Lady Vol softball team wins two

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The No. 1 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (7-0) utilized the long ball to down Illinois, 5-0, on Saturday evening at the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic. Freshman designated player Alexia Clay, junior first baseman Tonya Callahan and sophomore shortstop Liane Horiuchi each hammered big flies to guide the UT offensive attack. It was Tennessee's second win of the day.

Senior pitcher Monica Abbott was stellar in the circle for the Big Orange by striking out 17 Illinois hitters in a one-hit shutout to improve to 6-0 on the campaign. Clay was 2-of-3 with her second homer of the season, and Callahan was 2-of-3 with an RBI single and her initial home run of 2007. Horiuchi blasted a two-run shot in the three-run second frame. Sophomore third baseman Jennifer Griffin also doubled to help keep her season average at a robust .765.

Despite allowing a one-out single to Illinois shortstop Angelina Mexicano in the first and having one of her strikeout victims reach first safely on a passed ball, Abbott roared through the first two innings to the tune of seven K's. With her performance in the opening two frames, the 6-3 lefthander improved her total of striking out the side to 18 times in just 27 innings of work in 2007.

The Lady Vol offense came to life by use of the long ball in the bottom of the second as Clay led off the frame with a towering blast to deep centerfield for a 1-0 advantage. Following a double to deep left off the bat of Griffin and a pair of groundouts, Horiuchi hammered a long two-run drive to right-center to up the lead to 3-0 in favor of the Big Orange.

Abbott continued to roll through the Fighting Illini lineup by striking out the side in the top of the third to up her game total to 10 K's through just three frames in the circle.

Clay led off the fourth inning with her second hit of the contest by stroking a shot into left field for a single. Freshman Nicole Kajitani was summoned into the contest to run and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Griffin. With one retired Callahan ripped an RBI liner through the left side to plate Kajitani all the way from second and improve Tennessee 's advantage to 4-0. Junior catcher Shannon Doepking reached first on a throwing error by Illinois hurler Ashley Wright, but a fielder's choice off the bat of Horiuchi and a strikeout closed the frame with no further scoring.

Griffin made a highlight reel grab to retire right fielder Hope Howell in the top of the fifth as the hitter popped up her bunt attempt and the 5-5 third baseman raced in from her position and dove to corral the orb for out number two of the frame. Abbott struck out centerfielder Sarah Bryers for her 13th K of the contest to complete the top of the fifth.

With two outs in the top of the sixth, Illinois got a little offensive life against Abbott as another strikeout victim reached by way of a passed ball behind the plate. Mexicano managed a walk off the 6-3 lefthander to grant the Fighting Illini runners at first and second with two down. First baseman Kisten Martin ripped a ground ball down to Horiuchi at short that the Wahiawa, Hawaii, native corralled and tagged the runner advancing to third to close out the threat.

The power-hitting Callahan added to Tennessee's lead in the bottom of the sixth by blasting a deep solo shot over the center field wall for her first home run of the campaign and a 5-0 advantage.

Abbott struck out the Illinois side in the seventh to make it 20 times she has retired all three in a frame by K in just 32 innings of work. She has allowed just three hits so far this campaign and one run with none earned.

No. 1 Tennessee will next be in action on Sunday morning at 9 a.m. Pacific Time against Cal State-Northridge. Periodic updates will be provided on the Lady Vol Hotline at 865-974-8700 (box #6).

GAME ONE: Down 2-0 venturing into the fifth inning, Tennessee got a clutch two-RBI single from senior centerfielder Lindsay Schutzler and a sixth inning solo home run from freshman catcher Tiffany Huff to help guide the Big Orange to a 9-2, come-from-behind victory on Saturday over the Sacramento State Hornets (3-5.

Junior second baseman Kenora Posey delivered a 2-for-3, three RBI effort to lead the way offensively, while Schutzler went 2-of-4 with two RBI and Huff 1-of-2 with her third home run of the campaign. Freshman designated player Alexia Clay rang up a 2-for-4 performance with an RBI and a run scored. Both junior third baseman Jennifer Griffin (1-of-3) and sophomore shortstop Liane Horiuchi (2-of-3, two runs scored) each drove in a tally in the victory.

Junior Megan Rhodes started in the circle for the Lady Vols striking out four while allowing three hits and two runs (one earned). Senior hurler Monica Abbott was summoned into the contest to start the fifth with UT down 2-0 and struck out eight in three innings while permitting just one hit to pick up her fifth victory of 2007.

After Sacramento State's Cassie Cervantes, who had permitted just one hit in 12.1 innings of work entering today's match-up, retired the Lady Vol side in order in the top of the first inning, Sacramento State struck the initial blow on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first. Catcher Jamie Schloredt drove a two-out pitch from Tennessee hurler Rhodes just over the left field wall for a quick 1-0 advantage. UT's pitcher rebounded immediately to punch out third baseman Amy Jo McKenzie to end the frame.

Tennessee almost evened things up in the top of the second with two down as freshman designated hitter Alexia Clay drove a shot to deep right, but Sacramento State's Hilary Johnson managed to make the grab at the base of the wall to retire the side.

