A two-out error by Chelsie Mesa in the sixth inning plated the winning run as Monica Abbott hurled a six-hit shutout to lead Tennessee to a 1-0 win over defending national champion Arizona Friday night at the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
Abbott struck out 16 for the second straight game and moved to 48-3 on the year as UT (61-6) advances to face either Texas A&M, Baylor or Northwestern Sunday at 2 p.m. CDT. The Wildcats (45-13-1) face the winner of the DePaul-Arizona State match-up Saturday at 6 p.m. CDT.
Having Saturday off is unfamiliar territory to the Lady Vols, as they lost the second-round match-up the previous two years.
“We’re just happy to have the day off. We have not been in this position before," Tennessee co-head coach Karen Weekly said. "This is the first time. The first two years we lost this game and had to come back and play the next day. We talked last night about how important it was to win this game to have that day off, and be able to come into Sunday having to win one game.”
Arizona starter Taryne Mowatt also had another stellar showing in the circle, dropping to 37-11 as she allowed the unearned run on two hits with 10 strikeouts.
In a game that went into the early a.m. hours of Saturday, the deciding run came as a two-out ground ball from Tiffany Huff on an 0-2 pitch bounced away from Mesa and allowed Lindsay Schutzler to score.
“I think we just pulled together in our huddle. We have worked hard on having good huddles. We told each other that Monica (Abbott) is pitching an awesome game and we had a good spot in our lineup coming up and wanted to make something happen," Schutzler said. "The bats had not been great all game, so we just pulled together and said ‘Look, we just need to relax, have fun, focus and get this done.’”
The Lady Vols had a chance earlier in the inning to break the scoreless streak. Liane Horiuchi led off the frame with a walk, and two batters later, Schutzler drew a walk of her own.
India Chiles, who is playing this week with a torn ACL, grounded a ball up the middle for her second hit in three at-bats in the game. Horiuchi attempted to score, but Caitlin Lowe delivered a perfect throw to the plate and catcher Callista Balko applied the tag after blocking the plate from the sliding Horiuchi.
Arizona had its chance to jump on top in the third inning. K’Lee Arredondo led off with a single and stole second. Following an Adrienne Acton strikeout, Lowe singled to put runners at the corner with one out. Abbott worked out of the jam, however, striking out Mesa and then Jenae Leles after intentionally walking Kristie Fox, the hero of last night’s game.
“I just stuck with the game plan," Abbott said. "The coaches decided to intentionally walk some batters, so I just had to trust them and go with what they were going for. I had to stick to my game plan and throw my pitches. I knew I had a great defense behind me and that we would get it done.”
The Wildcats threatened again in the sixth. Fox and Leles delivered back-to-back singles with one out, but following an intentional pass to Balko, Abbott got Laine Roth to pop out to second base and then struck out Sam Banister.
On its last attempt to tie the game, UA got a single and stolen base from Acton, but Abbott came up big again, getting Lowe to line out and striking out Mesa for the third time in the contest to seal the victory.