Lady Vols take first game vs. Arizona at WCWS

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – The magical run through the Women's College Women's Series continued Monday for Tennessee as the Lady Vols used a pitching gem from Monica Abbott, solo home runs by junior Shannon Doepking and freshman Alexia Clay and a clutch RBI single from senior India Chiles to defeat Arizona, 3-0.

The Lady Vols took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three WCWS Championship Series at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium and will play again Tuesday at 8 p.m. Eastern (ESPN2).

Tennessee (63-6) has now won 10 of its last 12 matchups against the powerful Pac-10 Conference and boasts a 10-4 record all-time in WCWS play. The Big Orange have taken four of the last five meetings against seven-time national champ Arizona (48-14-1) with all four victories occurring in Oklahoma City since starting the 2005 WCWS.

Another astonishing accomplishment was achieved by Abbott (50-3) in her fourth consecutive shutout at the WCWS as the Salinas, Calif., native crossed the 700-strikeout plateau for a single season. The USA Softball National Player of the Year continued her outstanding efforts in the circle by striking out eight Wildcats in a four-hit shutout to advance her scoreless skein to 33.2 frames dating back to last weekend's NCAA Super Regional finale versus No. 12 Hawai'i.

Abbott now possesses a 4-1 record in five appearances versus Arizona with a 0.60 ERA and 48 Ks in 35 innings pitched.

"I was trying to get a good mix of pitches," Abbott said. "Arizona came out swinging both days. I am sure they will come out tomorrow prepared and looking for a good pitch."

Clay set the tone for Tennessee with her solo shot to centerfield in the second as part of a 2-for-3 effort with an RBI and run scored in her first WCWS start.

"I didn't find out until batting practice before the game," Clay said of her position in the starting lineup. "I was pretty excited to start, but I just tried to focus on my process during batting practice. I was confident. I knew that she was going to throw me something good because we watched film on her for about three hours, and I had seen her in the dugout the game before.

"So I was really confident up there and I was just looking for a good pitch in the strike zone. I had a pretty good feeling it was going out. I was a little concerned when I rounded first and saw Caitlin Lowe reaching for it and it hit her glove, but it felt pretty good off the bat."

Doepking made it 2-0 in the fourth by hammering her sixth big fly of the campaign.

In her first pinch hitting at-bat of the season, Chiles, who was not available to start tonight due to the existing anterior cruciate ligament injury in her right knee, continued her folk-hero-like story by ripping the first pitch she saw to center in the seventh for an RBI to make it 3-0.

"I did want to start but I wasn't too bummed or too disappointed," Chiles said. "I am a team player and like I told the coaches before, whether I am in there or not we are going to play the same. I have total confidence in Lexi (Alexia Clay) when she was going in, or anyone else off the bench who would have taken my spot. I just had a different role. I was in the dugout cheering my heart out and in the huddle saying good stuff. I have a total confidence in my team."

"Karen (Weekly), Marty (McDaniel) and I could not be more proud of the kids for their effort tonight," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "This was a team victory all the way. India Chiles' performance continues to be unbelievable as she plays despite her injury. The thing we all have to remember is that this series is far from over. Arizona is a great team and will be ready to go again tomorrow."

After one of the quickest innings in this year's Women's College World Series as Abbott and Taryne Mowatt roared through the entire first frame in less than 10 minutes, Lady Vol freshman designated player Clay drove a two-out solo home run to deep left-center field in the top of the second for a 1-0 Tennessee advantage.

Arizona center-fielder Caitlin Lowe drifted back to the wall on Clay's drive, collided with the barrier, and actually got her glove on the ball, but the sphere ricocheted off the back of the webbing and over the fence to record the round-tripper.

"It hit my glove," Lowe said. "It hit the back of my glove. I thought I had it and jumped for it and I lost the ball."

The HR marked the third consecutive WCWS that a freshman ripped a homer for the Lady Vol offense after Tonya Callahan's 11th inning blast to down No. 1 Michigan (2-0) in 2005 and Jennifer Griffin's two-run shot in the ninth frame of 2006's 3-1 WCWS victory over No. 9 Arizona State.

