Lady Vols sweep Auburn before record crowd

No. 1 Tennessee (49-2, 19-2 SEC) secured its third SEC Eastern Division Championship and tied the program record for longest winning streak at 24 games by outlasting Auburn (22-29, 7-17 SEC), 2-1 in eight innings, to sweep a Saturday doubleheader in front of a facility record 1,483 fans at Tyson Park.

The old attendance mark of 1,425 was set last May 27, 2006, during the NCAA Super Regionals against Michigan.

In the bottom of the eighth frame, junior catcher Shannon Doepking (1-for-2, two RBI) continued her heroics by driving a towering walk-off sacrifice fly to center to plate senior centerfielder Lindsay Schutzler from third and conclude UT's 2-1, extra-inning win. She had previously doubled in the bottom of the fourth against Auburn to score pinch runner Caitlin Ryan from second with UT's other tally.

The Acton, Calif., native has come through in the clutch several times for the Big Orange this season. Doepking contributed a two-run walk-off homer in the seventh inning of a 2-0 home triumph against South Carolina on March 21.

She delivered an RBI double in the bottom of the eighth inning during a 2-1 win over Mississippi State on March 17 and laced a run-scoring single down the right field line in the Lady Vols' 1-0 victory at Ole Miss on March 14.

Senior pitcher Monica Abbott struck out 19 batters through eight innings of work while allowing four hits and one earned run to improve to her record to an NCAA Division I-best 37-1 on the season and 16-1 in SEC action. With 19 K's during the 2-1 (eight inn.) victory over Auburn, Abbott has now climbed within just 28 strikeouts (2,238) of eclipsing the prestigious NCAA Division I career K record currently held by former Texas hurler Cat Osterman (2,265).

"In the opener we were really able to do a lot of damage with our speed game by stealing bases and getting a lot of big base hits," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "The second contest was a classic fast pitch game between two very good pitchers in Monica Abbott and Anna Thompson.

"It took our team a while to adjust to Thompson's pitching ability and unique throwing motion. Shannon Doepking came through with another clutch RBI on her sacrifice fly to deep center. India Chiles continued her hot hitting for our team. We were also pleased with the way Tonya Callahan swung the bat in the first game."

After the offensive fireworks registered in the opener by the Lady Vols, game two quickly devolved into a pitcher's duel between Abbott and Auburn's ace Thompson.

Through the opening three frames, the two teams each managed just a single base runner. Auburn leftfielder Myesha Finney was struck by an Abbott offering with one out in the top of the second, while UT's Callahan walked to lead-off the bottom half of the second.

The Orange & White entered the afternoon a perfect 3-0 in extra-inning tilts during the 2007 campaign with wins over North Carolina (2-1 in eight inn.), Florida (1-0 in 10 inn.) and Mississippi State (2-1 in eight inn.).

In the first game in front of a massive Saturday Tyson Park crowd with full bleacher capacity reached and fans standing several deep down both foul lines and setting up chairs behind the outfield fencing, Tennessee stretched its winning streak to 23 games and its conference skein to 15 straight contests with a commanding 10-0 (five inn.) triumph over Auburn.

Abbott started the matchup in the circle for UT and worked two innings of one-hit ball with five strikeouts to cross the 500-K plateau.

By crossing that milestone, the 6'3 lefthander became the first pitcher in NCAA Division I history to punch out 500 hitters during each of her four collegiate campaigns.

Junior hurler Megan Rhodes improved to 12-1 on the season with three dominant innings of relief while allowing two hits and striking out eight Tigers to pick up the win.

With a perfect 3-for-3, two-run, one-RBI effort against Auburn in the opener, senior leftfielder and current SEC Player of the Week India Chiles has now recorded two or more base knocks in each of her last 10 SEC tilts while recording a .757 average on a 28-of-37 performance at the plate.

After the first game she was hitting a mind-boggling .607 (34-of-56) counting just her 18 SEC contests to this point in the season. Her 2007 batting average continues to climb as she now maintains a .489 overall mark.

Junior first baseman Tonya Callahan led the offense by delivering a 2-for-3, three-RBI effort with her team-best ninth home run of the campaign. Sophomore shortstop Liane Horiuchi was 2-for-3 with two RBI, while senior center fielder Lindsay Schutzler (1-for-3) and sophomore Danielle Pieroni (1-of-1) each knocked in a tally during Tennessee's eight-run second frame.

Tennessee will complete its series against Auburn on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET at Tyson Park. 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).

The finale will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Net as part of the SEC-TV package with Bernie Guenther and Cheri Kempf on the call.


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