LSU nips Lady Vol softballers

A bases-loaded, ninth-inning single by freshman pinch-hitter Lauren Delahoussaye scored Alicia Owen with the lone run of the afternoon Thursday, giving 12th-ranked LSU a 1-0 defeat of Tennessee in Round 1 of the SEC Softball Tournament at Plant City, Fla. Amazingly, the Lady Vols have lost five 1-0 games since April 12, a span of 15 outings.

Having claimed nine straight SEC postseason contests dating back 2000, the third-seeded Bayou Bengals (46-14) advance to meet the winner of the game between No. 16 Alabama and Auburn currently in progress. Ralph and Karen Weekly's club, which fell to 43-24 overall, will face either the second-seeded Crimson Tide or the seventh-seeded Tigers in an elimination game today at noon. Junior All-American Kristin Schmidt (31-11) went all the way in the circle to register her 14th solo shutout of the campaign, while UT freshman Stacey Jennings (Aurora, Colo.) took the defeat on her 19th birthday in relief of senior Stephanie Humphrey (Knoxville, Tenn.). Jenning' record slips to 19-14.

In the decisive stanza, Owen ripped a leadoff double just beyond the reach of freshman Katherine Card (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) in left and senior Julie Wiese advanced her to third with a grounder. The Lady Vol coaching staff elected to walk sophomores Leigh Ann Danos and Blair Smith on four pitches each to fill the sacks with one down to set up Delahoussaye's heroics.

Junior Ellisha Humphrey (Knoxville, Tenn.) extended her career-best hitting streak to nine games with a leadoff single in the third and Card moved her into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. A grounder by freshman Sarah Fekete (Maryville, Tenn.) advanced Humphrey to third but Schmidt would have rookie Kristi Durant (Placentia, Calif.) pop up to Tiger third baseman Wiese to end the inning.

Second-team All-SEC performer Christy Connor came through with LSU's initial hit with two down in the fourth with a flare into left field off Humphrey, who had been perfect until that point. UT right fielder Jennings would make a running grab off a ball struck by sophomore Tessa Lynam for the final out.

Owen opened the home portion of the fifth with a base-hit into left field and Wiese drew a free pass to put the Bayou Bengals in a prime position. Ellisha Humphrey snared a liner at short from Danos and Fekete caught Smith's fly ball to make it two straight outs before senior Megann Steege reached on an infield hit to fill the bases. Remarkably, Stephanie Humphrey worked herself out of the jam by having speedy junior LaDonia Hughes tap a grounder to freshman second baseman Mandie Fishback (Banks, Ore.), who threw over to sophomore Amber Rhinehart (Citrus Heights, Calif.) covering first.

Schmidt retired 10 straight batters before Fekete reached on a bunt single with one out in the sixth. However, the All-American would answer by retiring Durant and Rhinehart on fly outs to right and center, respectively. LSU took advantage of a Lady Vol error to put its first batter, junior Sara Fitzgerald, aboard to start the bottom of the stanza. A grounder by Connor advanced Fitzgerald to second base but Humphrey caught second-team All-SEC pick Lynam looking at strike three and had Owen arch a high pop-up that Card tracked down in left to keep the game scoreless.

After Humphrey walked Wiese to begin the seventh, the Weeklys replaced her in the circle with Jennings. Tiger senior Jennie Reeves executed a sacrifice to push Wiese over to second as the potential winning run but the right-hander would have Smith ground out and Steege pop out to send into extra frames.

Card would punch a two-out single into left in the eighth but would be stranded when Schmidt induced a pop-up from Fekete. Another Tennessee fielding error allowed Hughes to reach base before Fitzgerald's bunt moved the runner into scoring position. The Weeklys issued a one-out intentional walk to Connor but the Lady Vols were able to complete a crucial double play moments later to move the game into the ninth. Lynam lined out to Durant at third, but then a relay throw attempting to pick sophomore pinch-runner Stephanie Hill off first went awry. However, as Hughes attempted to come across with a run to end the scoreless drought, freshman right fielder Kim Anders (Erwin, Tenn.) fired a bullet to classmate Kim Sanders (Placentia, Calif.) to nail the runner at the dish.

Rhinehart roped a single into right center with one out in the ninth and Mattox would earn a free pass to give the Orange and White a couple of runners aboard. With freshman pinch runner Kristen Hays (Phoenix, Ariz.) at second and Mattox at first, junior Angela Brewer (East Ridge, Tenn.) lined out to Wiese at third and Jennings grounded out to continue the goose eggs.

The quartet of Card, Fekete, Ellisha Humphrey and Rhinehart accounted for the Lady Vols' offense, while Owen went 2-for-4 to lead LSU. Stephanie Humphrey allowed just three hits over six innings, with two walks and a pair of strikeouts, but Jennings suffered the defeat after giving up two hits over 2.1 frames with three intentional walks.

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