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Abbott Inches Closer to NCAA History in No. 1 Tennessee's 4-0 Win over Liberty
With the combined 25 strikeouts in the doubleheader (12 in five innings work of the first game), Abbott surpassed the 2,100 career strikeout mark, moving her within 153 strikeouts of becoming the NCAA's all-time career leader in the statistical category. Texas hurler Cat Osterman is the current NCAA all-time leader with 2,265 career K's.
The pair of losses drops the Lady Flames' record to 15-14 on the year. The doubleheader brings to a close the most daunting stretch of games in school history as 10 out of Liberty's last 14 opponents have been ranked inside the nation's Top 25. Liberty posted a 6-8 record during the brutal run, including wins over No. 6 Michigan (2-0), No. 10 Baylor (4-0) and No. 23 Hawaii (4-3).
"I think Liberty is the real deal," statement Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly after the doubleheader. "They hit Monica (Abbott) harder than anyone has this year. Their first four hitters are as good as anyone we have faced this season. They are well coached and very disciplined."
The Lady Vols (35-2) jumped out to a two-run lead in the bottom of the first inning, plating a pair of runs on two hits.
India Chiles reached base on an infield single to shortstop. After advancing to second on a stolen base, Chiles scored on a RBI base hit up the middle by Lindsay Schutzler.
The speedy Schutzler advanced from first to third on a groundout by Tonya Callahan and crossed the plate on a wild pitch by starter Sarah Ellis, giving Tennessee a 2-0 lead.
The score remained the same until the bottom of the sixth inning where Tennessee, last year's third-place team at the NCAA College World Series, scored two insurances run on three hits in the frame.
Back-to-back doubles by Schutzler and Tonya Callahan gave Tennessee its first run of the frame, while Liberty was unable to turn an inning-ending double play on a bases loaded ground ball to third as the fielder's choice by pinch hitter Anita Manuma scored pinch runner Caitlin Ryan for the Lady Vols' final run of the game.
Once again the Lady Flames mustered five hits in the contest, this time all coming off of Monica Abbott. Liberty posed its best threat to score in the top of the sixth when back-to-back walks to Jessica Moore and Ashley Williams loaded the bases, but Abbott fanned Beth Bennett to end the challenge.
Senior Beth Hensley led the Lady Flames from the plate as the right fielder was 2-for-3 in the contest, with Dawn Jeffs (1-for-3), Jessica Moore (1-for-1) and Courtney Johnson (1-for-3) recording the team's other three hits.
Abbott recorded her 18th complete-game shutout victory of the year, scattering five hits and striking out 13 batters to up her record to 28-1 on the year.
Ellis was the tough-luck loser as the sophomore allowed four runs on nine hits, striking out three batters and walking one to fall to 6-5 on the year.
After playing their first 29 games away from Liberty University's campus, the Lady Flames return to Lynchburg for their first home game of the year when they host in-state opponent Norfolk State in their 2007 home opener on Wednesday. First pitch of the non-conference doubleheader is scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Liberty Softball Field.