The Lady Vols couldn’t stand the thought of another run — much less another loss.
Tennessee ended its three-game losing streak in extreme fashion, shutting out seven consecutive opponents to win the Charleston Southern Tournament championship Sunday in Summerville, S.C.
The fifth-ranked Lady Vols (23-3) took down Villanova 4-0 in the championship game Sunday afternoon for their seventh straight victory. UT outscored its opponents 66-1 over the course of the three-day tournament despite suffering a 1-0 loss to Providence in its opening game Friday.
“It’s a tremendous accomplishment for our team to win seven straight games at the Charleston Southern Tournament, all by shutouts, to win the title,” Lady Vols co-coach Ralph Weekly said. “Every single player on this team contributed to this championship. It was a total team effort in every sense of the word.”
In the championship game, Tennessee sophomore pitcher Monica Abbott recorded a one-hit shutout, walking two and registering 11 strikeouts for her 45th career double-digit strikeout performance. Abbott won all three games on Sunday to improve to 15-1 on the season.
Third baseman Kristi Durant hit her third home run of the season in the third inning of the championship game to give the Lady Vols the only run support they would need. Tennessee added a run in the fourth and two more in the fifth.
It was the last of three wins for the Lady Vols on Sunday, which started with an 8-0, five-inning win over Longwood. UT won the quarterfinal game over the Lancers with nine hits as sophomore shortstop Lindsay Schutzler and Durant each registered two hits and an RBI.
Tennessee topped College of Charleston behind a 15-strikeout performance from Abbott in the semifinals. Tonya Callahan had a two-run single and juniors Stacey Jennings and Katherine Card added RBIs to register the victory.
Racking up 38 runs in three games, UT dominated play Saturday with wins over Morehead State, Furman and North Carolina A&T.
The Lady Vols scored their most runs in a game in three years in the 19-0 win over North Carolina A&T, the last-place team in Pool B.
In the win, Megan Rhodes fired her second-career no-hitter and Tennessee’s fifth of the season.
“We came out really hot at the plate and were able to sub liberally in the first inning,” Weekly said. “A lot of our young players had a chance to see valuable action against North Carolina A&T.”
In Friday’s opening loss for UT, Providence used a fourth-inning solo home run from right fielder Rachel Bartholomew against Abbott to complete the upset. It was Tennessee’s third straight loss after losing to top-ranked Cal and Notre Dame last weekend.
“Providence pitcher Nicole Bartholomew threw a great game against us,” Weekly said. “We just did not come out ready to play (Friday). Providence was extremely fired up to play Tennessee, and they showed it.”
Tennessee had a chance to tie the contest in the bottom of the sixth as Sarah Fekete led off with a bunt single and advanced to second on a sacrifice by Durant. But freshman catcher Shannon Doepking grounded out to first and Providence first baseman Jaclyn Treveloni gunned down Fekete at third for the final out of the inning.
The Lady Vols return to action for their home opener Tuesday at Tyson Park, with Austin Peay visiting for a 4 p.m. doubleheader.