The field of 64 teams has been cut down to the Sweet 16 as No. 1 Tennessee (57-5) prepares to open NCAA Super Regional action against the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine (49-11) at Tyson Park. The best-of-three series with a berth to the Women’s College World Series on the line will open on Friday night at 8 p.m. ET before wrapping up at 4 & if necessary 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. All three match-ups will be broadcast live on ESPNU with Mark Neely and Cindy Bristow on the call and disseminated over radio by The Sports Animal 99.1, 99.3 FM, 990 AM, utladyvols.com via Yahoo Sports) with the “Voice of the Lady Vols” Mickey Dearstone.
This marks the third consecutive trip to the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament for the Big Orange. UT made a cross-country jaunt to Palo Alto, Calif., in 2005 to sweep two games from Stanford. Last season, Tennessee managed a best 2-of-3 advance over Michigan at home (5-3, 1-5, 1-0) to move on to the WCWS for the second year in a row.
The Lady Vols maintain a 4-1 overall record against the Rainbow Wahine and have won the last three in a series which dates back to Feb. 26, 1999, at the Wildcat Classic in Tucson, Ariz. During last year’s 61-12 slate, Tennessee hammered Hawai’i, 13-1, behind a 17-hit offensive onslaught at the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic in Las Vegas, Nev. The game wasn’t without drama, however, as UT actually trailed UH, 1-0, through four complete frames before erupting for six tallies in the fifth inning, one run in the sixth and six more in the seventh. Lady Vol hurler Monica Abbott permitted four hits and one earned run over seven innings of work with seven K’s. Seniors Kristi Durant (4-of-5, HR, four RBI) and Sarah Fekete (4-of-4, three RBI), then-freshman Jennifer Griffin (1-of-3, three RBI) and then-junior Lindsay Schutzler (3-of-5, three runs) led the offensive assault. Australia-native Justine Smethurst took the defeat for Hawai’i by allowing six runs on nine hits and two walks over four frames.
Making their program’s initial trip to NCAA Super Regionals, the 2007 Western Athletic Conference regular season champions, the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine, venture to Knoxville with one of the nation’s most prolific offenses in tow. Included among an impressive 49-11 slate are victories over NCAA Tournament selections Baylor (2-1), Oregon State (3-0, 4-2), Mississippi State (3-2), Nebraska (4-3, 6-5) and DePaul (1-0). Currently ninth in NCAA Division I in scoring at 6.08 runs-per-game, UH has outscored its opposition by 237 total tallies while hammering an incredible 80 home runs to rate seventh in the country at 1.33 round-trippers per match-up. In all 10 members of the Rainbow Wahine have registered 12 or more RBI and 13 UH hitters have blasted one or more homers. Junior Kate Robinson (.363) has not only led the offense with a team-best 18 HR’s and 69 RBI, she has also contributed in the circle as the WAC Pitcher of the Year with a 16-1 record, a 1.71 ERA and 95 K’s in 127.0 frames. WAC Player of the Year senior Tyleen Tausaga boasts the highest batting average on the squad at .410 to go along with 15 homers and 51 RBI. Sophomore Tanisha Milca (.275) has contributed 13 home runs and 27 RBI. Joining Robinson in the circle is sophomore Justine Smethurst, a native of Melba, Australia. The 5-10 right hander has registered a 19-8 record, a 1.57 ERA and 10 solo shutouts with 182 strikeouts in 183.0 innings.
Tennessee freshman Anita Manuma will be involved in a family reunion as her sister Valana Manuma (.255, four HR’s, 21 RBI) currently plays shortstop for Hawaii. Another sister that is a member of the Rainbow Wahine, Malamaisaua Manuma, will not make the trip to Knoxville due to an injury.
Story Courtesy: UT Lady Vols Sports Information
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