The No. 1 Tennessee Lady Vols softball team (44-2) won its 19th consecutive game Tuesday afternoon with a 4-1 victory over the visiting Memphis Tigers (23-16).
Senior pitcher Monica Abbott improved her record to 33-1. The 6-foot-3 left-hander struck out 11 batters in four innings of work to bring her within 90 strikeouts of the NCAA Division I record currently held by former Texas pitcher Cat Osterman (2,265). She left the game because of an injury suffered from a misstep that took place as she was heading back onto the field for the fifth inning. Abbott is currently listed as day-to-day with a mild right ankle sprain, according to the Lady Vols’ softball training staff.
Junior pitcher Megan Rhodes entered the fifth inning in relief. She pitched three perfect innings with eight strikeouts to notch her first career save.
“I think this was a typical mid-week game for both teams at this time of the season,” Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “Stepping out of conference play is always difficult, but our pitching today was truly phenomenal with 19 of the 21 outs being recorded by strikeout. We were especially pleased with the performance of Megan Rhodes, who struck out eight of the nine hitters she faced against a tough line-up.”
The run production for the Lady Vols all came in the four-run third inning. Senior left fielder India Chiles started off the frame by singling to left and then advancing to second on a bobble. With one out, senior center fielder Lindsay Schutzler knocked Chiles in to tie the game at one. After stealing her 26th base of the year, Schutzler scored on an RBI single from junior Tonya Callahan. The big blast then came from freshman Tiffany Huff who delivered a two-run home run, her sixth of the season, to make it a 4-1 Lady Vol advantage.
Weekly was pleased with the team’s offensive performance.
“It was nice to see Tiffany Huff get a home run and two RBI, while Lindsay Schutzler and Tonya Callahan continued their offensive production for our team.”
Sophomore Jennifer Griffin returned from her almost month-long suspension to rip a double in her only plate appearance in the sixth inning.
The win for the Lady Vols improves the team’s non-conference regular-season winning streak to 79 games, a streak that started back in March 2005. Also, Tennessee has a 45-0 mark against in-state opponents since Ralph and Karen Weekly arrived prior to the 2002 campaign.
Tennessee was set to take on a doubleheader against Bowling Green Wednesday; however, the games were canceled because of the weather. They will be made up later this month.
The team travels to Lexington, Ky., on Saturday for a doubleheader against the Wildcats at 1 p.m.