Lady Vols down Loyola Marymount

CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. – Freshman rightfielder Tiffany Huff's grand slam keyed a six-run, third-inning assault, and UT hurlers Monica Abbott (4 IP, 11 K's) and Megan Rhodes (1 IP, 3 K's) combined on a no-hitter as No. 1 Tennessee opened the Palm Springs Classic with an 8-0 victory in five innings over Loyola Marymount on a blustery Thursday night.

Huff was 1-of-2 with four RBI and the grand slam homer, while sophomore third baseman Jennifer Griffin kept her sparkling season average at an exceptional .615 with a 2-for-2, two RBI effort. Senior centerfielder Lindsay Schutzler and senior leftfielder India Chiles each scored at least one run and recorded a run-batted-in on bases loaded walks. Freshman designated player Alexia Clay and junior catcher Shannon Doepking both were 1-of-2 at the dish with a tally in the triumph.

With four more scoreless innings against LMU, Abbott's shutout skein now stands at an impressive 35.1 consecutive frames dating back to the sixth inning of the 2-1 victory at North Carolina on Feb. 10. Rhodes hasn't permitted a run to cross over her last 8.1 innings since Sacramento State tallied a score in the second inning of UT's 9-2 win on Feb. 17. The Tennessee pitching staff has now hurled five consecutive shutouts and hasn't allowed a tally over the last 34.1 frames.

After Abbott blew through the Loyola Marymount lineup with a pair of K's in the top half of the first, the Tennessee offense managed two runs on three hits in the bottom half of the frame.

Schutzler led off the assault by drawing a lead-off walk against LMU hurler Tiffany Pagano. The Monterey, Calif, product advanced to second as Chiles ripped a hard one-hop single that ricocheted off the chest of third baseman Tracy Cook. Freshman rightfielder Tiffany Huff drove a liner to shortstop but the ball was right at leaping Lion Megan Ackerman for the first out of the inning. Rookie designated player Alexia Clay walked to load the bases for junior first baseman Tonya Callahan.

Unfortunately, the Lady Vol power hitter grounded into a fielder's choice that cut down the lead runner at the plate. With two down, sophomore third baseman Jennifer Griffin came through in the clutch by driving a two-RBI single up the middle to grant UT an important 2-0 advantage. The occurrence marked the seventh time in Tennessee's 11 games that the Orange & White scored in the opening inning.

Loyola Marymount second baseman Kylie Conroy, Cook, and first baseman Christine Foley were strikeout victims of Abbott in the top of the second to up her game total to five. By striking out the side, it marked the 29th time the 6-3 lefthander had accomplished the feat in 2007.

After leaving a pair stranded in the second, Tennessee loaded the bases in the third as Griffin was struck by a pitch, Doepking reached on an error by Ackerman at short and sophomore shortstop Liane Horiuchi was hit by a pitch for the 20th time in her career to become the all-time Lady Vol leader in that category.

After a strikeout for the first retirement of the frame, UT demonstrated some patience at the dish with the bases loaded as Schutzler and Chiles each battled to draw walks to force in a pair of runs to improve the score to 4-0. That brought Tennessee RBI leader Huff to the dish facing new LMU pitcher Tiffany Gonzalez with a chance to really put the Orange & White in the driver's seat. The Saugus, Calif., native came through in a big way by hammering her first career grand slam to deep center field upping the UT advantage to 8-0.

That blast improved Huff's team-leading RBI total to 20 through just 11 games this season. Clay also singled in the frame as the Big Orange sent 10 hitters to the dish in the third.

Tennessee left a pair on base in the fourth, but had the contest well under control venturing to the top of the fifth inning. That allowed co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly to make the call to the bullpen to summon in junior reliever Megan Rhodes for some work.

That closed the book on Abbott's day as the Salinas, Calif., native struck out 11 of the 12 batters she faced in the victory and improved her consecutive scoreless inning skein to 35.1 to open the campaign. Abbott has now struck out the side on 31 occasions this season through 48 innings of work.

An infield error by UT to lead off the top of the fifth granted the Lions their initial base runner of the contest, but Rhodes struck out the side to complete the combined five-inning no-hitter and improve No. 1 Tennessee to 11-0.

No. 1 Tennessee will next be in action at the Palm Springs Classic in Cathedral City, Calif., on Friday against No. 22 Fresno State (1 p.m.) and No. 12 UCLA (8:30 p.m.). Periodic updates will be provided on the Lady Vol Hotline at 865-974-8700 (box #6 ).

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