Softball team to play at Ole Miss

After returning from a successful weekend at No. 19 Florida, the No. 1 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (24-1, 2-1 SEC) will venture back out on the road on Wednesday for a mid-week doubleheader against SEC Western Division foe Ole Miss (9-15, 1-2 SEC) at the Ole Miss Softball Complex in Oxford, Miss.

The two-game set will begin at 6 p.m. ET with live stats available through utladyvols.com.

The Big Orange have long dominated the series with the Rebels by maintaining a 23-3 overall record since the two squads' initial meetings on April 12, 1997. Tennessee has also emerged victorious from the last 10 matchups in the series. All three UM triumphs occurred at their home site in Oxford as Ole Miss registered wins over UT on April 15, 2000 (1-4), March 11, 2001 (0-4, 10 inn.), and May 3, 2003 (6-7).

Since Lady Vol co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly took over the program prior to the 2002 campaign, Tennessee is a sparkling 13-1 against the Rebels. In the last visit to Oxford in 2005, UT swept a three-game set by scores of 4-0, 3-1 and 9-0 (five inn.).

Under the direction of second year head coach Missy Dickerson, a former standout during her playing days at UCLA, Ole Miss enters Wednesday's doubleheader against Tennessee maintaining a 9-15 overall record and a 1-2 mark in the SEC, after taking one of three games last weekend from No. 9 LSU. Ole Miss has played well despite facing a difficult schedule to this point in 2007 with nine of their 24 matchups having been played against nationally ranked squads including Michigan (1-3), Arizona State (1-2), Baylor (0-5, 2-8), Louisiana-Lafayette (1-3) and Washington (3-8).

As a team, Ole Miss is hitting .255 with 18 home runs and 76 runs scored, while the Rebel pitching staff has permitted the opposition to cross the plate on 82 occasions and hit at a .240 clip with 11 big flies. Offensively, senior Mary Jane Callahan is leading the way with a .355 batting average (22-of-62), two home runs and 14 RBI. Freshman Lauren Grill (.318) has served as the squad's major power source with an Ole Miss-best seven HR's.

Sophomore Lisa Conchos (.328) and junior Lauren Rowe (.200) have also contributed four homers each to the team total.

Callahan has been the ace in the circle for a three-member pitching staff (holding a 2.50 ERA) with a 1.12 ERA, a 6-5 record and 61 strikeouts over 68.2 innings of work. Junior Tara Willitt (3.35 ERA, 3-1) and freshman Becky Nye (3.66 ERA, 0-9) have contributed 31.1 and 59.1 frames in the circle, respectively. Defense has been a liability for the Rebels as the squad has committed 34 errors in 24 contests for a fielding percentage of just .953.

The Orange & White are fresh off clinching an important series against No. 19 Florida last weekend at the Florida Softball Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., with two wins in three games.

Senior pitcher Monica Abbott continued her historic campaign by striking out a new career-high 22 UF hitters in the series-opening, 1-0 (10 inn.) victory. In the process Abbott also broke the NCAA Division I career record for shutouts, formerly held by California 's Michele Granger, with her 95th blanking.

The Gators bounced back to end Tennessee's 23-game winning streak in the second game of a Saturday doubleheader by a 4-0 count. UT responded behind another solid Abbott effort on Sunday to defeat UF, 3-1, as the 6-3 lefthander struck out nine. Freshman Erinn Webb (two RBI's) and sophomore Jennifer Griffin (RBI) each came through with clutch run-scoring singles in a fourth-inning outburst.

Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com of both matchups between the Lady Vols and Rebels, and periodic updates will be provided to the Lady Vol Hotline at 865-974-8700 (box #6).

CHILES AILING: Senior outfielder and team captain India Chiles suffered a left shoulder injury during UT's 7-1 victory over Appalachian State on March 6 that has been affecting her ability to compete.

The Louisville, Ky., native has been evaluated by medical staff, and her status will be determined on a day-to-day basis.

The leading returning hitter in the SEC entering 2007, Chiles currently rates second on the Lady Vol squad and 10th in the SEC in batting average at .429 (30-of-70). She also boasts a team-best 26 runs scored (third in SEC) and 19 stolen bases (fourth in SEC). She has registered a .500 on-base percentage this season to rate second on the UT team.

STILL NUMBER ONE: For the fifth consecutive week, Tennessee holds down the No. 1 ranking in NCAA Division I, according to Tuesday's release of the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. The Big Orange garnered 12 of 20 possible first-place votes.

For the first time in the history of the USA Softball listing, the SEC holds down the country's top two positions. Alabama (24-0) received eight first-place votes to mark the highest ranking in Crimson Tide program history at No. 2 and trail the Lady Vols by 10 total points, 490-480.

Texas A&M (21-2) advanced a spot to No. 3 after sweeping a doubleheader from Houston on March 7. Arizona State (27-2) swept through six contests in the Pac-10/Big XII Challenge in Tempe, Ariz., to leap from sixth to fourth. After dropping two of three matchups in a series at No. 10 Baylor, the defending national champion Arizona Wildcats (17-5) plummeted from No. 2 to No. 5.

Other SEC schools in the national rankings include LSU (24-4) at No. 12, Georgia (22-8) at No. 19, Florida (19-10) at No. 22 and South Carolina (23-3) at No. 24 as six members of the powerful league are currently rated in the nation's top 25.

The Big Orange currently boast a team batting average of .334, have outscored the opposition 145-13 through 25 contests and have a pitching staff that holds a 0.43 ERA with 16 solo shutouts and an SEC-best 356 strikeouts.

Seven Lady Vols are currently hitting over .300 and four over .400, led by sophomore Jennifer Griffin at .434. UT also has 21 home runs while the defense is fielding at a stellar .986 clip.


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