Lady Vols roll in the desert

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The weekend of the long ball continued for the No. 1 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (9-0) as junior catcher Shannon Doepking and freshman second baseman Nicole Kajitani each blasted home runs to back a stellar pitching effort by junior Megan Rhodes as UT routed UC Davis, 10-0, in five innings to close out the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic.

The Lady Vols also won their opener on Sunday against Cal State-Northridge. During the squad's five-game stay, the Big Orange exhibited their immense power potential with nine home runs while hitting .376 as a team and outscoring its opposition by a 41-2 count.

In the second game, Rhodes fired a one-hitter with 11 strikeouts to pick up her second victory of the 2007 campaign in the circle.

Freshman rightfielder Tiffany Huff continued to provide an offensive spark with a 3-for-3, four-RBI effort including a three-run double in the third. Junior third baseman Tonya Callahan (1-of-3), Kajitani (1-for-2, two runs) and Doepking (1-for-1, two runs) each knocked in a pair. Senior leftfielder India Chiles posted two hits, and senior center fielder Lindsay Schutzler was 1-of-2 with two runs scored and was hit by a pitch.

During the weekend junior infielder Kenora Posey hit .571 in seven plate appearances, Huff was 7-of-13 for a .538 average with two home runs and a team-best 10 RBI. Freshman designated player Alexia Clay hit .533 (8-of-15) with a homer, sophomore third baseman Jennifer Griffin hit at a .455 clip (5-of-11) with a pair of doubles, and Schutzler (.375), Chiles (.357) and Callahan (.333) each topped the .300 mark in 12 or more at-bats.

Senior pitcher Monica Abbott was a perfect 4-0 in the circle over the length of the weekend with an amazing 56 strikeouts in just 22 innings of work, three shutouts while permitting two hits, no runs and firing a pair of no-hitters against Florida International and Cal State Northridge.

"Karen (co-head coach Weekly) and I were very impressed with our hitting throughout the tournament," Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "We faced each of the opposing teams' No. 1 pitchers and seemed to perform really well offensively. Monica Abbott and Megan Rhodes both pitched really well, and the defense behind them was strong.

"We were especially pleased with the play of our freshmen. Alexia Clay, Tiffany Huff and Nicole Kajitani each had home runs and Erinn Webb contributed outstanding play each time she was on the field."

Starting her second contest of the weekend, Rhodes rolled through the Aggies first three hitters by inducing a pair of groundouts before striking out UC Davis catcher Deanna Menapace to conclude the top of the first.

Senior centerfielder Lindsay Schutzler reached from her lead-off position to christen the bottom of the first as her perfect bunt back to the pitcher seemed to surprise the Aggies allowing the Monterey, Calif., native to reach safely. Senior leftfielder India Chiles continued the speed attack by dropping her own successful bunt out in front of the plate to grant UT a pair of baserunners with no one down. Huff came through once again by ripping a base knock through the right side of the infield for Tennessee's third consecutive hit permitting Schutzler to race home for a 1-0 lead.

Huff swiped second on a strikeout of freshman designated player Alexia Clay to place a pair in scoring position. The duo were stranded, however, as sophomore third baseman Jennifer Griffin took a called third strike, and junior first baseman Tonya Callahan grounded out sharply to second to end the assault.

Rhodes continued her solid work in the circle in the second frame by striking out UC-Davis designated player Ashley Johnson, third baseman Nikki Sheldon and first baseman Tracy Dean in order to up her K total to four through just two innings.

The Aggies' Lindsay Tognetti granted UT a lead-off baserunner in the bottom of the second by striking junior catcher Shannon Doepking in the left shoulder with a pitch. Catcher Menapace committed a passed ball to allow Doepking to race to second, and junior shortstop Liane Horiuchi dropped a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner to third. That set the stage for freshman second baseman Nicole Kajitani to contribute in a big way at the plate. The San Bernardino, Calif., product blasted her first collegiate home run to deep centerfield and off the windshield of one of UT's parked rental vehicles to score Doepking and boost the UT lead to 3-0.

