Lady Vols win WCWS opener, 2-0

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Monica Abbott broke the single-season strikeout record and India Chiles broke a scoreless tie to secure Tennessee's opening game win, 2-0, over Texas A&M on Thursday in the Women's College World Series. The Lady Vols will next play Arizona on Friday night.

India Chiles hadn't played since May 19 when she tore the ACL in her right knee against North Carolina in the Knoxville Regional. Chiles missed the Super Regional but began extensive rehabilitation in the hopes that she could play in some capacity if Tennessee were to make it the Oklahoma City. She did more than just play. She knocked in the Lady Vols' first – and go-ahead – run on a two-strike pitch that she reached out for and lofted just over the third baseman's head to score Kenora Posey.

"I don't really know what is going on with my body as to why I am not having more pain with it," Chiles said. "I have been honest with the coaches and the doctor and the trainer. I feel normal out there, and I don't think about it when I play. I didn't feel like I was jeopardizing anything with my knee. When you think about it is when you get hurt. I could do everything I could before, so why not play?"

Chiles led the SEC in hitting at .466 and is a key senior leader for the Lady Vols. Her return was expected to boost her teammates emotionally, but her seventh-inning hit also assured that they could avoid the physical toll of the loser's bracket to start out.

"It is a lot of motivation, and she is a big inspiration for our whole team," junior second baseman Kenora Posey said. "I don't think I could have been able to go through half of the things that she has gone through with her arm (shoulder injury from earlier this season) and her leg. I am glad she is on my team and it is exciting to have her out there with us."

Tennessee (60-6) will play at 9 p.m. Eastern on Friday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2/HD. Top seed Arizona won its opener, 2-1, against Baylor on a walk-off home run in the ninth inning.

Tennessee got off to a shaky start Thursday when Monica Abbott walked three batters in the first inning, but she managed to get out of the bases-loaded jam without surrendering a run.

"In the first inning I think I forgot to breathe," Abbott said. "When you forget to breathe you tend to tense up. It ended up affecting my pitches because they were all going a little high. I just settled down, and all my teammates told me to calm down and take a deep breath, and to bear down and focus and get out of the inning."

It ended up being a record-setting night as UT outlasted Texas A&M (46-13), and Abbott (47-3) struck out 16 to break the NCAA single-season strikeout record (665 Ks) and threw her third career postseason and 23rd overall no-hitter.

The Big Orange also broke the WCWS single-game record for stolen bases by swiping five with two steals each by senior centerfielder Lindsay Schutzler and Posey, a junior second baseman, and one from freshman leftfielder Erinn Webb. Tennessee reached the 60-win plateau for the third consecutive season after posting 67-15 and 61-12 records in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

Abbott also posted her NCAA-record 109th career shutout and broke the NCAA single-season record of 663 strikeouts set by former Southern Miss hurler Courtney Blades in 2000.

"I thought this was a really hard-fought game," Lady Vol co-head coach Karen Weekly said. "This was a game where both teams wanted it really bad. Texas A&M was a tough, tough opponent. (Pitcher) Amanda Scarborough was more than we wanted, and I thought she was really outstanding. We said in our post-game afterwards that it was just a matter of one team blinking first, and hopefully it wouldn't be us.

"I was proud of the way our kids battled and the way Monica settled down after those first couple of innings and worked her way through tough situations. We kept fighting, and that is what we kept talking about in the dugout, was to keep battling, battle every pitch and put the ball in play."

After a quiet top of the first for the Lady Vols, Abbott permitted a four-pitch lead-off walk to speedy Texas A&M centerfielder Sharonda McDonald, and her school record 163 stolen bases, to christen the bottom half. Third baseman Jamie Hinshaw worked the count to 3-2 against the 6'3 hurler before also drawing a free pass to place two Aggies on base with none retired. First baseman Megan Gibson worked the count full, as UT's pitcher was struggling mightily to find the strike zone, before she was retired swinging for the first out.

Aggie pitcher Amanda Scarborough became the third player to walk in the opening frame to load the bases. Abbott entered Thursday's contest having walked three batters in a game just four times in 2007. Leftfielder Jami Lobpries hit a ground ball back to the circle that Abbott corralled before throwing to home for the force for the second out. Designated player Alex Reynolds fell behind 0-2, rallied to 2-2 and then went down swinging as Abbott escaped with no damage. Unofficially, Abbott threw 30 pitches in the first inning with 20 balls and 10 strikes.

With one down in the top of the second, Shannon Doepking became the Lady Vols' initial base runner by ripping a hard single up the middle off Scarborough. Following a K by freshman Erinn Webb for the second out of the frame, Anita Manuma came through with a base knock to short centerfield to advance Doepking up 60 feet into scoring position. Shortstop Liane Horiuchi fell behind 0-2 before being hit on the knee by a Scarborough pitch.

