No. 1 Tennessee is back at the Women's College World Series for the third consecutive season as the Lady Vols prepare to open their visit to Oklahoma City, Okla., on Thursday, May 31, with a contest scheduled at 7 p.m. ET against fourth-seeded and No. 7-ranked Texas A&M (46-12) at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
The match-up will be shown live on ESPN in high definition with Eric Collins, Michele Smith and Holly Rowe combining on the broadcast.
The game versus the Aggies will also be 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.
Having finished third nationally in each of its previous two visits to the WCWS, Tennessee enters this year's event with a 6-4 all-time record on the largest stage in all of NCAA Division I collegiate softball.
During its 2006 visit, the Orange & White opened up with a huge 4-3 upset of No. 1 UCLA, before dropping into the loser's bracket with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of eventual national finalist Northwestern. UT rebounded to eliminate Arizona State, 3-1, and hand `06 national champion Arizona its only defeat of the WCWS, (1-0), before falling to the Wildcats, 6-0, to end its stay at the event.
The Lady Vols advanced to the WCWS with a hard-fought two-games-to-one NCAA Super Regional series win over No. 12 Hawai'i at Tyson Park in Knoxville last weekend. Tennessee utilized a Monica Abbott no-hitter and a career-high five RBI from freshman Tiffany Huff to take the opener, 9-0 (5 inn.).
The Rainbow Wahine fought back to down UT, 9-6, to force a deciding game with the ticket to OKC on the line. Abbott was again outstanding, with the help of Huff and junior Tonya Callahan (2-of-3, three RBI), in downing UH, 7-1.
The No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies, under the leadership of 11th year head coach Jo Evans, venture to the Women's College World Series for the seventh time in program history but for the first time since 1988. The overall team batting average is not especially prolific at .288 to rate around 60th in NCAA Division I.
Despite that number, A&M tallies a solid 5.2 runs-per-game and the offensive numbers are bolstered by the nation's third-rated pitching corps (1.24 ERA) and a top-25-rated defense (.970).
Four regulars currently sit above the .320 mark as junior Megan Gibson leads the way at a squad-high .397 (56-of-141) to go along with a team-best 12 home runs and 40 RBI. Senior Sharonda McDonald owns a .385 batting average with 60 runs scored and 37 steals in 40 attempts, and junior Amanda Scarborough has recorded a .335 mark, seven homers and an A&M-best 46 RBI. Junior Jamie Hinshaw rounds out the above-.300 quartet at .323 with three HR's and 42 RBI. In the circle, Scarborough has served as the team's ace by firing 212.0 innings while recording a 26-8 record, a 0.99 ERA and 220 K's. Gibson has been responsible for a 1.52 ERA over 151.2 frames with a 17-4 record and 155 strikeouts as the four-member staff has limited its opposition to just a .197 batting average and two runs-per-contest. Of the 116 runs permitted by the Aggies during its 58-game slate, only 69 have been of the earned variety.
Press Conference Quotes For Wednesday's Softball Practices In Oklahoma City:
ARIZONA HEAD COACH MIKE CANDREA--
"I think for everyone sitting up here this is the place to be this time of year. We are finding that it is getting tougher and tougher every year to get here, so we are very excited to be here once again. It has been an interesting year for us, a lot of drama, a lot of things going on. But truthfully I am very proud of this team. We showed a lot of resilience in the postseason to this point. And obviously we are looking forward to having a great week and for our senior class, especially this young lady next to me (Caitlin Lowe), I think we would like to go out in style. But we also know that this is the time of the year where it takes a lot of special moments to make it happen, so we're going to enjoy ourselves and go out and compete. I want to congratulate everyone up here for a great year. It has been a great year for college softball, it has been fun to watch this event grow. People always say there is parity happening around the country. I think this year you can see it and it is here and I think it will be here forever."
On facing Baylor in the opening round:
"I have a lot of respect for Glenn (Moore) and what they have done with that program. I have seen it grow and I know that they work very hard. I know their staff very well and I know their players and they are a very good opponent. I think last year we learned a lot about how sometimes you have to stumble along the way, but it is getting hot at the right time and that is what the College World Series is all about. There is one team that is going to be walking out of here feeling good about themselves. I think that it can be any of these teams but it is going to happen between the lines. We have a lot of respect for them. We know that when we played them in Waco - it was a few months ago - I know they have gotten better, I know we have gotten better. We will find out what happens here shortly."
ARIZONA SENIOR OUTFIELDER CAITLIN LOWE--
On how her team balances spirit and intensity:
"Well, I don't consider our team very much of a rah-rah team. We come into the game with enough energy to get things done. We don't ever want to get too focused on cheering or anything like that. We want to come into the game with intensity and really focused energy as opposed to just energy with cheers or something like that. I think that certain players are going to approach the game differently. I am more of a quiet person. I like to have more of a focused energy and internal energy whereas some people need to be bouncing off the walls to be ready for the game."