UC Davis finally reached Rhodes for its initial base runner in the top of the third as right fielder Sarah O'Neill laced a base hit through the left side of the infield. The UT hurler responded by forcing shortstop Mandi Salcido to pop-up her sacrifice bunt attempt to Griffin at third before striking out leftfielder Michelle Espiritu and center fielder Trish Paine for her fifth and sixth K's of the match-up.

Huff got things started in the bottom of the third by driving a single sharply into left field for her second hit of the contest. Clay added to the onslaught by ripping a base hit through the left side to move Huff up to second. Another passed ball by Menapace advanced the duo on the basepaths up 60 feet in scoring position. Griffin popped up in foul ground outside of first base to Dean for one out, but Callahan cleaned the pair off the bases by driving a two-bagger into the gap in left center to up the count to 5-0.

The power surge continued as Doepking blasted her first home run of the campaign over the left field wall to plate pinch runner Caitlin Ryan and stretch the gap to seven runs. Kajitani walked and Schutzler was struck by a Tognetti offering to grant the Orange & White a pair of baserunners with two retired.

Chiles brought the speed game into play once again by chopping a ball out in front of the plate and outracing the throw to load the bases. That fifth hit of the inning signaled the end of the day for Tognetti as the UC Davis coaching staff summoned Lauren Pieretti into the circle. She was rudely greeted by Huff who jacked a three-RBI double into the left center field gap to set the score at 10-0 Tennessee.

Before the inning concluded, the Big Orange had sent 11 hitters to the plate and posted seven runs on six hits, a walk and a hit batter.

Staked to a huge lead, Rhodes had no problem in keeping control in the top of the fourth as the Nashville, Tenn., product struck out a pair to up her game total to eight K's.

Pinch hitter Anita Manuma drew a walk off Pieretti to christen the bottom of the fourth and moved to second on a one out base knock into right by pinch hitter Danielle Pieroni. The threat didn't add to the UT advantage, however, as pinch hitter Allison Fulmer hit into a fielder's choice to third base, and Kajitani popped up to the catcher in fair ground.

Despite striking pinch hitter Jenny Corbett with a pitch to open the top of the fifth, Rhodes completed her gem by striking out pinch hitter Sarah Axelson, O'Neill and another hitting sub Sarah Phleger to total 11 K's in the one-hitter.

No. 1 Tennessee will continue its 11-day West Coast trek by venturing to Fullerton, Calif., for a single contest against home-standing Cal State-Fullerton on Wednesday before traveling on to the prestigious Palm Springs Classic in Cathedral City, Calif.

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

FIRST GAME: Monica Abbott fired her 19th career no-hitter and third of the 2007 season to help guide No. 1 Tennessee (8-0) to a commanding 9-0 victory over Cal State Northridge on Sunday morning. The three-time All-American struck out 19 in the complete game shutout, allowing three walks and facing just two batters over the seven-inning minimum.

The victory marked Abbott's 146th in a UT uniform to place her just six victories from breaking former Southern Miss hurler Courtney Blades' NCAA Division I record of 151.

Freshman catcher Tiffany Huff posted a 2-for-3, three-RBI effort to guide the offensive attack. Senior center fielder Lindsay Schutzler was 2-for-4 with a two-run home run, and junior first baseman Tonya Callahan delivered a bases-loaded walk and a solo homer as part of a 1-for-3, two-RBI day at the dish. Freshman rightfielder Erinn Webb picked up her first collegiate hit with a double in the seventh and run-batted-in with a first inning sacrifice fly in the triumph.

The Big Orange offense wasted no time getting started as senior leftfielder India Chiles dropped a bunt in front of the plate and beat out the throw to first to grant UT a one out baserunner in the top of the first. Freshman catcher Tiffany Huff followed with a hard single into right field allowing the speedy Chiles the opportunity to race home all the way from second for a 1-0 lead.