UT entered today's action against Arizona with a 52-1 record when plating the matchup's initial tally.

Abbott struck out the Wildcat side in the bottom of the second as third baseman Jenae Leles, catcher Callista Balko and first baseman Laine Roth each went down swinging to push the 6'3 lefthander over the 700-K mark in a single season with 702 in 2007.

The Lady Vols wasted a lead-off walk in the top of the third as sophomore shortstop Liane Horiuchi had drawn a free pass against Mowatt. Arizona answered with a lead-off base runner of its own in the bottom half as designated player Sam Banister ripped a single into leftfield. Left-fielder K'Lee Arredondo dropped a sacrifice bunt up the third base line to move pinch runner Jill Malina into scoring position. Following a strikeout of right-fielder Adrienne Acton for out number two, co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly made the decision to intentionally walk Lowe. Second baseman Chelsie Mesa flied out to retire the side and leave a pair of Wildcats stranded.

Not often lauded for its long ball propensity, Tennessee struck again in the top of the fourth with one down as Doepking blasted a Mowatt offering deep over the leftfield wall to register her sixth HR of the campaign and grant the Orange & White a 2-0 lead.

Leles blooped a one-out single into short rightfield in the bottom of the fourth that just eluded diving second baseman Kenora Posey. Balko was called on by Arizona coach Mike Candrea to drop the sacrifice bunt, but she popped the orb up to Callahan just inside the foul line at first for out number two. Roth went down swinging to become Abbott's sixth K victim.

Following a quiet one-two-three fifth frame for both squads, freshman Tiffany Huff delivered a one-out base knock into rightfield in the top of the sixth. Callahan hit into a 6-4 fielder's choice that cut down the lead runner at second. Doepking came to the dish for the first time following her long HR, but went down swinging to leave UT's third base runner stranded.

UT's Abbott had retired seven Arizona hitters in a row until shortstop Kristie Fox ended that streak with a clean single that dropped in front of Schutzler in centerfield with two down in the bottom of the sixth. Tennessee's four-time All-American pitcher induced a pop-up off the bat of Leles that she squeezed herself just outside the circle to conclude the frame and push the Lady Vols within three outs of a 1-0 championship series lead.

Clay continued to make the most of her first starting opportunity in WCWS play with a base knock deep into the hole at short to christen the top of the seventh. New leftfielder freshman Erinn Webb dropped a sacrifice bunt back to the circle to advance junior pinch runner Caitlin Ryan into scoring position at second. Griffin drew a free pass off Mowatt to place two on with one down for sophomore pinch hitter Danielle Pieroni.

The Madison, Tenn., native checked her swing but struck out for the second out. Schutzler also singled deep into the hole at short to load the bases for Chiles. The Louisville, Ky., native's staggering performance at the WCWS continued as she lifted the first pitch she received from Mowatt into short centerfield for an RBI to score Ryan for a 3-0 lead. Huff went down swinging with the bases juiced but not before Chiles had provided UT with some vital insurance.

Down to their last three outs, Candrea went to the bench and summoned pinch hitter Cyndi Duran to lead off. Duran battled but became Abbott's eighth strikeout victim. Another pinch hitter, Sarah Akamine, grounded out to Griffin at third. That left it to Banister, who had singled off Abbott. The designated player made it 2-of-3 on the night with a small blooper over Horiuchi's head and into short left-center to give the Wildcats life. Arredondo flied out to centerfield, however, to end the contest and grant Tennessee a 1-0 series advantage in the best-of-three event.

"I think we have a tough group of girls," Fox said. "We are all very competitive. We are never going to just lie down and give it to anyone. We know that this could be our last game and that is what we knew earlier this week. We are going to do everything we can to not make it that way. I think we have a tough group of girls that wants it."

Abbott said, "I am confident in my team and what they are bringing to the plate. No matter what, I have to go out there and take care of business and they will have my back and I have theirs."


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