For the second-straight year, the No. 5 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team came up just a single victory short of playing in the Women’s College World Series best-of-three national championship round after suffering a 6-0 defeat to No. 3 Arizona on Sunday in Oklahoma City.
The season concluded for Tennessee (61-12) with another third-place national finish at the WCWS, the second most victories in UT history and tops in NCAA Division I (61), the fewest defeats in a single season (12) and the highest winning percentage in program history (.836).
“I told our kids after the game that I was extremely proud of them,” Lady Vol coach Ralph Weekly said. “I didn’t want them to hold on to today’s game. What I want them to dwell on is their Southeastern Conference Tournament championship, their NCAA Regional and Super Regional championships.”
Seniors Sarah Fekete, Katherine Card and Kristi Durant conclude their careers having helped bring the Tennessee softball program into national prominence. The trio helped guide their team to a 228-68 overall mark from 2003-06, two consecutive Women’s College World Series berths, two-straight NCAA Regional and Super Regional titles and the first SEC Tournament Championship in UT history.
“I don’t know what happened today. I just know our kids were trying, and it seemed like everything we tried to do back-fired on us,” Weekly said. “I’ll add to that tremendous credit to the University of Arizona. They came out like the Arizona teams
The decisive contest got off to an inauspicious beginning as the first offering of the match-up from Monica Abbott was ripped into left field by Arizona lead-off hitter Caitlin Lowe. A ground ball by left fielder Autumn Champion was fielded cleanly by shortstop Lindsay Schutzler, but her throw to second was dropped for a crucial error to bestow the Wildcats first and second with no one out.
Third baseman Jenae Leles wouldn’t allow Tennessee to get out of the inning with no damage as she ripped a single up the middle to score a pair to grant Arizona a 2-0 advantage.
The Lady Vols offense was going nowhere as Arizona’s All-American pitcher was on cruise control having retired six-up and six-down through the opening two frames with five strikeouts.
Fekete got a two-out infield hit in the bottom of the sixth to raise her overall batting average back to .500 (110-of-220) for the campaign. She was left standing on first as Hollowell struck out the UT side for the second time in the contest.
After Abbott retired the Wildcats in order in the top of the seventh, Schutzler led off UT’s last chance effort by reaching on an error by Leles. Tonya Callahan went down looking on strikes for Hollowell’s 14th strikeout of the match-up. Durant grounded out to short to advance the runner up 60 feet, but Card closed it out by grounding routinely to second.