Aug. 11, 2006
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - A memorable 61-12 run to a second consecutive third-place finish at the Women's College World Series landed the 2006 version of the Tennessee Lady Vol softball team at No. 3 in the final NCAA Ratings Percentage Index. The Big Orange trailed only national titlist and top-ranked Arizona and No. 2 UCLA in the standings. UT defeated both the Wildcats (1-0) and Bruins (4-3) at the WCWS and also picked up victories during the record-setting '06 campaign over a total of five of the nine programs listed in the top 10 (No. 5 Alabama, No. 6 Arizona State and No. 7 Northwestern).
The ever-strengthening Southeastern Conference also climbed the league RPI charts to finish at No. 2 overall behind the powerful Pac-10 with six SEC schools cracking the final Top 20. Joining Tennessee and Alabama in the individual listing were LSU (No. 11), Georgia (No. 12), Florida (No. 18) and Auburn (No. 20).
The RPI is a ranking based on a weighted combination of team record, poll standing and strength of schedule that is released weekly throughout the season.
The Lady Vols enjoyed a sterling 2006 campaign as the program reaped a staggering five first-team All-American nods on its way to a second straight WCWS appearance.
Junior pitcher Monica Abbott exhibited her impressive talents by once again leading the nation and Southeastern Conference in victories (44) while ranking eighth in strikeouts per seven innings (10.8) and 10th in ERA (0.95). The 6-3 lefthander hurled six no-hitters and a perfect game and broke the SEC career records for victories and strikeouts formerly held by LSU All-American Britni Sneed.
Senior center fielder Sarah Fekete led the nation in batting average at .500 (110-of-220) while establishing a new league record for single-season hits (110). The 5-8 speedster hit safely in 60 of her 72 games played in 2006 and reached base by hit or walk in an incredible 65 of 72 contests. She also led the SEC in on-base percentage (.553) and hits while rating third in the league in runs scored (61). Fekete completed her career as the all-time Tennessee leader in batting average (.398), on-base percentage (.456) and stolen bases (85) while finishing second in runs scored (189) and hits (296).
Junior shortstop Lindsay Schutzler rated 10th in NCAA Division I in runs scored (0.99) per game and 15th in triples per contest (0.11) during a campaign that saw her hit .409 (94-of-230) while rating first in three-baggers (eight), second in runs scored (72), third in hits and sixth in batting average in the SEC. She proved equally adept at reaping honors in the classroom by being tabbed a 2006 ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America first-team choice as well as the prestigious University Division Player of the Year by maintaining a 3.86 GPA in psychology.
Senior designated player Kristi Durant broke the SEC career RBI record by knocking in run number 192 in a victory at Arkansas. Despite a back injury that limited her contributions during the season, the Placentia, Calif., native hit an impressive .393 (66-of-168) with 11 doubles and 51 RBI.
Sophomore first baseman Tonya Callahan rang up a staggering 73 RBI in 70 starts while registering a .365 batting average with a team-best 14 doubles and 13 home runs. The Holden, Mo., native has advanced into the No. 3 slot in Tennessee's career record books for big flies with 24 in just two years at Rocky Top. She was among the top 10 all season long in the league in average and in the nation in RBI per game.
Tennessee co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly will welcome back 17 letterwinners off the powerful 2006 squad, while returning seven starters and the entire pitching staff for the '07 campaign. UT will also enjoy the contributions of a senior class consisting of Abbott, Schutzler and rising star outfielder India Chiles (.437 average in 2006). The Big Orange will open 2007 with a trip to Chapel Hill, N.C., over Feb. 9-11 to compete in the North Carolina Invitational.