Tennessee splits double-header with Florida

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – No. 1 Tennessee's (23-1, 1-1 SEC) 23-game winning streak came to an end at Florida Softball Stadium on Saturday afternoon as the No. 19 Florida Gators (19-9, 1-1 SEC) downed the Lady Vols, 4-0. UT's Megan Rhodes (6-1) picked up her first defeat of the campaign after allowing six hits, four runs and three earned runs, while striking out six in 6.0 innings of work.

The Big Orange totaled four hits in the day's second match-up against UF with junior catcher Shannon Doepking, freshman designated player Alexia Clay, junior first baseman Tonya Callahan and sophomore shortstop Liane Horiuchi all registering a single as Tennessee stranded six runners on the base paths.

"Monica pitched exceptionally well in the opener," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "Even though we had nine hits in the first game, we left far too many runners on base. In the second game, I switched the line-up around some, but it didn't pay dividends. I don't think we played very well in game two, but our group's performed extremely well during this long winning streak of 23 games. Now we need to regroup and get ready to go again."

Stellar pitching by both teams continued to be the story of the doubleheader as Tennessee's Rhodes and Florida's Stacey Stevens registered zeroes on the scoreboard from the circle through the opening two innings of the afternoon's second contest.

In the first game, an above-capacity crowd of 1,464 at the Florida Softball Field watched the teams require extra softball and the international tiebreaker rule to settle things before the Lady Vols prevailed 1-0 in 10 innings.

Senior pitcher Monica Abbott fired her NCAA Division I career record-breaking 95th shutout by tallying a career-high 22 strikeouts (tied for the 19th highest total in a single game all-time in NCAA D-I annals) while allowing just one hit.

The 6'3 lefthander also stretched her consecutive scoreless inning streak to 92.2 consecutive frames, fifth-longest in NCAA history, and at 17-0 equaled the longest winning skein of her illustrious career.

Tennessee registered plenty of scoring opportunities against UF in the opener by totaling nine hits while leaving 11 stranded on base in the match-up against Gator pitcher Stacey Nelson. Senior centerfielder Lindsay Schutzler delivered a 3-for-5 effort in the circle and scored the Lady Vols' lone run on a crucial UF throwing error in the 10th. Senior leftfielder India Chiles returned from an injury suffered against Appalachian State to go 2-for-3, while freshman right fielder Tiffany Huff was 2-for-4.

After UT went one-two-three in the top of the eighth, Abbott made some personal history in the bottom half of the frame by punching out the side for the fifth time to equal her career-high in strikeouts with 20. She set the initial mark during her freshman campaign by tallying 20 K's in seven innings at Tyson Park in a 1-0 shutout over Liberty on March 26, 2004.

Both teams were retired in order in the ninth as Nelson got the Lady Vols on three consecutive ground balls, while Abbott struck out her career-best 21st batter in the contest and got some defensive help from her battery-mate Doepking.

Entering the 10th in SEC contests, the international tiebreaker rule comes into effect as each team begins its half-inning with a runner placed on second. With Schutzler starting off in scoring position, Chiles dropped a potential sacrifice bunt out in front of home plate. UF's catcher handled the sphere but rushed her throw wide to first for a crucial error allowing Schutzler to race around and grant Tennessee a crucial 1-0 advantage.

No. 1 Tennessee will conclude its SEC series against No. 19/24 Florida on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com on Gametracker, and periodic updates will be provided to the Lady Vol Hotline at 865-974-8700 (box #6).

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