Softballers in SEC tourney

By virtue of their series victory over Western Division rival Ole Miss in Oxford this weekend, Tennessee has earned the sixth seed for the 2003 Southeastern Conference Softball Tournament and will face third-seeded LSU (45-14) at noon on Thursday in opening-round action in Plant City, Fla. Currently ranked 10th in the nation, the Tigers have claimed three of the last four SEC Championships, including the 2001 and 2002 title games by identical 1-0 margins against South Carolina and Georgia.

On the heels of its best league finish in four years, Tennessee (43-23) will be participating in the league's marquee competition for the first time since it captured the Eastern Division crown in 1999. The Orange is 3-6 all-time in the eight-team tournament, courtesy of three consecutive appearances between 1997-99. In the clubs' only previous meeting in the postseason, the Purple and Gold ended UT's '98 campaign with an 8-1 triumph in Columbus, Ga.

Ralph and Karen Weekly's squad kicked off its SEC slate this year by taking one game from the reigning four-time regular-season champion and then-ranked No. 7 LSU in Baton Rouge over March 8-9. Behind junior Kristin Schmidt's two-hitter, the Tigers cruised to a 4-0 win in the opener. Tennessee would halt an eight-game slide in Death Valley on senior Blaine Teasley's (Tucson, Ariz.) tie-breaking solo homer to begin the seventh frame of the second contest. The 3-2 upset was UT's initial victory at Tiger Park and represented the Lady Vols' first win over a Top 10 foe on the road since it swept a double-dip from No. 9 South Carolina on April 10, 1999.

The Bayou Bengals overcame a 1-0 deficit in the series finale with six unanswered runs to secure its 41st straight SEC series win, a record that was snapped several weeks later by 2003 SEC regular-season winner Georgia. For the Lady Vols, the duo of freshman Christy Anch (Ashburn, Va.) and junior Lauren Mattox (Charlotte, N.C.) each batted .333 over the three games in Tiger Town, while freshman Stacey Jennings (Aurora, Colo.) was 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 9.1 innings.

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