Lady Vols win Florida series

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The top-ranked Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (24-1, 2-1 SEC) secured its opening SEC series two games to one against No. 19 Florida (19-10, 1-2 SEC) by downing the Gators, 3-1, on Sunday afternoon at the Florida Softball Stadium.

Senior pitcher Monica Abbott allowed one run on three hits with nine K's to improve to 18-0 overall. The victory established a new personal-best for consecutive wins for the 6'3 lefthander by breaking her old mark of 17 straight victories, accomplished twice previously.

Freshman leftfielder Erinn Webb came through with the biggest hit of the ballgame for the Lady Vols with a two-RBI single in the top of the fourth. Junior third baseman Jennifer Griffin also drove in a run and scored once in the fourth as part of Tennessee's seven-hit effort.

The run that Abbott allowed to the Gators in the bottom of the fourth ended her consecutive scoreless inning streak at a remarkable 96.1 frames, the fourth-longest ever registered in NCAA Division I history.

"I thought this was a great softball game between two top 25 teams," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "Both teams played their hearts out, and we were fortunate to come out on top. Erinn Webb and Jennifer Griffin had clutch hits for us to win the game. The defense played excellent, and Monica Abbott turned in another good performance. Gainesville is a tough place to play, but a class place to play."

With one out in the top of the first, junior second baseman Kenora Posey laced a single into right centerfield. Senior centerfielder Lindsay Schutzler hit into a fielder's choice to cut down the lead runner at second for out number two. Schutzler swiped her 11th base of the season to advance into scoring position, but freshman designated player Tiffany Huff popped out to Florida second baseman Kim Waleszonia to end the first.

Following an Abbott strikeout of shortstop Lauren Roussell to christen the bottom half of the first, junior first baseman Tonya Callahan retired Waleszonia with a "web gem" play. The Florida hitter popped up weakly just to the right side of home plate, forcing Callahan to race in from her position at first, avoid the runner coming up the line, and dive on her side to corral the sphere for the inning's second out.

Gator third baseman Melissa Zick drew a free pass against the 6'3 lefthander to reach safely and bring first baseman Ali Gardiner to the dish. The frame ended quickly as Abbott retired Gardiner swinging for her second K of the contest.

Tennessee's Callahan ripped a long double to the wall in right center to lead off a promising top of the second and moved to third on a groundout up the first base line by sophomore right fielder Danielle Pieroni. Lady Vol junior catcher Shannon Doepking popped up for the second retirement of the frame. Griffin drew a free pass against Florida hurler Stacey Stevens to give UT runners at the corners, but sophomore shortstop Liane Horiuchi bounced out to short to kill the threat.

Abbott and Stevens were controlling the contest from the circle by working one-two-three innings as both squads failed to get anything going offensively through the second and third frames.

The Lady Vols finally created some offensive fireworks in the top of the fourth as Huff became Tennessee's second lead-off base runner of the matchup by ripping a Stevens' offering into left for a single. That hit brought Florida coach Tim Walton out of the dugout to summon in reliever Stacey Nelson.

With sophomore Lillian Hammond standing at first, Callahan moved her up 60 feet by laying down a sacrifice bunt back to the circle. Pieroni got a lot of bat on the ball with a liner to left, but the orb traveled on a line drive right to Brooke Johnson for the second out. Freshman pinch hitter Alexia Clay was struck by a Nelson pitch to grant UT a pair of base runners with Griffin stepping to the dish. On a 3-1 pitch the Whittier, Calif., native drove a clutch two-out liner into left to score Hammond for a 1-0 lead as both Griffin and Clay ended up at second and third, respectively, on the throw to the plate.

Tennessee entered the day's contest a perfect 21-0 when scoring the contest's initial tally. The coaching staff brought on Webb to hit for Chiles and the rookie from Hemet, Calif., rewarded the move by driving a two-RBI base hit up the middle for a 3-0 advantage and her fifth and sixth RBI of the campaign.

Down by three scores, Waleszonia christened the Gator half of the fourth by reaching safely on a bunt single out in front of the plate. A wild pitch advanced her up 60 feet to grant Florida its first runner in scoring position of the afternoon.

Following a strikeout of Zick and a routine grounder off the bat of Gardiner for two quick outs, centerfielder Lacy Howard knocked in the first earned run allowed by Abbott in 2007 on a single through the left side of the infield.

That run ended the Salinas, Calif., native's consecutive scoreless inning skein at 96.1 frames, the fourth-best in NCAA Division I history, dating back to the sixth frame of a Feb. 10 contest against North Carolina. During the streak, Abbott registered 11 solo and one combined shutout.

Designated player Savana Kelly kept the assault going by driving a base knock down the leftfield line to grant Florida a pair of base runners. Abbott rebounded to punch out rightfielder Corrie Brooks, however, for her sixth K of the contest to maintain a 3-1 lead.

Schutzler responded for Tennessee immediately to start the fifth with a long double into the right centerfield gap. Following a K, Callahan blasted a laser right back at Stevens in the circle. The hurler managed to get a glove on it briefly but the ball rolled away for a single to place Lady Vol runners at the corners with one down. Pieroni grounded out to advance Callahan to second and bring Doepking to the dish in a prime RBI situation. Unfortunately, the Acton , Calif., product flied out to center to complete the threat.

Abbott continued her solid effort in the circle by striking out two of the three batters she faced in a one-two-three Gator bottom of the fifth to up her total to eight Ks on the day.

Webb continued her terrific contest for the Big Orange by making a tremendous catch in left of a deep drive by Florida's Zick for the second out in the sixth. The ball forced the freshman back into the wall, but she held on to the sphere. Abbott K'ed Gardiner to mark her ninth strikeout and end the frame with UT still ahead, 3-1.

Tennessee went down one-two-three in the seventh to bring Florida up to bat in its last chance in regulation. Abbott induced a pop-up to first by Howard, a line out to short by Kelly and foul pop by Brooks to secure her 18th consecutive victory.

Tennessee will continue its SEC schedule at Ole Miss with a doubleheader on Wednesday, March 14, beginning at 6 p.m. ET. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com, and periodic updates will be provided to the Lady Vol Hotline at 865-974-8700 (box #6).


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