Rookie designated player Alexia Clay continued the impressive start to her collegiate career by ripping a double off the wall in deep left to grant the Lady Vols runners at second and third. Griffin walked to load the bags for Callahan, who also drew a free pass to force in Tennessee's second run of the matchup. Freshman rightfielder Erinn Webb delivered a sacrifice fly to left for her first collegiate RBI to score Clay from third and improve the count to 3-0.

Sophomore shortstop Liane Horiuchi popped out to the catcher in foul territory to close out the attack, but not before the Big Orange had struck for three runs on three hits and two walks in the opening frame.

Abbott permitted a one-out walk to rightfielder Alex Alvarado in the bottom of the first, but struck out the side for the 21st time in 2007 by punching out CSUN third baseman Kelly Zakosek, designated player Christina Saenz and catcher Amanda Peek.

Chiles improved to 2-for-2 by beating out her second bunt single of the contest with two retired in the top of the second. The Louisville, Ky., native swiped second to gain scoring position, but was stranded right there as Huff grounded out to Matador second baseman Amanda Pitzenberger.

Cal State-Northridge shortstop Micah Putnam received Abbott's second permitted walk of the game to lead off the bottom of the second inning, but the free pass didn't amount to anything as the 6-3 lefthander rebounded to K first baseman Jaclyn Rymer, centerfielder Jackie Duree and Pitzenberger to strike out the side for the 22nd time this year.

Clay drove a lead-off shot to deep center that bounced off the wall, but she was gunned down at second base trying to stretch the play into a double. Griffin followed with a one-out liner into left for a base knock. Callahan ripped a hard grounder up the middle, but Putnam made an outstanding grab while moving to her left and dove onto second base to retire Griffin. Webb flied out to center to complete the inning and maintain UT's 3-0 lead.

The strikeout parade continued in the bottom of the third as Abbott mowed down leftfielder Lauren Olivas, Zakosek and Alvarado to up her K total to nine through three frames.

Horiuchi reached on a walk to open the fourth and advanced to second on a base knock to center by junior second baseman Kenora Posey. Senior centerfielder Lindsay Schutzler sacrificed the duo up 60 feet on a perfectly executed bunt to the first baseman. The move paid immediate dividends as Huff drove a pitch through the right side for a two-RBI single and a 5-0 lead.

Abbott roared through the Matador lineup in the bottom of the fourth and fifth innings to make it 15 K's through five and improve her "striking out the side" count to 25 in 37 innings of work, to that point, in the circle this season.

Posey christened the top of the sixth by drawing a walk, but she was thrown out trying to swipe second for the first retirement of the inning. Schutzler followed with a long double into the gap in left center, and Chiles picked up the fifth walk of the contest allowed by CSUN pitchers to grant the Big Orange runners at first and second with one down. The duo advanced 60 feet into scoring position on a deep flyout to the base of the wall in left by Huff. Both were stranded, however, as Clay was jammed by an inside pitch and popped up harmlessly to second base.

Olivas was issued the third walk of the contest permitted by Abbott to christen the bottom of the sixth. After Zakosek struck out for the third time in the matchup, Olivas was nailed attempting to steal second by Huff for out number two marking the first retirement of the contest that wasn't a strikeout. Alvarado then became Abbott's 17th K victim to complete the sixth.

The score improved to 6-0 in favor of the Lady Vols in the top of the seventh as the power-hitting Callahan blasted a long solo home run over the centerfield wall for her second big fly in UTs last two contests.

Webb followed with a one out double down the right field line to record her first collegiate hit as a member of the Orange & White. After a flyout to left by redshirt freshman pinch hitter Allison Fulmer, sophomore pinch hitter Danielle Pieroni reached on a throwing error to extend the inning. Schutzler made Northridge pay for the crucial miscue by launching a two-run blast well over the wall in right to up the tally to 9-0 UT.

The pitching gem was concluded in the bottom of the seventh as Abbott retired the side one-two-three with two more strikeouts to complete her 19th career no-hitter and third of the early season.

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