Lady Vols host Auburn

Currently leading the SEC standings by a game over LSU at 17-2, No. 1 Tennessee's (47-2) daunting three-week conclusion to its regular-season league schedule kicks off this weekend at Tyson Park as UT hosts a three-game series against Western Division foe Auburn (22-27, 7-15).

Saturday's opener will be broadcast via radio at 1 p.m. ET by The Sports Animal (99.1, 99.3 FM, 990 AM, through utladyvols.com via Yahoo Sports), while the series finale on Sunday will be shown live on Fox Sports Net at 2 p.m. ET as part of the SEC-TV package.

Prior to Saturday's opener, the Lady Vols will honor pitcher Monica Abbott as part of their annual "Senior Day" festivities. Fellow seniors Lindsay Schutzler and India Chiles will be feted next Saturday and Sunday, respectively, prior to the regular season-closing Alabama series at Tyson Park, to make sure that each of the three senior players receives her own special day of honor in front of the home fans.

The overall series between the two schools is currently deadlocked at 14-14 with Tennessee having emerged victorious in six of the last 10 matchups. Since the arrival of co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly prior to the 2002 season, the Big Orange possess an even 8-8 mark against the Tigers and a 5-4 record versus AU in Knoxville.

Despite UT taking two of three games from Auburn last season at home (2-0, 8-0 in five inn.) to win the series, the Blue & Orange did manage to end Tennessee's program record-tying 24-game winning streak and hand Tennessee its first loss of 2006 with a 3-1 win.

Pitcher Monica Abbott was phenomenal against the Tigers by going 2-0 in the three-game set with two no-hitters and 27 strikeouts in just 13 innings. For her efforts against Auburn, Abbott received the SEC Pitcher of the Week award as well as NFCA and USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Week honors.

Lindsay Schutzler led the offense with a .625 average and two stolen bases. Tonya Callahan hit .444 with a double and contributed a 3-for-3, four-RBI effort in the finale with a pair of two-RBI singles.

The Orange & White haven't played since last weekend's frozen visit to Lexington, Ky., where the Lady Vols picked up its fifth consecutive series sweep of an SEC opponent with 12-0, 8-2 and 9-4 victories over the Wildcats despite numerous rain delays, mid-20s wind chills and 30 mph wind gusts.

UT's scheduled mid-week action against Radford at the State Line Classic in Bristol, Tenn., was cancelled out of respect for those affected by the terrible events at Virginia Tech.

Tennessee currently leads both the SEC and NCAA Division I in pitching (0.63 ERA) and fielding percentage (.987) and stands second in the league in batting average at .335.

After hitting .667 (8-of-12) during the series at Kentucky, senior leftfielder and current SEC Player of the Week India Chiles has now recorded two or more base knocks in her last nine SEC tilts while recording a .735 average on a 25-of-34 performance at the plate. The Louisville, Ky., native's now hitting a league-leading .585 (31-of-53) counting just her 17 SEC contests played.

Senior centerfielder Lindsay Schutzler registered a .462 mark for the series and led the Lady Vol offensive charge in Tennessee's 9-4 Sunday finale victory by going 4-for-5 with two runs scored and two RBI to stretch her squad season-best and personal career-high hitting skein to 13 games.

Senior Monica Abbott improved her overall record to 36-1 and 15-1 in the SEC by striking out 50 hitters in 21.2 innings of work while registering a perfect 4-0 week. The 6'3 lefthander currently stands just 52 strikeouts (2,214) from eclipsing the prestigious NCAA Division I career K record currently held by former Texas hurler Cat Osterman (2,265).

With last Sunday's doubleheader sweep, co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly picked up their 100th career SEC win in their five-plus year stay at Rocky Top.

The Tigers head to Knoxville with a 22-27 record in tow and four victories in their last six match-ups. In its most recent SEC action, AU lost two of three games to Florida over April 14-15 in Auburn, Ala., to drop its SEC record to 7-15.

With Auburn serving as the SEC Tournament host this season, the team still remains in the key eighth position in the race for a berth in the annual league event. The Blue & Orange enter action against Tennessee eighth in the conference in hitting at .250 while the pitching staff sits seventh with a 2.36 ERA.

Senior Holly Currie has been a reliable contributor both at the plate and in the circle with a team-best .299 average, eight home runs and 27 RBI to go along with a 2.49 ERA, a 9-11 record and 142 K's in 112.2 innings. Sophomore Tatiana Fernandez (.295, 20 RBI) and senior Sara Ghezzi (.279, 23 RBI) each have registered five of the team's 24 total home runs.

Freshman Anna Thompson has been the workhorse for the Tigers in the circle by throwing 156.2 frames with a 1.74 ERA, an 11-13 mark and 248 strikeouts while permitting just a .167 batting average to opponents. Auburn rates sixth in the SEC in fielding percentage at .964 with 46 errors on the campaign.

The series with Auburn will begin Saturday at 1 p.m. ET with a doubleheader at Tyson Park, while Sunday's game on FSN will start at 2 p.m. ET.

Live stats for all games 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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