June 3, 2007
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – No. 1 and fifth-seeded Tennessee’s (62-6) perfect roll through the Women’s College World Series continued in front of 6,949 fans at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium on Sunday afternoon as the Lady Vols defeated No. 6 and second-seeded Northwestern (52-13), 3-0, to secure the program’s first ever berth in the WCWS Championship Series. UT’s participation in the best-of-three event will commence on Monday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2 against defending national champ Arizona.
Tennessee has now won 10 of its last 13 match-ups against the Big Ten Conference and boasts a 9-4 record all-time in WCWS play.
Big Orange pitcher Monica Abbott (49-3) continued her outstanding efforts in the circle by striking out 17 Wildcats in a two-hit shutout to advance her scoreless skein to 26.2 frames dating back to last weekend’s NCAA Super Regional finale versus No. 12 Hawai’i. The Salinas, Calif., native became the first hurler in NCAA Division I history to cross the 2,400-K mark, now sitting at a staggering 2,414 strikeouts.
In addition to playing her first game in the outfield since May 19, senior left fielder India Chiles continued her impressive contributions for the Lady Vol offense with a 1-for-3 effort at the plate, a run scored and her 44th stolen base. Fellow senior Lindsay Schutzler also went 1-for-3 with a run, freshman right fielder Tiffany Huff delivered a 1-for-3 performance with an RBI and junior first baseman Tonya Callahan hit into a wild fielder’s choice that plated UT’s initial tally.
“I am really proud of our team today,” Lady Vol co-head coach Karen Weekly said. “I am proud of our pitcher, Monica Abbott. It was another outstanding performance for her here. Our team fought all day long against a really, really good Northwestern team. They are a team, that when I saw them back in Palm Springs, I knew would be right here at the end of the year. They are very, very tough. They are a great hitting team. Monica’s performance today was even more superb.”
Abbott exerted her dominance immediately from the circle in the top of the first inning by striking out Northwestern center fielder Katie Logan, shortstop Tammy Williams and first baseman Garland Cooper to K the side for the 117th time during the 2007 season.
Tennessee’s incomparable Chiles not only led-off the contest with a bloop single into left field, but gave all UT fans a moment of pause by stealing her 44th base of season to reach scoring position despite playing with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee. Sophomore designated player Lillian Hammond battled to draw a walk to place two runners on for Schutzler. The Monterey, Calif., native slapped a slow roller that dribbled parallel to the third base line, but wouldn’t roll foul for Northwestern third baseman Darcy Sengewald, for a single to load the bags with none out. Callahan grounded a ball to NU shortstop Williams, who fielded the orb, reached up and tagged Hammond running between second and third for the initial out. The action then got bizarre as Wildcat catcher Erin Dyer treated Williams’ eventual throw to the plate as a force instead of applying the tag allowing Chiles to score Tennessee’s initial run. Following a Huff pop-up on the infield for the second retirement, junior catcher Shannon Doepking drilled a grounder to first that Cooper attempted to backhand. The sphere ricocheted off her glove and back toward the circle for an error as Schutzler crossed the dish for a 2-0 advantage. A Griffin strikeout ended things, but not before Tennessee had scored twice on a walk, two singles and an error. Entering today’s match-up, the Big Orange were a remarkable 51-1 in 2007 when tallying the match-up’s first score.
UT’s 6-3 left hander improved her total to six K’s through two frames with punch outs of Purple & White second baseman Nicole Pauly, Dyer and designated player Jessica Rigas in the top of the second.
Following the eventful first inning, Abbott and Northwestern’s Eileen Canney officially settled in from the circle by registering one-two-three frames for both offenses through the fifth.
After retiring 16 consecutive Wildcat hitters, Abbott finally allowed another base runner as Logan singled to third with two down in the sixth. She was left standing right there as the Orange & White’s four-time NFCA All-American K’ed Williams to tally her 15th strikeout.
Canney’s fielding error on a Callahan grounder back to the circle snapped the NU hurler’s own 15-batter retirement string with two down in the bottom of the sixth. That opened the door for the Tennessee offense to add some insurance on the scoreboard as an RBI double into the gap that rolled to the wall in left center off the bat of Huff allowed junior pinch runner Caitlin Ryan to score all the way from first for a 3-0 advantage.
That proved to be more than enough for Abbott as Cooper (K), Pauly (groundout) and Dyer (K) were retired in order in the top of the seventh to conclude the Lady Vol triumph and send Tennessee on to its initial berth in the WCWS Championship Series.
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