR's and a squad best 47 RBIs. Rogers wreaks havoc from the top of the batting order as the speedster owns a .400 average, a .462 on-base percentage and a league-high 41 stolen bases. Among other major contributors to the powerful UA attack are senior Lauren Parker (.336, 19 RBIs), freshman Cassandra Reilly-Boccia (.325, 12 doubles, three HR's, 38 RBIs), redshirt freshman Amanda Locke (.305, eight HR's, 25 RBIs), sophomore Whitney Larsen (.295, nine HR's, 32 RBIs) and senior Kelley Montalvo (.302, 11 doubles, five HR's, 29 RBIs). Rookies Jazlyn Lunceford (.389, 17 RBIs) and Jennifer Fenton (.367, three HR's, 11 RBIs) have contributed at the plate as well as on the base paths with 14 and 27 steals, respectively.
Returning in the circle for Alabama is 2008 SEC Freshman of the Year Kelsi Dunne. The Port Orange, Fla., native has picked up where she left off last season by posting a sterling 23-2 record with the league's third-best ERA (1.22), 19 complete games, 11 shutouts and 202 K's in 160.1 innings of work. Morgan also contributes strongly from the circle, having fired 119.0 frames while tallying a 13-6 record and a 2.18 ERA with 111 strikeouts. Locke has added 44.2 innings of support, going 7-0 with a 1.72 ERA.