Lady Vols win Carolina Classic

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The No. 2 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team completed its powerful run to the Carolina Classic championship with a commanding 11-1, five inning rout of the College of Charleston on Sunday at Eugene Anderson Stadium. The Big Orange outscored its four weekend opponents by a combined total of 30-3 while registering three run-rule contests and hitting .398 as a team.

Sophomore third baseman Jennifer Griffin led the way offensively all weekend by hitting a staggering .900 (9-of-10) during the title run. Senior center fielder Lindsay Schutzler hit .600 (6-of-10) with four runs scored and two RBI.

Freshman designated player Alexia Clay posted a .600 batting average with her initial home run in the Orange and two RBI, and rookie catcher Tiffany Huff hit .417 with her first collegiate home run and four RBI at the Carolina Classic.

In the matchup versus the College of Charleston, Huff was 2-for-4 with three RBI and her first big fly. Clay (first collegiate HR), freshman second baseman Nicole Kajitani, Griffin, junior first baseman Tonya Callahan and senior leftfielder India Chiles each tallied two base knocks as part of the 14-hit assault.

Senior All-American Monica Abbott improved to 3-0 with two innings of perfect relief of starter Megan Rhodes. Her six straight K's marked the 10th and 11th times in 17 innings in 2007 that the 6-3 lefty had struck out the side in a frame.

Rhodes finished with five K's in three innings while allowing one earned run on a solo homer in the first inning.

"Karen (co-head coach Weekly) and I were really pleased with the play of our freshmen today," co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "Tiffany Huff, Alexia Clay and Nicole Kajitani each put up two hits, and Huff and Clay hit their first collegiate home runs.

"Allison Fulmer is really hitting the ball well and came within a foot of a home run. It's nice to win a tournament the first time out this season. We think all the kids played pretty well considering how early in the season it is."

Rhodes was greeted rudely to start the contest as College of Charleston's Izmena Cabrera led-off the game with a solo home run to left field for a quick 1-0 lead. The coaching staff summoned in Abbott to provide immediate relief, and the three-time All-American quickly struck out the side for the 10th time in 16 innings of work in 2007.

With one down in the bottom of the first and UT trailing by a run, Chiles bounced a high chopper to third and beat out the throw to first to give Tennessee a baserunner. After Chiles swiped second to race into scoring position, Huff grounded a routine ball to Brittany Small, but the College of Charleston shortstop air-mailed the throw about 10 feet over the head of the first baseman for an error setting up the Big Orange with runners at first and third.

A missed suicide squeeze play hung Chiles out to dry between third and home, but the Louisville , Ky., native managed to beat the throw to the plate to tie the game at 1-1. Callahan promptly stepped to the dish and laced a liner into right that bounced just in front of Charleston's Kolby Schooley and under her glove to roll all the way to the wall for an RBI triple.

Griffin fouled out just down the line in right, but the ball was deep enough to tally Callahan from third on a sacrifice fly for a 3-1 advantage. Clay followed with her first collegiate home run to deep center field to improve it to 4-1 as Tennessee sent nine to the dish in the inning.

Abbott struck out the side for the 11th time in 17 innings in 2007 by punching out Small, third baseman Kristie Shifflett and catcher Katie Pesature to close out the top of the second.

The UT offense wasted little time in adding to its lead as consecutive singles and stolen bases by Schutzler and Chiles granted Tennessee runners at second and third with no one out. Huff followed with a base knock up the middle for a pair of RBI to improve the count to 6-1 Big Orange.

Callahan ripped a shot to right for a hit, and Griffin followed with a laser to center for another run as the lead grew to 7-1. Clay made it six consecutive singles for the Tennessee offense as Callahan touched the plate for a seven-run advantage.

After Manuma hit into a fielder's choice for the inning's initial out, freshman second baseman Nicole Kajitani recorded her first collegiate base knock through the right side of the infield to load the bags for junior pinch hitter Caitlin Ryan. The Knoxville, Tenn., product came through with a single deep into the hole at short for her first RBI of the new campaign and a 9-1 lead.

Sophomore pinch hitter Lillian Hammond grounded out to third for a run-batted-in to set the score at 10-1 in favor of the Orange. The frame wrapped up when pinch hitter Fulmer drove a long fly to deep center that was corralled at the base of the wall to end the six-run assault as Tennessee sent 11 hitters to the plate in the inning.

Rhodes re-entered the contest in the third and settled in immediately to retire the side in order, including a strikeout of Schooley, to bring up UT's offense looking for more runs.

Huff gave Tennessee more offensive support immediately by leading off the bottom of the third with her initial collegiate home run by hammering a blast deep over the right center field wall to make it 11-1. After a pop out on the infield from the bat of Callahan, Griffin registered her second single of the contest with a high chopper to second, and Clay was struck by a pitch to grant the Orange & White runners at first and second with one down.

Kajitani singled to third to load the bases for Horiuchi, but a fielder's choice that cut down Clay at third ended the frame with no further scoreboard damage done.

Rhodes closed out the tournament victory by inducing a pop-up on the infield and striking out the final two batters in the top of the fifth as Tennessee coasted 11-1.

The No. 2 Big Orange will next be in action on Friday, Feb. 16 at noon ET against Florida International in the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic in Las Vegas, Nev.

Gametracker will be available and periodic updates will be provided on the Lady Vol Hotline at 865-974-8700 (box #6).

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