May 18, 2007
KNOXVILLE -- No. 1 Tennessee (55-5) improved its NCAA Regional winning streak to seven games dating back to the 2005 season with a commanding 8-0 (six inn.) victory over Furman (21-35-1) in Knoxville Regional action on Friday afternoon at Tyson Park. The Lady Vols now advance on in the winner’s bracket to face North Carolina at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Tennessee senior pitcher Monica Abbott (5 IP, 0 H, 13 K) and junior hurler Megan Rhodes (1 IP, 0 H, 0 K) combined on a perfect game by facing the minimum of 18 Lady Paladin hitters over six frames. With the triumph Abbott’s record improved to a NCAA Division I-leading 42-3.
Junior catcher Shannon Doepking helped lead the UT offensive attack with a 1-for-3 effort and a three-run homer as part of a five-run fifth inning. Freshman first baseman Tiffany Huff went a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate with two tallies and an RBI. Freshman right fielder Erinn Webb (2-for-2, double, RBI) and sophomore designated player Lillian Hammond (2-for-3, run) each registered two of the Lady Vols’ 12 total hits in the match-up.
“I thought we came out flat today and I don’t know why,” Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “Teams don’t last long in this tournament playing that way. I thought our pitching was outstanding. We took too long offensively to get things going and we had some early base running errors that cost us some runs. Our slap game was not as effective as usual. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but our hitters did a great job. Before her last trip to the plate, Karen (co-head coach Weekly) and I told Shannon Doepking that she needed to produce, and she responded well. Tiffany Huff is a freshman only in label. She has played like a champion all year, and she means everything to this team. I like her at bat with the game on the line.”
After leaving a runner stranded at third in the opening frame, the Lady Vol offense got untracked in the bottom of the second inning. Tennessee utilized a lead-off double into the gap in left center by Huff, a one-out walk by freshman right fielder Anita Manuma, and a bloop single down the right field line by sophomore shortstop Liane Horiuchi to load the bags for freshman pinch hitter Alexia Clay. The Rochester, Ind., native came through with a clutch base hit to right to bring Huff across and grant UT a 1-0 advantage. On the play, Furman right fielder Meredith Mielke made a strong throw home to catch Manuma by several steps, as the Ewa Beach, Hawaii, native was attempting to score, marking the inning’s second retirement. Senior left fielder India Chiles bounced a high chopper that was misplayed by Lady Paladin second baseman Brythe Blankenship for an error allowing the runner to reach first safely and Horiuchi to cross the plate with Tennessee’s second run. A strikeout ended the frame, but not before the Big Orange had racked up two runs on three hits, a walk and an error.
Abbott was on cruise control in the circle for the Lady Vols by retiring all nine Furman hitters she faced over the opening three frames. The 6-3 lefty also recorded eight consecutive strikeouts following a groundout by center fielder Amber Kiser to open the contest.
Junior third baseman Tonya Callahan christened another Tennessee scoring threat in the bottom of the third by drawing a one out free pass against Furman hurler Blake Murray. Huff singled up the middle and ended up advancing into scoring position on Furman’s toss to third in an unsuccessful attempt to cut down lead runner Caitlin Ryan. Doepking bounced a tough ball to the left of the circle that forced shortstop Stephanie Cushing to race in from her defensive position and make a quick throw to first. Ryan attempted to score from third on the play but was cut down at the plate on a perfect toss from first baseman Lynn Parmer to catcher Megan Jaudon to record a double play and conclude the frame with no further damage.
The K total grew to 13 for UT’s Abbott through five innings as Lady Paladin hitters Jaudon, Blankenship and Mackey all went down on strikes in the top of the fifth. The Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year punched out the side for the third time in the contest and for the 106th time during her senior campaign.
The NCAA Regional match-up got completely out of hand in the bottom of the fifth as the Big Orange rang up five runs on five hits to nab a 7-0 advantage. The assault began with one down as Hammond was struck by a Murray offering. Senior center fielder Lindsay Schutzler singled through the left side of the infield to place two Lady Vols aboard with the power-hitting Callahan striding to the batter’s box. The Holden, Mo., native drove a base knock into right field, but Hammond didn’t get a good jump off second on the hit setting in motion all sorts of chaos. About three feet separated both Hammond and Schutzler as the duo raced towards third with Callahan eventually moving in safely behind the duo at second base. The throw from Furman right fielder Mielke came to the plate, and the Lady Paladins had Schutzler hung out to dry between second and third. Schutzler started back to second forcing Callahan to begin her sprint back to an uncovered first base. Amazingly, no one was retired on the play as the catcher Jaudon made an error on a throw attempting to nail the runner going back to first allowing Hammond to score UT’s third run of the contest. An RBI single through the left side of the infield by Huff made it 4-0 and placed two on board for Doepking who blasted her fifth home run of the season over the left field wall to set the count at 7-0.
With the seven-run advantage, Tennessee co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly made a move to the bullpen to bring in Rhodes in relief to spell Abbott. The Nashville, Tenn., native didn’t disappoint by retiring the Lady Paladins one-two-three to finish off the combined perfect game for the Big Orange hurling corps.
Friday, May 18
2:30 p.m. North Carolina vs. Winthrop (Game One) UNC, 4-3
5 p.m. Furman vs. Tennessee (Game Two) Tennessee, 8-0 (six inn.)
Saturday, May 19
1:30 p.m. North Carolina/Tennessee (Game Three)
4 p.m. Furman/Winthrop (Game Four)
6:30 p.m. Loser Game Three/Winner Game Four (Game Five)
Sunday, May 20
2 p.m. Winner Game Three/Winner Game Five (Game Six)
4:30 p.m. (if necessary) Rematch of Game Six