Softball team opens at home Tuesday

After playing 20 consecutive contests on the road and at neutral sites across the country during the last four weeks, the top-ranked Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (20-0) is preparing to christen its home schedule by hosting a doubleheader at Tyson Park on Tuesday, at 5 p.m. against Appalachian State.

The evening's second contest will be broadcast live on The Sports Animal (99.1, 99.3 FM and 990 AM) with the "Voice of the Lady Vols" Mickey Dearstone on the call.

The Big Orange enter the two-game set 5-0 all-time against the Mountaineers and 22-2 versus member schools from the Southern Conference.

Appalachian State ventures to Knoxville with a 3-11 record in tow, although the squad did pick up a win in its last contest against Rhode Island (6-5). The two teams have a common opponent in North Carolina as UT bested the Tar Heels 2-1 at the Carolina Classic back on Feb. 10, while the Mountaineers fell to defeat against UNC by a 14-1 count.

Senior Diana Cook leads the offense with a .379 average on 11-of-29 at the plate with a double and four RBI, while fellow senior Kasey Motsinger guides the way in RBI with six to go along with a .282 average.

As a team, ASU has hit at just a .210 clip with one home run and has been outscored 81-43. The pitching staff has struggled to the tune of a 5.52 team ERA, with sophomore hurler Yancy Moose heading the four pitcher rotation with a 3.47 ERA, a 1-5 record and 31 strikeouts in 34.1 innings of work. Opposing base runners have been successful 29 of 31 times this season in attempts to swipe a bag.

At a perfect 20-0, Tennessee is off to the second-best start to a season in program history. Last year's Women's College World Series squad began 2006 at a flawless 24-0 before suffering its initial defeat in a 3-1 home loss to #18 Auburn.

This past weekend was one for winning and history for the No. 1 Lady Vols as UT not only won all five contests it played but had an individual achieve personal history.

Senior pitcher Monica Abbott broke the NCAA Division I career victory mark formerly held by Southern Miss hurler Courtney Blades by picking up her 152nd career triumph in UT's 4-0 win over Tennessee Tech. Abbott and junior pitcher Megan Rhodes each hurled a perfect game during the weekend as Abbott downed Austin Peay, 2-0, and Rhodes struck out 19 in a dominant flawless effort against Oakland (Mich.).

Abbott also picked up her 93rd career shutout victory to move within one blanking of former California hurler Michele Granger for the NCAA Division I career shutout record of 94. The 6'3 lefthander has worked 73.1 consecutive scoreless innings, the eighth-best streak in NCAA history heading into the doubleheader with Appalachian State. For her efforts, Abbott picked up her third Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week award on Monday.

During the aptly named Frost Classic in Chattanooga, Tenn., since the Lady Vols struggled through a 19-degree wind chill on Sunday against Austin Peay, Tennessee hit at a .363 clip over five games with 19 stolen bases, while the pitching staff permitted just one run and five hits total with 82 strikeouts in 34 innings of work and two perfect games.

Senior center fielder Lindsay Schutzler hit .526 (10-of-19) with a double, triple, home run and four RBI to lead the way offensively, while fellow senior India Chiles hit .500 and swiped a team-best six bases.

Freshman catcher/outfielder Tiffany Huff blasted a three-run bomb to give her a squad-best five for the season in the 9-1 win over Toledo.

No. 1 Tennessee will open play against Appalachian State at 5 p.m. at Tyson Park. Live stats will be available through and, as always, periodic updates will be provided on the Lady Vol Hotline at 865-974-8700 (box #6).

TRACK NEWS Ten athletes from the sixth-ranked Tennessee women's track & field team received some good news late Monday night from the NCAA Selection Committee. They were awarded invitations to compete in the 2007 NCAA Indoor Championships, which will be held Friday and Saturday at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Ark.

Leading the way for the Lady Volunteers, who will have entries in seven different events, are two automatic qualifiers in junior Courtney Champion and sophomore Celriece Law.

Champion ranks number two in the field in the 60-meter dash (7.15) and stands fourth in the 200m dash (23.10). Law, meanwhile, enters the competition with the sixth-best time in the 60m hurdles (8.15). Both Champion's and Law's readouts in the 60m dash and 60m hurdles are school records.

In addition to Champion and Law, eight other Lady Vols earned invitations to the meet. Receiving individual bids were sophomore Sarah Bowman, the SEC mile champ who owns the No. 4 clocking in that event at 4:40.72; junior Cleo Tyson, who has the No. 8 readout in the 60m at 7.28; freshman Nia Ali, who has the No. 12 time in the 60m hurdles at 8.18; freshman Lynne Layne, who has the 16th-best time in the 200m at 23.54; and senior Leslie Treherne, who stands 18th in the 800m at 2:06.52.

Tennessee's distance medley relay combination will head to Fayetteville with the fourth-best time in the competition. The quartet of freshman Rose-Anne Galligan, junior LaTonya Loche, Treherne and Bowman posted the No. 3 all-time UT performance at 11:11.32 in the Tyson Invitational on Feb. 9-10 on the same track they will run on this weekend.

Freshman Jackie Areson will make the trip as an alternate for the DMR, should Big Orange Head Coach J.J. Clark need to make a change in the lineup.

The Lady Vols also made the cut in the 4x400m relay as the 12th and final team, doing so over the weekend with a 3:36.69 effort at the Virginia Tech Last Chance Invitational in Blacksburg, Va. The lineup includes Loche, Champion, Layne and Treherne.

"We got 10 people into the meet," Clark said. "We would have liked to have a couple of others make it, but it is still a good group.

"We knew it would be close for Shanna Dickenson (weight throw), Tiki James (60mH) and Katie Flaute (5000m), and they just didn't get the nod. We do have a good contingent going, though, and we look forward to getting to the meet and competing."

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