The ten remaining finalists will be placed on an official ballot for a nationwide vote beginning April 26 and concluding May 23. Fan balloting will be coupled with votes from coaches, media and sponsors to determine the recipient of the award. Winners will be announced during the week of May 28 during the 2007 NCAA Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Lowe's recently announced the addition of softball and three other NCAA sports to the award program that was originally launched in 2001 with basketball. Candidates were selected based on personal qualities that define a complete student-athlete through nominations submitted by their sports information offices. While the on-the-field performance during their collegiate softball careers is a factor in determining candidates and the eventual winner, personal character and off-the-field achievements in the classroom and community are major areas of focus.
CLASS is an acronym representing "Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School."
A two-time Louisville Slugger/National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-American, Schutzler has continued her stellar play into her senior campaign wearing the Orange & White. During the season, the Monterey, Calif., native has become one of only 12 players in NCAA Division softball history to join the prestigious "3-2-1 Club," with 300 hits, 200 runs scored and 100 steals during her playing career.
She now leads the Lady Vols all-time charts in hits (343), runs scored (230), stolen bases (114), triples (20) and total bases (460) while also rating in the top 10 in the career annals in batting average (.388 – tied for third), on-base percentage (.448 - fourth), slugging percentage (.520 - tied for eighth), RBIs (149 – sixth) and games played (277 – third).
Schutzler currently rates third in the conference in average at .422, second in triples (five), tied for fourth in runs scored (45), fifth in on-base percentage (.478) and sixth in steals (33) with a team-co-best 46 RBI.
The award was launched during the 2001-02 season in response to the trend of college basketball players leaving college early to turn professional. Lowe's has extended the award in 2007 to include four other NCAA sports: baseball, softball, men's hockey and men's lacrosse. Those winners will be decided in separate balloting.
The award was conceived by sportscaster Dick Enberg, who continues to serve as Honorary Chairman. It was inspired by the remarkable story of former Duke star Shane Battier, who could have been an NBA lottery pick but returned to college for his senior season, led the Blue Devils to the national championship in 2001 and earned his college degree.
Softball voting is now active at: http://softball.seniorclassaward.com/
LSU-TENNESSEE: The lead in the SEC regular-season standings and the Lady Vols' school-record 25-game winning streak will both be on the line this weekend in Baton Rouge, La., as No. 1 Tennessee (50-2, 20-2 SEC) travels to match-up against No. 6 LSU (46-7, 19-3 SEC) in a three-game set at Tiger Park.
The series opener (Saturday at 4 p.m. ET) and finale (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET) will be broadcast live on ESPN2 with Beth Mowins and U.S. National Team member Jessica Mendoza on the call.
The Big Orange maintain an 11-16 all-time mark against the Tigers, but have won seven of the last eight meetings in the series between the two programs. UT is 9-6 versus LSU since the arrival of co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly to Rocky Top prior to the 2002 campaign.
Included in Tennessee's recent success against the Bayou Bengals is a 3-0 triumph during the 2006 SEC Tournament Final in Athens, Ga., that granted the Lady Vols their first league tournament championship. UT won two of the three meetings during the 2006 regular season series at Tyson Park and swept a three-contest set from the Tigers in its last visit to Baton Rouge. Tennessee prevailed at Tiger Park in 2005 by 1-0 (9 innings), 3-0 and 2-0 (9 innings) scores. The Orange & White are just 4-9 overall at LSU, but 4-2 since 2002.
History could be made this weekend in Baton Rouge as senior pitcher Monica Abbott enters the series with the Tigers just 19 strikeouts from breaking the prestigious NCAA Division I career K record currently held by former Texas hurler Cat Osterman (2,265).
The Salinas, Calif., native is averaging an NCAA Division I-best 15.1 K's per seven innings, while guiding the country in victories (38) and ERA (0.54). With 531 strikeouts this season through UT's first 52 games, Abbott has already equaled her season-long K total from the 73-game 2006 campaign that ended with a third-place finish at the Women's College World Series.
In fact taking a closer look at Abbott's totals over the opening 52-game stretch in both 2006 and 2007, there are many similarities except for the staggering difference in strikeout production. Last season in helping UT to a 46-6 mark through its initial 52 contests, the 6'3 lefthander had recorded a 33-5 record in 43 appearances with 396 K's and a 0.57 ERA in 235.1 innings. This season in 52 matchups, the three-time All-American is 38-1 over 45 appearances with 531 strikeouts and a 0.54 ERA in 246.0 frames.
