Fourth-seeded Tennessee will open action against
fifth-seeded Florida on Thursday at noon
Having registered the best 59-game slate in program history (50-9, 21-9 SEC) during the regular-season and in possession of the nation’s top offensive attack at .358, the No. 5 Tennessee Lady Vols venture into the postseason at the single-elimination Southeastern Conference Tournament over May 11-13 at the UGA Softball Complex in Athens, Ga.
The fourth-seeded Big Orange will open the festivities today in a noon match-up against the fifth-seeded Florida Gators (42-22, 17-13 SEC). All Lady Vol match-ups at the league event will be broadcast live on the Sports Animal (99.1 & 99.3 FM, 990 AM) with play-by-play by the “Voice of the Lady Vols” Mickey Dearstone.
Tennessee maintains a 160-144 record versus the Southeastern Conference all-time but trails the series with Florida by a 24-14 count. UT is 2-1 against the Orange & Blue at neutral sites with victories over the Gators in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 2004, and Columbus, Ga., in 1999. This season Florida downed Tennessee 2-0 and 6-4 in the series’ opening two contests (4/8-4/9) before the Big Orange rebounded to rout UF 8-0 (6) during the Sunday finale. UT is 10-12 all-time in the SEC Tournament and will be making its fourth consecutive trip to the annual league event.
The Lady Vols closed out the regular season by taking two of three contests from No. 11 LSU at Tyson Park last weekend. With an ESPN2 national television audience watching, UT dropped the Bayou Bengals, 4-0, behind a four-hit shutout from Monica Abbott and a huge pinch-hit, three-run home run from sophomore Natalie Brock. Tennessee pounded out 11 hits in a 10-1 (5) rout in the second game as sophomore Shannon Doepking and senior Katherine Card each registered three RBI. LSU rallied to take a 4-0 decision in the finale to secure the No. 3 seed behind Emily Turner’s four-hitter.
The Florida Gators, under the direction of first-year head coach Tim Walton, enter play at this weekend’s Southeastern Conference Tournament on a four-game winning streak having swept the regular-season ending series with South Carolina and downing Stetson, 1-0, on “Senior Day” on Tuesday, May 9. With a 42-22 record, the Orange & Blue are hitting .267 as a team and scoring 4.4 tallies a game, while the pitching staff has allowed the opposition to register a .254 average and 2.9 runs a contest. Senior infielder Stacie Pestrak leads the way with a .325 average (38-of-117) to go along with a home run and 12 RBI. The power has been supplied by senior catcher Kristen Butler (17 HR’s, 52 RBI) and senior outfielder Lindsey Cameron (10 HR’s, 47 RBI). During the three-game series with UT at Tyson Park earlier this season, the Gators exhibited that power by blasting four HR’s, while junior Lauren Roussell posted a pair of dingers. In the circle junior Stacey Stevens (2.40 ERA) has recorded a 20-6 record and 108 K’s in 175.1 innings of work. Freshman Stacey Nelson has worked almost the same amount having recorded a 2.23 ERA, a 13-12 record and 102 K’s in 173 innings. Freshman Lindsay Littlejohn has provided solid support with a 1.72 ERA, a 9-4 record and 54 strikeouts in 81.1 innings. UF has been relatively solid in the field with a fielding percentage of .966 and are a definite threat to steal a base with 75 thefts in 2006.
The fourth-seeded Lady Vols will begin the postseason on Thursday, May 11, against No. 5 seed Florida at the UGA Softball Complex in Athens, Ga., at the annual Southeastern Conference Tournament.