Lady Vols Currently Off to Second-Best Start in Program History at 8-0
It’s been an historic week for the Lady Vol softball program.
Tennessee climbed to a highest-ever No. 2 ranking in both national polls, junior shortstop Lindsay Schutzler swept the USA Softball, National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) and Southeastern Conference Player of the Week awards and UT was declared the official winner of last weekend’s Louisville Slugger Desert Classic in Las Vegas, Nev. Now the Orange & White turn their attention to the prestigious NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga., where the Lady Vols will face No. 25/22 Iowa, Florida State and No. 14/16 Louisiana-Lafayette before entering bracket play against a strong field including 11 ranked teams.
UT will be placed in one of three eight-team brackets (Gold, Silver or Bronze) depending on finishing position in its four-team pool.
If the Lady Vols advance to the Gold bracket championship contest on Sunday at 1 p.m., the match-up will be broadcast by Softball Central, a division of Softball Magazine. Fans can access the broadcast, which is scheduled to begin at 12:45 p.m. on Feb. 26, by going to www.softballmag.com. Scott Pinner will be providing the play-by-play with Worth Club K owner Cheri Kempf offering analysis.
Tennessee has never participated in the NFCA Leadoff Classic but does possess a 3-6 all-time mark in Columbus, Ga., having participated in the 1997, 1998 & 1999 SEC Tournaments in the city. UT has played a total of 69 games against teams from the Sun Belt, Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conferences. The Lady Vols are 10-7 versus the Big Ten including an 0-1 mark against this weekend’s foe Iowa and a 1-0 mark in 2006 with last weekend’s 12-3 (5) victory over Purdue in Las Vegas.
The Big Orange are 14-10 against the ACC and will be playing Florida State for the first time in program history at the NFCA event. UT is 24-4 versus the Sun Belt and will be looking to take the lead in an all-time series with UL-Lafayette that is currently tied at 3-3.
Last weekend at the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic, Tennessee swept through their opponents with a perfect 5-0 mark while dominating its foes by a combined score of 49-5.
Three teams that advanced to the 2005 Women’s College World Series highlight the 24-team field that includes 11 teams currently ranked in the USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Poll. Defending national champion Michigan returns to Columbus for the 11th annual event along with fellow WCWS competitors Tennessee and Alabama. In addition to the three squads that advanced to the nation’s final eight teams last year in Oklahoma City, 14 of the field’s competitors earned spots in the NCAA Tournament. Defending SEC champion Georgia ventures back to Columbus after advancing to the NCAA Super Regional where it fell to eventual national runner-up UCLA. Northwestern joins the Bulldogs as the other team in the field (besides the three WCWS contenders) to have advanced to super regional play. Other teams in the field hoping for a return trip to NCAA regional play again in 2006 include Arizona State, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Hofstra, Iowa, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisville, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Seton Hall and Southern Illinois. Florida Atlantic, Illinois State, Illinois and Michigan State round out the 24-team field.
Live stats should be available through Gametracker on utladyvols.com, and periodic updates will be recorded on the Lady Vol Hotline at 865-974-8700 (box #6). More info on the NFCA Leadoff Classic can be obtained at the site www.nfca.org, the official website of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.