The Hornets christened another rally in the bottom of the second as Rhodes issued a lead-off walk to leftfielder Rachel Miles and watched as first baseman Melissa Cross drove an offering into the gap in left center to grant Sacramento State runners at second and third with two retired. A passed ball during Johnson's at-bat permitted another Hornets' run to cross for a 2-0 SSU advantage.

The Big Orange's Horiuchi became UT's initial baserunner as the sophomore shortstop was hit by a Cervantes offering with one down in the top of the third frame. A rally never materialized as Posey struck out looking and Horiuchi was gunned down attempting to swipe second to end the inning.

Sacramento State's Amy Tompkins reached on an infield throwing error by the Lady Vols to open the Hornets' half of the third frame and advanced to second on the errant play. Following a strikeout of second baseman Keri Elias, Rhodes was instructed by the UT coaching staff to intentionally walk Schloredt to set up a force at first, second or third. McKenzie popped up meekly to Huff in foul territory for out number two. Another passed ball permitted the runners to move up 60 feet to second and third. Miles ripped a shot down the left field line, but Chiles tracked it down in the corner on a running grab to keep further damage from being done.

As she has done so often before, Schutzler got the offense started from her lead-off position in the top of the fourth by driving an outside pitch the other way into the left center field gap for a double. Unfortunately for the Big Orange, she was gunned down trying to steal third by Schloredt to clear the bases. With one down the Orange & White took advantage of some of Cervantes' wildness (27 walks in 12.1 innings coming into today's game) as Chiles and Huff coerced consecutive walks off the hurler to bestow UT baserunners at first and second. Unfortunately for the Lady Vols, junior first baseman Tonya Callahan flied out to center and Griffin hit a blast to the base of the wall in left to keep UT off the scoreboard.

Clay drove a Cervantes pitch to right-center for an important lead-off single to christen the top of the fifth. Freshman right fielder Anita Manuma grounded a shot to first that was handled unassisted by Cross allowing pinch runner Lillian Hammond the opportunity to race into scoring position at second with one down. Horiuchi popped a ball into short right that Elias made a valiant running effort for, but she couldn't hold on to the orb allowing the runners to reach the corners.

Horiuchi swiped second against the battery of Cervantes and Schloredt to make it second and third. After a UT strikeout, Schutzler came through in the clutch with a crucial two-out, two-RBI single up the middle off Cervantes. The shot allowed Hammond and Horiuchi to cross the plate and deadlock the contest at 2-2.

Back even in the matchup, co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly made the call to the bullpen to summon in three-time All-American pitcher Monica Abbott in an attempt to contain any further Hornet scoring. The Salinas, Calif., product settled into the circle immediately to punch out Elias, Schloredt and McKenzie in order to mark the 15th occurrence of striking out the side for Abbott in just 23 innings of work in 2007.

With Abbott in control in the circle, Huff didn't allow the contest to be deadlocked for long as the rookie hammered a Cervantes pitch to deep center in the top of the sixth for her team-best third home run of the season and UT's first lead of the day at 3-2. Callahan coaxed a walk to reach first safely and was immediately lifted for freshman pinch runner Erinn Webb.

Griffin reached on the fourth free pass of the contest signaling the end of Cervantes day in the circle as she was lifted for Michele Bochenski. Clay grounded into a fielder's choice that cut down Webb heading to third for the first out of the frame.

Freshman rightfielder Nicole Kajitani bounced into a fielder's choice that retired Clay at second for out number two. In need of some insurance, Horiuchi came through for the Big Orange with a two-out laser that ricocheted off the right knee of Bochenski and into rightfield for an RBI and a 4-2 lead.

Despite her obvious limp, the tough hurler remained in the contest to face Posey. With Horiuchi now standing on second after a stolen base, the junior hitter came through with a bouncing single over the first baseman's head and up the line to plate two and stretch the Lady Vol advantage to 6-2.

Sacramento State's Meeks managed a two-out single through the left side in the bottom of the sixth to break Abbott's string of five consecutive strikeouts. The 6-3 lefthander responded by punching out Cross to strike out the side for the 16th time in 2007.

Pinch hitter Allison Fulmer greeted Bochenski by driving her first collegiate base hit up the middle to lead-off the top of the seventh. Chiles was re-entered into the contest to run for Fulmer and advanced to second on a walk to pinch hitter Caitlin Ryan.

Callahan also coerced a base-on-balls to load the bags with none down for 2007 Lady Vol RBI-leader Griffin. The Whittier, Calif., product responded by popping a ball into short center field that dropped in the middle of three converging Hornet fielders for an RBI and a 7-2 lead.

Clay continued her solid day at the plate by lacing a run-scoring single through the left side of the infield to improve the count to 8-2 Tennessee. Consecutive fielder's choices cut down lead runners at the dish for two outs. A base knock by Posey permitted UT's ninth tally to cross the plate, but on the play, Kajitani was thrown out trying to score all the way from second to retire the side.

Abbott struck out two of the final three batters she faced in the seventh to close out her fifth victory of the season and complete the come-from-behind triumph.

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