Softballers sweep Kentucky

Powered by a 3-for-4, three-RBI, three-run effort from junior Lauren Mattox (Charlotte, N.C.), the Lady Vol softballers extended their winning streak to seven games with a 6-4 win over Kentucky at Tyson Park on Wednesday. With its 12th straight victory on its home turf, Tennessee is now 38-13 overall and 11-6 in Southeastern Conference play.

Senior Stephanie Humphrey (Knoxville, Tenn.) won both games this afternoon to improve to 15-2 in the circle and raise her school-record winning streak to 15 straight decisions. She pitched a five-inning shutout as UT won the opener 8-0. The Wildcats suffered their 18th straight defeat to fall to 9-31 overall and 1-19 in league play, while junior hurler Crystalie Wolfe fell to 0-6 this season.

''We found a way to win under somewhat difficult circumstances,'' said Co-Head Coach Karen Weekly. ''It's never easy when the weather causes postponements and delays. We started off slowly this afternoon but the kids responded to the challenge. Even though she didn't have her best stuff, I was proud of the way Stephanie (Humphrey) competed.

''Christy (Anch) gave us a huge lift with a clutch two-run pinch hit in game one and a save in the second contest. Angela (Brewer) came through with an important RBI single to tie the game and trigger our four-run rally in the fourth inning and Blaine Teasley's leadoff hit at the start of the inning was crucial as well.''

Kentucky struck first when it staged a two-out rally in the first frame when Lyndsey Angus walked and Rachel Friberg laid down a bunt to reach first base. Amy Kendall brought home Angus with an RBI single into center field off freshman Stacey Jennings (Aurora, Colo.) and Friberg advanced to third base as the visitors drew first blood. The Lady Vols misplayed a grounder by Jessica Nance to allow Friberg to come home and push the UK lead to 2-0.

In the bottom of the frame, freshman Kristi Durant (Placentia, Calif.) extended her hitting streak to 18 games with a poke through the middle of the infield and sophomore Amber Rhinehart (Citrus Heights, Calif.) followed with double to left. Soon after, Mattox chopped a single over Wolfe's head to bring home Durant and cut the lead in half. Wolfe then popped up freshman Christy Anch (Ashburn, Va.) to escape the frame.

Wolfe helped her own cause by doubling the first pitch of the second stanza off the right center fence. Nikki Jones followed with a shot to left field that moved Wolfe to third, but was erased by a relay throw from freshman left fielder Katherine Card (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) to rookie second baseman Mandie Fishback (Banks, Ore.) over to Rhinehart. Lori Melchi plated Wolfe with a two-out triple to right field to extend Kentucky's lead to 3-1 and bring Humphrey into the circle. The right-hander snuffed out the rally when she stabbed a liner from Angus.

In the home portion of the second, Mattox rocked a single through the left side, moved to second on a Kentucky miscue and took third on a wild pitch. Stephanie Humphrey trimmed the lead to 3-2 with a double to right center to plate Mattox and advanced to third on a wild pitch before Card grounded out to end the inning.

Senior Blaine Teasley (Tucson, Ariz.) opened up the fourth frame with a two-bagger to the fence and Fekete reached on an error to give UT runners at the corners with none out. Junior Angela Brewer (East Ridge, Tenn.) ripped a pinch-hit double to left field to bring home Teasley to knot the game at three runs apiece. Mattox moved the hosts in front with a two-run triple to right field to score Fekete and junior Ellisha Humphrey (Knoxville, Tenn.) for the 5-3 lead. Mattox was able to come home on a UK miscue to push the Tennessee's advantage to three runs.

Kentucky would threaten in the top of the fifth when Friberg doubled to center field and moved to third base on a Kendall groundout. However, Humphrey would get out of the inning when she forced Jessica Nance to pop-out to Fishback.

The following inning, Wolfe blasted a two-out double and scored on Jones' triple to right center to cut UT's lead to 6-4. At this point, the Weeklys elected to bring in Anch from the bullpen. The righty induced Melchi to ground out to end the sixth and then shut down the Wildcats in the top of the seventh to clinch the victory and secure her second save of the campaign.

In Game 1, Anch, Durant and Rhinehart belted two-run singles in a seven-run fifth-inning explosion that sealed UT's victory.

The Lady Vols will head to the Plains this weekend for a three-game set against Auburn (20-24/8-12 SEC).

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