Senior leftfielder India Chiles currently guides the SEC in batting average, counting only league matchups, at an amazing .565 clip. The Louisville, Ky., native's season mark of .476 is good enough to rate second in the conference and seventh in all of NCAA Division I. She also sits in a deadlock for second in runs (50), is No. 2 in on-base percentage (.525) and tied for fourth in thefts (36) in the league.
Tennessee all-time home run leader Tonya Callahan continued her stellar offensive production with her team-best ninth home run of the season in the 10-0 (5 innings) rout of Auburn on April 21. The Holden, Mo., product has raised her season average to .378 to rate third on the squad to go along with 43 RBI and a .667 slugging percentage.
Junior Shannon Doepking has been responsible for five game-winning RBIs since March 14 including an eighth-inning sacrifice fly and a sixth-inning grand slam last weekend to help guide UT to a series sweep of Auburn.
Fifth in the ESPN.com/USA Softball and sixth in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) polls, LSU enters this weekend's series at 46-7 overall and just a single game behind the Lady Vols in conference play at 19-3.
The Tigers have won nine of their last 10 contests, but might have been caught looking ahead to this weekend's big series after suffering a huge upset on Wednesday night in Hammond, La., in a 1-0 defeat at Southeastern Louisiana on a pair of crucial errors in the field in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Tigers own the No. 2 rated pitching staff in both NCAA Division I and the conference (1.12 ERA) behind only Tennessee's 0.64 team earned run average. The Bayou Bengals also rate seventh in the NCAA in batting average at .328, 14th in scoring at 5.92 runs per contest and 16th in fielding percentage (.972) to complete one of the nation's top softball resumes.
Current SEC Freshman of the Week Jazz Jackson leads the Tiger offense with a .410 average to go along with 15 stolen bases. Junior Killian Roessner has contributed a .400 mark with five home runs and 30 RBI, while senior Leslie Klein has added seven homers and a team-high 49 RBI to go along with a .399 average.
Freshman Rachel Mitchell and senior Kristen Hobbs each boast seven of LSU's 44 team home runs on the season. Overall, 11 members of the Purple & Gold have 12 or more RBIs, while nine have hit at least one HR. Junior Dee Dee Henderson leads a team that has stolen 91 bases with a 28-of-30 theft mark, while Klein has 20 steals and Jackson 15.
LSU also owns one of the nation's finest one-two punches in the circle as senior Emily Turner (1.21 ERA) has a 15-5 mark with 147 K's in 127.1 innings, while sophomore Dani Hofer is a staggering 21-1 with a 1.24 ERA and 207 strikeouts in 146.1 frames. Even the supporting staff has been outstanding as freshman Cody Trahan has tallied a 0.19 ERA with a 4-1 mark in 36.1 innings, and junior Tiffany Garcia is 6-0 with a 1.02 ERA in 41 innings.
The series with LSU will begin on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET with a doubleheader at Tiger Park while Sunday's game 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).
LADY VOL ROWING: Tenth-ranked Tennessee returns to the water this weekend for the program's toughest tri-meet test in history, as the Lady Vols line up against No. 2 Brown and No. 4 Yale on the Housatonic River in Derby, Conn., on Saturday morning.
In UT's last outings, the squad won five of nine races during its stay at the Windermere Real Estate Rowing Classic, including a sweep of then-No. 7 Stanford in Redwood City, Calif. After racing top-five teams in successive weekends (No. 3 Ohio State, No. 5 California), the Lady Vols will go up against two more of the top five on Saturday.
Brown has won four team national titles and nearly captured its fifth last season, finishing third by .261 seconds in the First Eights behind eventual winner California. The Bears have been strong all season, dropping only one race all spring, a Fours sprint during the opening weekend.
The Bulldogs have been impressive as well, capturing five cups in rivalry matchups this spring. The biggest of those wins was in the Eisenberg Cup, where Yale won four of five races including the Varsity 8+ over Princeton, which won the 2006 NCAA Championships Varsity 8+ title. For the Bulldogs, it was the first time in 19 years that the Eisenberg Cup would stay in Derby, Conn.
The Lady Vols have only rowed against one Ivy League school in a head-to-head setting, going against Princeton last year in a quad-meet on Carnegie Lake. That day, Tennessee topped the Tigers in one event, as the Orange and White's Second Varsity 8+ brought home a half-length victory.