Softball team stays unbeaten

CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. – Junior first baseman Tonya Callahan blasted a three-run bomb and knocked in four to back junior Megan Rhodes' one-hit shutout as No. 1 Tennessee completed an undefeated run through the prestigious Palm Springs Classic in Cathedral City, Calif., with an 8-0 five inning win over Oklahoma State.

The top-ranked Lady Vols wrapped up their 11-day road trip with a perfect 15-0 record in tow and outscored their five Palm Springs opponents, including #12 UCLA and No. 22 Fresno State, by an impressive 30-1 count.

Tennessee beat Michigan State, 3-0; handed UCLA a 6-1 loss; and blanked noth Fresno State, 5-0, and Loyola Marymount, 8-0.

On Saturday in the final game on the West Coast trip, Callahan led the offense with a 2-for-3, four-RBI, two-run scored effort, while freshmen rightfielder Tiffany Huff and designated player Alexia Clay each knocked in a pair of tallies.

Rhodes was again superb in the circle after her tremendous effort last night against the Bruins. Against Oklahoma State, the Nashville , Tenn., native struck out nine, allowed just one hit and faced only two batters over the five-inning minimum of 15 in improving her season record to 4-0.

The UT pitching staff allowed just three runs during the entire 11-game road trip. They have only permitted six scores combined over all 15 contests for a miniscule team ERA of 0.31.

"Today is a great day for Tennessee softball," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "It's nice to be going home after an 11-game road trip. Both Karen (co-head coach Weekly) and I thought all the kids played really well. We were especially pleased with Megan Rhodes who pitched extremely well over the last two days. The middle of our lineup continues to come through and complement our slappers. Alexia Clay and Tonya Callahan combined for six RBI against Oklahoma State."

Oklahoma State centerfielder Shanel Scott greeted Rhodes rudely by blasting a lead-off single up the middle to christen the top of the first. During OSU right fielder Katelyn Bright's at-bat, Scott took off for second but was gunned down by UT's "Cannon" behind the plate, junior catcher Shannon Doepking. Rhodes induced a routine grounder from Bright and struck out catcher Courtney Totte on a wicked change-up to conclude the inning.

With one down in the bottom of the first, senior leftfielder India Chiles ripped a shot that traveled right through the legs and off the glove of starting pitcher Jessica Hoppock for a base hit. Freshman rightfielder Tiffany Huff was struck by a pitch to grant Tennessee runners at first and second with just one retired.

That brought up the power-hitting Callahan who blasted an offering deep over the left center field wall for her fourth home run of the season and fourth over her last eight contests. All of the Holden, Mo., native's 2007 big flies have occurred on UT's 11-day road trip around the west coast. The blast moved Callahan into a tie with Carrie Swinford (1996-99) for second all-time in Lady Vol history in round trippers with 28, just two off tying Adrianna Wilson (1999-2002) for the top position.

Rhodes continued her effective pitching through the second and third innings by striking out four of the seven batters she faced to improve her game total of K's to five. The only batter to reach base against Rhodes in either inning was third baseman Shianne Cruce on a hit by pitch.

Bright drew a walk off Rhodes to open the Oklahoma State top of the fourth and advanced to second on Totte's sacrifice bunt that Griffin handled from third base. The runner in scoring position didn't seem to bother Rhodes as the Lady Vol right-hander struck out OSU first baseman Kim Kaye swinging and shortstop Krystle Sanchez looking to strand Bright at second.

A lead-off single through the right side of the infield by junior second baseman Kenora Posey got the Lady Vols off to a good start in the bottom of the fifth inning and brought up the top of the order. Schutzler slapped a liner between shortstop and third to grant UT a pair of base runners with no one retired against Cowgirl hurler Hoppock.

The duo moved up 60 feet and into scoring position on a double steal with Chiles standing at the dish. The Louisville, Ky., native walked to load the bases for current Lady Vol RBI leader Huff. As she has done so often to start her career, the Saugus, Calif., product came through with a clutch hit by lacing a hard chopper through the right side to plate two and improve UT's lead to 5-0.

With runners at the corners and no one retired, Callahan blooped an RBI single into short left center to score Chiles with the Big Orange's sixth run. Griffin drew a free pass to load the bases for Clay who ended the game in walk-off fashion by hammering a two-run double down the right field line.

No. 1 Tennessee will finally return home to Knoxville before heading out again next weekend to Chattanooga, Tenn., for the Frost Classic.

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