Tennessee entered Sunday’s game without a home run in the Women’s College World Series. Katherine Card changed that in the bottom of the fifth inning as her leadoff home run combined with a Monica Abbott two-hit shutout for a 1-0 win over Arizona that forced an “if necessary” game for the right to advance to the national championship series.
The two teams will battle again at 6 p.m. to determine who will face the winner of Northwestern and UCLA in the best-of-three championship series which gets underway Monday.
The win puts Tennessee in familiar territory as the 2005 contingent forced Michigan to the “if necessary” game on Tonya Callahan’s game-winning home run. The Lady Vols dropped the second game between the two teams as the Wolverines went on to knock off UCLA for the national title.
The contest also mirrored last year’s opening-round game between the two teams. Tennessee won that game 1-0 and it was Card who had the game-winning hit in that contest.
“I’m really proud of the way our kids played and fought today,” UT co-head coach Karen Weekly said. “Monica (Abbott) did an excellent job answering every challenge. We call Katherine (Card) ‘Miss Postseason’ because she always finds a way to come up with that big hit. We are expecting another tough battle tonight.”
Card, who has a knack for clutch hitting in the postseason, sent the first pitch she saw from Alicia Hollowell deep to left center. Caitlin Lowe gave chase and, despite a tremendous effort that saw her dive over the fence, was unable to come up with the catch as Card netted her seventh home run of the season.
“I knew that this game could be my last,” Card said. “I just wanted to go out and have fun and really end it well. Our team played well behind Monica and got the job done. Now we have the opportunity to play another game.”
Hollowell (29-5) suffered the loss as she hurled six innings and allowed the home run on three hits with six strikeouts. Abbott moved to 44-9 with the win as she gave up two hits and struck out seven in the complete-game effort.
Arizona had a chance to take the lead in the third. With one out, Adrienne Acton reached on one of three Tennessee errors and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Lowe. Abbott, however, got Autumn Champion to ground out to shortstop to end the threat.
“It was a tough game today,” UA head coach Mike Candrea said. “Alicia threw very well today, but we were slow figuring out the offense. I would like to see a replay of that last play. We can’t over-analyze; they got the run and we didn’t. I told the players that I want to see more energy, and I want them to play with a sense of urgency.”
Down to its final two outs in the seventh, a pair of Lindsay Schutzler errors put runners on first and third with two outs. Lowe hit a bouncer to Schutzler that just beat Lowe to first base for the final out of the game.