April 28, 2007
BATON ROUGE, La. - With a record crowd of 2,326 jammed into every possible nook and cranny at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday evening, the No. 6 LSU Tigers (47-8, 20-4 SEC) ended No. 1 Tennessee's (51-3, 21-3 SEC) 26-game winning streak and 18-contest Southeastern Conference winning skein with a 5-1 victory. UT registered a 2-1 triumph in the opening game of the doubleheader.
Despite suffering their first defeat since a loss at Ole Miss on March 14, the Lady Vols remain one game ahead of both LSU and Alabama (20-4 SEC) in the tightly-contested race for the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship.
Freshman catcher Tiffany Huff knocked in the lone run for Tennessee on an RBI single in the first inning as part of a 1-for-3 effort. Junior pitcher Megan Rhodes took the loss for UT to drop to 12-2 on the season by allowing nine hits and five earned runs while striking out two in six innings in the circle.
"The opener was a classic fastpitch softball game that was played in front of a record crowd in a tournament-style atmosphere," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "Both teams played extremely well, and the game was won on Lindsay Schutzler's clutch hit and Monica Abbott's solid pitching. India Chiles continued her hot hitting in setting the table for our team. In the second game, LSU got two big hits in clutch situations from their superstar Leslie Klein. They outplayed us in that game, and the credit goes to LSU and pitcher Emily Turner."
Tennessee wasted no time in jumping to an early lead in Saturday's second contest as a walk, a hit batter and an RBI single combined to grant the Lady Vols a quick 1-0 advantage in the top of the first. Junior second baseman Kenora Posey drew a one-out free pass off LSU senior hurler Emily Turner and advanced into scoring position on a groundout off the bat of senior center fielder Lindsay Schutzler. The Los Angeles, Calif., native was joined on the base paths by junior first baseman Tonya Callahan after she was struck by a pitch. With runners occupying first and second and two retired, Huff laced a clutch RBI single through the right side of the infield to bring Posey across the plate with the game's initial tally. Entering the contest, the Big Orange held a perfect 23-0 record on the season when scoring a run during the first inning.
The Tigers attempted to answer with a scoring threat of their own in the bottom of the first as consecutive singles by right fielder Rachel Mitchell and center fielder Leslie Klein bestowed LSU runners at first and second with just one out. Rhodes responded to the assault by striking out third baseman Tayl'r Hollis and forcing first baseman Vanessa Soto to pop out in foul territory to UT catcher Huff to strand the pair on the base paths.
After the Lady Vols left two on base in the top of the third, the Bayou Bengals strung together a trio of hits in the bottom half of the frame to grab a 2-1 advantage. Left fielder Jazz Jackson christened the rally with a one-out single up the middle and advanced to third on a base hit through the right side of the infield by Mitchell. LSU RBI leader Klein came through in the clutch by roping a double into the gap in right center to score both runners and grant the Tigers their first lead. Rhodes rebounded to conclude the frame by inducing groundouts from both Hollis and Soto.
With two outs in the top of the fifth, Schutzler drew a free pass off Turner and improved to second on a single into left field by Callahan as the Holden, Mo., native reached safely for the third consecutive at bat (HBP, BB, single). Huff hammered a deep drive to left center that threatened to bring the Big Orange even or perhaps give them an advantage, but Klein tracked down the ball while crashing into the wall to end the assault.
After escaping any scoreboard damage in the top half of the frame, LSU opened a bid for some insurance in the bottom of the fifth as pinch hitter Kristen Hobbs drove a 3-2 offering from Rhodes sharply up the middle for a lead-off single. Jackson attempted to sacrifice the runner, but her slap was handled easily by third baseman Jennifer Griffin who turned and cut down the lead runner on a fielder's choice for the first out. Mitchell followed with a single through the right side to advance Jackson up to third with the dangerous Klein stepping to the plate. The LSU senior jumped on a 1-2 pitch from Rhodes and drove a three-run home run over the center field wall to up the Tigers' lead to 5-1. Hollis blooped a ball into short left field that threatened to drop in safely, but sophomore Liane Horiuchi raced back from her defensive position at short and made a solid over-the-shoulder grab. Soto flew out to Schutzler in center field to end the frame, but not before the Bayou Bengals struck for three runs on three hits.
Tennessee went down in order in the top of the sixth to bring up LSU looking for more. Catcher Killian Roessner led off the bottom of the sixth with a hard liner that ricocheted off Griffin at third for a single. Smith hit a ball to Horiuchi at short and the Wahiawa, Hawaii, native turned and threw to Posey covering second for the fielder's choice to record out number two. A wild offering from Rhodes advanced the runner 60 feet into scoring position, but Henderson grounded routinely to Griffin to leave Smith stranded.
Down to their last chance in regulation, the Lady Vols sent redshirt freshman Allison Fulmer to the plate, but the Maryville, Tenn., native went down swinging. Chiles ripped a one-out single into left field to bestow UT some semblance of offensive life in the top of the seventh. Posey bounced a chopper to short forcing Smith to corral the sphere and hurry a throw to second for a fielder's choice to barely retire speedy pinch runner Lillian Hammond for the second out. Schutzler battled Turner to a 3-2 count and fouled off three pitches before taking a close strike three to end the game.
No. 1 Tennessee will conclude its three-game series against No. 6 LSU in Baton Rouge, La., on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. ET. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com, and periodic updates will be provided to the Lady Vol Hotline at 865-974-8700 (box #6). Sunday's series finale will be broadcast live on ESPN2 with Beth Mowins and U.S. National Team member Jessica Mendoza on the call.