Softballers bow in tourney

Following a critical Lady Vol error in the eighth inning, Alabama freshman Dominique Accetturo smacked an RBI double to score classmate Staci Ramsey from second base with the go-ahead run to lift second-seeded and 16th-rated Alabama past sixth-seeded Tennessee, 3-2, on Saturday night at the 2003 Southeastern Conference Tournament in Plant City, Fla. With the triumph, the Crimson Tide (44-19) clinched a berth in the finals.

The Lady Vols (45-25) saw their run at the event ended after eliminating top-seeded No. 7 Georgia earlier Saturday in eight innings and seventh-seeded Auburn Friday in nine frames. All four games Tennessee played at Plant City Stadium were extended into extra innings.

A costly one-out Lady Vol miscue on a ground ball struck by Ramsey in the eighth gave the Tide a runner on second and spelled the end of freshman Stacey Jenningsí (Aurora, Colo.) tenure in the circle. The right-hander (21-15) was the tough-luck loser despite holding the high-powered Tide offense to six hits over 7.1 innings of work. Freshman Christy Anch (Ashburn, Va.) entered the game and promptly served up a double to Accetturo to move Bama in front with the unearned run. Co-coaches Ralph and Karen Weeklys made the call to the bullpen for senior Stephanie Humphrey (Knoxville, Tenn.), who retired Reach and Courtney to hold the deficit at 3-2. innings.

UT had a last-gasp, two-out single by senior Blaine Teasley (Tucson, Ariz.) before sophomore Jennifer Wright struck out freshman pinch hitter Kristen Bass (Chattanooga, Tenn.) to close the game. The older sister of Lady Vol redshirt rookie Amy Wright (Brentwood, Tenn.), the right-hander evened her mark at 9-9 by scattering 11 hits in going the distance. innings.

With the Lady Vols trailing, 2-1, and down to their last three outs, freshman Sarah Fekete (Maryville, Tenn.) legged out a bunt with one down and junior Ellisha Humphrey (Knoxville, Tenn.) moved her to second with a well-placed sacrifice. Once again, freshman Kristi Durant (Placentia, Calif.) delivered when it counted most, roping a single up the middle to plate Fekete with the tying run. Sophomore Amber Rhinehart (Citrus Heights, Calif.) stepped into the box and rifled a single into right to advance Durant to second but junior Angela Brewer (East Ridge, Tenn.) would fly out to second base to send the game into extra innings. innings.

Sophomore Ashley Courtney, a first-team All-SEC choice, opened the game with a single into left field and classmate Jackie Wilkins sacrificed her to second with a bunt. First-team all-league selection junior Jackie McClain provided the Tide with a quick 1-0 lead with an RBI single up the middle. Freshman Stacey Jennings (Aurora, Colo.) would strike out SEC Freshman of the Year Stephanie VanBrakle before first-team all-conference pick senior Lacy Prejean lofted a lazy fly ball to senior Blaine Teasley (Tucson, Ariz.) in right field. innings.

Fekete reached on a slap hit to begin the bottom of the inning but was forced at second on Humphreyís fielderís choice. Durant poked a grounder that erased her teammate at second before sophomore Rhinehart laced a single into shallow center field for two runners on base. However, Wright would have Brewer tap out in the circle to complete the inning. innings.

Jennings issued a leadoff walk to Courtney in the third and would have Wilkins pop up before the Crimson Tideís runner swiped second base. A grounder by McClain advanced her teammate to third base, however, the Lady Vol right-hander would induce a fly out by VanBrakle to end the threat. Durant and Rhinehart would notch consecutive two-out singles in the bottom of the stanza but Wright would set down Brewer on another grounder to prevent the Orange from scoring. innings.

Accetturo punched a single up the middle to lead off the fifth and senior Jennifer Reach executed a sacrifice to move sophomore pinch runner Leah White into scoring position. Courtney rocked a base-hit into center to push White to third and then stole second to put the Tide in business. A sacrifice fly by Wilkins brought in White with Alabama' second run before Jennings walked McClain intentionally to load the bases with two down. Tennessee got out of trouble when VanBrakle grounded out to Humphrey at short. innings.

Tennessee broke into the scoring column during the sixth frame. Brewer ripped a single up the middle and freshman pinch runner Mandie Fishback (Banks, Ore.) took second on Mattoxís grounder. Freshman Katherine Card (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) came through with an RBI single to right field to drive in her teammate with UT's initial run of the contest to cut the deficit in half.

Rhinehart paced the offense with a 3-for-4 performance, while the freshman duo of Durant and Fekete was each 2-for-4. Durant batted an impressive .562 (9-for-16) on the weekend.

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