BAYLOR HEAD COACH GLENN MOORE---
"We, too, are excited to be here for the first time. We're happy to be one of the representatives of the Big 12. We have four seniors at Baylor that have worked very hard, as all of these kids have. We started scheduling two years ago with this week in mind. We had a vision that if it worked out it would put us here this year rather than last year. It's worked out for us so far and we are excited to be competing against some of the best teams in the country."
On the first-round matchup with Arizona (against whom Baylor won two out of three games this season):
"I have played the University of Arizona a long time and to get (that first) win out of all those games was a big day for our program and for Baylor University. We are playing a different and better team, as I think we are. That will probably motivate them a little bit as well. I think we have a great team, I think we have a lot of talent. The team chemistry has been phenomenal this year. Just a lot of hard fight and desire that started back in the summer and fall and has paid off in the spring."
BAYLOR SENIOR PITCHER/INFIELDER ASHLEY MONCEAUX--
On growing up around the Arizona program:
"(I was) born and raised in Tucson, Ariz., so obviously you are a big U of A fan for all sports - basketball, football. Being a softball player, I was a softball fan. I went to many games and knew a lot of the players. It was a dream of mine, like many people, to go to U of A and do that. It didn't work out the way you would think it would. I'm okay with that. I'm still a fan of theirs but I'm at Baylor now, so that's where it stands."
TENNESSEE CO-HEAD COACH Ralph Weekly--
"'Excitement' seems to be the key word and we'll join right in with that. Eight great teams, eight great coaches and a great group of players. It's always a great competition and we are proud to be here, also. We're proud of our kids just like every other team here. We overcame some problems during the year and had to fight through some injuries. Again it comes down to right now, who's going to get hot, who's going to put their best on the field. I think all eight teams will be trying to leave it all on the field and be successful in the end."
On getting Monica Abbott to Tennessee from California out of high school:
"I knew she was a great player but actually I did not see everything about Monica because there is so much more about Monica than just what she does on the field. Monica is just a wonderful person that has meant so much, not only to our team, but our community. She had offers to go to many of the top teams in the country, but she came to Tennessee to put Tennessee softball on the map and I think she has done a pretty good job of that. It's just been a blessing to (co-head coach) Karen (Weekly) and I to have Monica there."
On the WCWS:
"It's not about the seedings, it's not about the bats. It's about these 18 young ladies on each team and how bad they want to win and what they have done to get here. We really don't care what we are seeded, we're just glad to be here. I think that's how the other teams feel. (We're) looking forward to the competition and I think it's going to be fantastic."
TENNESSEE SENIOR PITCHER Monica Abbott--
On being in the WCWS again:
"I think that being here for the third time, it's still kind of a new experience for us. We have been here before, know the drill more. We can teach some of the younger players what to expect, but in a sense it's still a new experience every time you come here. Not everyone gets to come to the College World Series. Every time you come it's a fresh and exciting experience. It's every softball player's dream to be sitting here in Oklahoma City in June."
On what she knows about the Texas A&M lineup:
"They have a lot of speed. They hit the ball really well and they like to swing their bats."
TEXAS A&M HEAD COACH JO EVANS--
"We're very excited to be here, of course, like all of the teams and this has been a goal of ours all season. Actually, last year when we ended our postseason way too early we felt like we had the kind of team for the following year that could get to the World Series. It is certainly a place we expected to be. Our team has had a very good season and has been consistent throughout the year and we have played many of the best teams in the country. So we're happy to be here and excited about making a run at the title."
On finishing fourth in the Big 12 and getting the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Championship:
"First, I think it says a lot about the Big 12. Look who finished ahead of us - Baylor, Oklahoma and Missouri. I think it says a lot about our conference and how good our teams are and how we compete across the country. As far as our team taking fourth in the conference, going into our last game with Baylor we had a chance to win the title. I think we competed very well and we are not ashamed of our fourth-place finish at all. I think the committee took a long hard look at what we did across the board during the season and the significant wins we had against very good teams and they rewarded us for that. They're going to make the decisions they are going to make and we are going to live with them. I think that I am mostly proud of our kids for the way we played in the postseason. A lot of people doubted us somewhat for taking fourth in the Big 12. I think our players made a statement going into the postseason with how we played and the wins we had."
TEXAS A&M JUNIOR PITCHER AMANDA SCARBOROUGH--
On Texas A&M in the postseason thus far:
"We definitely took the hard road. I think we played the maximum number of games you can play to make it to the World Series. I think it helps us with the struggles we had. We lost a regional game and we played the best we have ever played all year right after that game. It gave our team an ability to see that is how we can play every single game, and if we play like that then we can play our best."
Story Courtesy: UT Lady Vols Sports Information