May 20, 2007
KNOXVILLE -- No. 1 Tennessee (57-5) capped off its ninth consecutive regional victory with a solid 7-0 triumph over Winthrop (50-18) in the championship game of the NCAA Knoxville Regional on Sunday afternoon in front of 628 fans at Tyson Park. UT has now won 27 consecutive home contests dating back to 2006 and now advances on to face either Hawaii or Loyola Marymount next weekend at Tyson Park in a best-of-three series for a berth in the annual Women’s College World Series.
“The kids played hard today. We found a way to win. Alexia Clay and Anita Manuma, two freshmen, were really keys to our offense,” Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “We started five freshmen today because some people haven’t been hitting. We wanted to give them the opportunity. When you start that many freshmen sometimes you’re going to have some inexperience problems. Winthrop scored 11 and seven runs in its last two games, so I think our play will be fine. We just need to regroup, get someone in India [Chiles’] position permanently and find out what kind of lineup we’re going to go with against whoever comes here.”
Tennessee’s “Hawaiian duo” proved a big contributor to the 11-hit Lady Vol offensive attack on Sunday as freshman right fielder Anita Manuma delivered a 3-for-4, one-run, one-RBI effort, and sophomore shortstop Liane Horiuchi added a 2-for-3, two-tally performance. Senior center fielder Lindsay Schutzler was 2-for-4 with run scored and junior first baseman Tonya Callahan contributed two base knocks in three at-bats to up her NCAA Tournament average to a team-best .667 (6-of-9) over the trio of match-ups.
Make it an NCAA Division-I best 44-3 overall for senior pitcher Monica Abbott as the Salinas, Calif., native struck out 12 in the complete game shutout while permitting just three hits. Her 629 K’s on the campaign are well above her season-high of 603 established in 2005. Abbott now sits just 34 K’s from equaling the NCAA single-season record held by former Southern Miss hurler Courtney Blades (set in 2000).
The Big Orange received a two-out single from Callahan in the top of the first, but freshman first baseman Tiffany Huff grounded into a fielder’s choice to short to cut down the runner at second and end the frame.
Lady Eagle second baseman Tessa Thomas led-off the bottom of the first by fouling off numerous pitches before lining a shot the other way to right field. Tennessee’s Anita Manuma raced over to corral the liner on the bounce near the line and came up throwing almost gunning down Thomas at first. Right fielder Lisa Kingsmore struck out to record the first retirement. Shortstop Stephanie Reid became Abbott’s second K victim of the inning, and on strike three junior catcher Shannon Doepking gunned down Thomas attempting to swipe second to retire the side.
UT’s Doepking followed up her strong defensive throw on the caught stealing by leading off the top of the second with a sharp liner up the middle for a lead-off single. Freshman designated player Alexia Clay was asked to drop a sacrifice bunt, but when she couldn’t, the Rochester, Ind., native swung away and blasted a shot into right center that traveled all the way to the wall for a double with Doepking rolling into third. With none retired in the inning, Manuma stepped into the box and chopped a high bouncer over Reid’s head at short and into left field to score Doepking for a 1-0 lead. Catcher Jenny Scrymgeour allowed an offering from Cari Woolridge to get by her for a passed ball to set runners at second and third for Tennessee. That signaled the end of the day for Winthrop’s starter as head coach Mark Cooke made the call to the bullpen to summon in reliever Izzy Trottier. She promptly walked Horiuchi to load the bags with still no one out in the frame. Freshman second baseman Nicole Kajitani grounded into a fielder’s choice that ended up retiring Clay at home. Schutzler also hit into a fielder’s choice to second base, but Sarah Magee’s throw home was high allowing Manuma and Horiuchi to score improving the count to 3-0. After a groundout to second by sophomore pinch hitter Danielle Pieroni, Callahan was intentionally walked to re-load the bases. Huff battled to foul off several pitches but grounded out harmlessly to Trottier in the circle to leave three Lady Vol runners stranded.
Abbott was in control through the bottom of the second as Scrymgeour popped up to shortstop and both first baseman Hilary Peacock and designated player Laura Hill struck out to make it four K’s for Abbott through two innings of work.
With one down in the top of the fourth, Schutzler drew a free pass against Trottier and swiped second to grant the Lady Vols a runner in scoring position. Hammond sacrificed her up 60 feet to third on a perfect bunt out in front of the plate. With two down the Lady Eagles intentionally walked Callahan for the second time on the day to get to Huff. The move worked again as the freshman from Saugus, Calif., flied out to left to conclude the frame.
The pitching dominance continued for Abbott into the fifth as the 6-3 lefthander struck out the side as Hill, third baseman Mallory Hogan and Magee each went down on strikes to make it nine K’s through five frames.
With Winthrop’s potent offense under control, Schutzler opened a threat with a lead-off bunt single to christen the top of the sixth. Junior second baseman Kenora Posey walked, and Callahan laced a base hit to center to load the bags for Huff. The Saugus, Calif., native bounced a ball to second and Magee’s throw to the plate for the force via the fielder’s choice was again wide of home for an error allowing Schutzler and Posey the opportunity to cross and improve the count to 5-0, Tennessee. With one retired in the inning, Clay drove a shot into left center that was deep enough to bring junior pinch runner Caitlin Ryan across with UT’s sixth tally.
In the bottom of the sixth, Winthrop left fielder Lauren Blaser lifted a ball down the right field line. Posey raced over on a full sprint and made a sliding “web gem-style” catch near the fencing past UT’s dugout for the first retirement. As she has done so often this weekend, Winthrop’s Thomas singled through the left side of the infield to open a threat. Kingsmore walked to put two aboard versus Abbott with just one down. The Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year got out of the jam by inducing a routine ground ball to second by Reid and then punching out Scrymgeour to record her 10th strikeout.
Bidding for more on the scoreboard, Horiuchi began the top of the seventh for the Orange & White by driving a pitch from hurler Megan Evans the other way into right field. After a K, Schutzler bounced a high chopper to short that was going to be a tough play for Reid. Horiuchi and Reid collided as the latter was making a play to attempt to corral the ball. The move forced the umpires to call obstruction on the fielder allowing both Tennessee runners to reach safely at the corners. Posey bounced out to second base allowing UT’s seventh tally to cross. A Callahan foul out ended the inning but not before the Big Orange added another run to its advantage.
Down to their last chance in regulation in the bottom of the seventh, Peacock began the frame by grounding out to second versus Abbott. Hill and pinch hitter Morgan Kuhn both struck out to give the UT pitcher 12 K’s for the game and advance No. 1 Tennessee on to next weekend’s NCAA Super Regional round to be hosted at Tyson Park.
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) Tennessee, 2-0
4 p.m. Furman/Winthrop (Game Four) Winthrop, 11-1 (five inn.) (Furman eliminated)
6:30 p.m. North Carolina/Winthrop (Game Five) Winthrop, 6-3 (UNC eliminated)
Sunday, May 20
2 p.m. Tennessee/Winthrop (Game Six) Tennessee, 7-0 (Winthrop eliminated)