The Wahiawa, Hawai'i, native was summoned back to the plate, however, because the home plate umpire believed she didn't make enough of an effort to get out of the way of the sphere. When Horiuchi stepped back into the batter's box, she struck out to retire the side and strand two on the base paths.

Texas A&M shortstop Macie Morrow got ahead of Abbott 3-1 to begin the bottom of the second, but the Salinas, Calif., native rebounded to punch her out. That seemed to settle down the four-time All-American pitcher as she roared through second baseman Joy Davis and rightfielder Lisa Gorzycki to strike out the side for the 112th time this year and up her game count to five Ks through two innings of work.

But neither team could break through on the scoreboard.

The pitcher's duel continued through the fourth inning as Texas A&M's Scarborough struck out the UT side with Webb, Manuma and Horiuchi all being retired on strikes. Scarborough walked to open the bottom of the fourth for the Aggies, eventually moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, but became A&M's fourth stranded base runner as Morrow went down swinging to register Abbott's ninth strikeout.

Schutzler ripped her second hit of the day into rightfield with one down in the top of the fifth. he Monterey Calif., native immediately took off for second and stole her 39th bag of the year and second of the contest to reach scoring position. Unfortunately for the Big Orange, she was left right there as Chiles and Tiffany Huff were K'ed to grant Scarborough 11 strikeouts through five innings.

Abbott answered in the bottom of the fifth by striking out Davis, Gorzycki and MacDonald to make it 12 Ks for the game.

In the top of the sixth, Webb singled into rightfield with two down and swiped second base to improve to 4-for-4 on steals in 2007. Manuma bounced a ball up the third base line that looked as if it would kick foul. A charging Morrow at third attempted and failed to make the grab permitting the Ewa Beach, Hawai'i, native to reach via single with Webb racing into third. Freshman pinch hitter Alexia Clay was brought in to face Scarborough and grounded sharply back to the circle. A&M's hurler handled the play easily but threw low to first base forcing Gibson to dig the throw out of the dirt to retire the side and prevent Tennessee from scoring the matchup's first tally.

Entering the seventh inning with the game still scoreless, Posey grounded a ball about 10 feet up the third base line for an important leadoff base hit. The Los Angele , Calif., native swiped second to record the fifth team steal of the contest establishing a new single-game WCWS record.

An important groundout by Schutzler to the right side of the infield moved the runner up 60 feet to third and brought Chiles to the plate in the crucial situation. She came through with a two-strike single into short leftfield that dropped near the line to score Posey for a 1-0 lead. Huff and Tonya Callahan followed with base hits to load the bags with one down as the Lady Vols finally began to get to Scarborough.

Easily Tennessee's most clutch hitter throughout this year, Doepking stepped in with the bags juiced and ripped a base knock into left-center to plate another tally as the Lady Vols nabbed a 2-0 advantage. Webb lined a ball that third baseman Hinshaw managed to just corral on the fly as it traveled over her head for out number two. Manuma struck out swinging to end the frame, but not before UT had tallied two runs on five hits.

Pitching with the lead for the first time all evening, Abbott gave Texas A&M no chance to rally in the bottom of the seventh by forcing Lobpries to pop out to second base before striking out both Reynolds and Morrow to end the game.

In Chiles' previous at-bats she had grounded out and struck out. But the coaching staff stayed with her, and it paid off in the seventh inning.

"In my other two at-bats I just wasn't being smart, and I didn't make adjustments," Chiles said. "My teammates picked me up and kept me positive between that at-bat and the one where I got the hit. I just really evaluated my performance.

"The slogan on the team is, ‘Never say die.' You always want to be up with the game on the line. My teammates told me to not worry about it and that I was going to get the game-winning hit. I embraced that opportunity and made that adjustment and stuck with the pitch."

GAME NOTES: Thursday marked just the third time in Women's College World Series history that two no-hitters were thrown on the same day. Washington's Danielle Lawrie threw a no-no in the opening game, 3-1 victory against DePaul. The last time it happened was in 1995 when Louisiana-Lafayette's Cheryl Longaway no-hit Michigan before the Ragin' Cajuns themselves were blanked later in the day by UCLA's Tanya Harding. It also happened in 1982. … In addition to the single-season strikeouts record, Monica Abbott also holds NCAA career marks for wins (186), strikeouts (2,381) and shutouts (109). … Monica Abbott and Texas A&M's Amanda Scarborough combined to strike out 28 batters, setting a WCWS record for combined Ks in a seven-inning game. The old mark of 27 was set by Michigan and Texas in 2005 and Texas and Arizona State in 2006. … Tennessee's five stolen bases broke the WCWS record for steals in a game by one team. Four teams had recorded four steals, most recently Arizona against Texas in 2006. … UT improved to 50-1 on the season when scoring first. The Lady Vols scored two runs in the top of the seventh. … Thursday marked just the second meeting between Tennessee and Texas A&M. The Lady Vols won the teams' only previous meeting in 1997.

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