Card delivers key RBI in UT’s first softball SEC Tournament championship
Add another league title to the Lady Vol trophy case as the No. 5 Tennessee softball team (53-9) downed No. 11 LSU (51-12), 3-0, at the UGA Softball Stadium in Athens, Ga., to pick up the program’s first SEC Tournament Championship.
The victory made UT a staggering 22-0 in neutral site contests in 2006.
Junior Monica Abbott (37-7) hurled a five-hit shutout with six strikeouts to control a dangerous Tiger line-up from the circle, while senior right fielder Katherine Card delivered a clutch two-RBI single in the sixth to grant the Lady Vols all the runs they would need for their first SEC title.
Sophomore pinch hitter Natalie Brock drove in a key sixth-inning RBI with a base knock
up the middle to plate the contest’s final run. Freshman second baseman Liane Horiuchi had a solid day at the plate by going 2-of-2 with a run scored and was also struck by a pitch.
“It was a great championship game,” said Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly.
“LSU played us extremely tough today and was very competitive. We met with our team last night and made some offensive adjustments that paid off really well today.”
Weekly added that he, along with co-head coach Karen Weekly, are proud of the way different players are stepping up in the postseason. Particularly the ones who have stood out in postseasons past.
“It was only fitting that Katherine Card, who had big hits at Stanford and against Arizona in the Women’s College World Series last year, got the game-winning RBI,” Weekly noted. “We were very proud of Natalie Brock who came off the bench with a key hit and RBI. Monica Abbott was superb the entire tournament. Her ball was breaking and her change-up was working well. When she throws like she threw today, she will be tough against anyone.”
A spotty rain shower that suddenly erupted over the UGA Softball Stadium during the bottom of the second inning seemed to have little effect on the Lady Vols in the field. Despite allowing a two-out single to Delahoussaye, Abbott struck out one and relied on her solid defense behind her to retire LSU hitters by fly ball and groundout to bring up the Big Orange bidding for that elusive and important first run on the scoreboard.
After playing a role in a solid defensive play in the field, Lindsey Schutzler got an attack started with her bat in the top of the sixth as the Monterey, Calif., native ripped a hard shot to deep short for a lead-off hit. Callahan sacrificed the runner into scoring position and then sophomore left fielder Kenora Posey blooped a base knock over a drawn-in infield into short left center to join Schutzler on the basepaths with runners at first and second.
Horiuchi loaded the bags with one out after being struck by her team-best 17th pitch of the campaign. That brought up the senior Card to face Turner after going 0-for-2 in her first two at-bats of the day.
Her reputation has long been as a tremendous clutch hitter in the postseason, and she came through once again with a crucial two-RBI single into left field to grant the Lady
Vols a 2-0 advantage.
To that point this season, Tennessee was 45-2 when plating the game’s initial tally. That hit by Card set the tone as pinch hitter Natalie Brock drove a Turner offering up the middle for an RBI to make it 3-0 Tennessee.
With one of the coveted 64-team NCAA Tournament slots wrapped up after the conference tournament title, the Lady Vols were prepared to learn their tournament destination when the field was announced on Sunday. The 16 regional winners from May 19-21 will advance to Super Regionals (May 26-27), with the eight super regional winnersadvancing to the annual Women’s College World Series (June 1-7) held in Oklahoma City, Okla.