Monica Abbott threw the second no-hitter in three games at the Women’s College World Series as Tennessee knocked off Texas A&M 2-0 Thursday evening at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
Not to overlook Abbott’s no-hitter, but the biggest story of the game was India Chiles’ lone hit of the game that produced what proved to be the game-winning run. Chiles missed the NCAA Super Regional match-up and was questionable for this week with a torn ACL.
The win pushed the Lady Vols (60-6) into a match-up with either Baylor or Arizona Friday night at 8 p.m. CDT. Texas A&M (46-13) faces the loser of that contest Saturday at 1 p.m. CDT.
“I thought this was a really well fought game. This was a game where both teams wanted it really bad,” UT co-head coach Karen Weekly said. “Texas A&M was a tough, tough opponent. Amanda Scarborough was more than we wanted and I thought she was really outstanding. We said in our postgame afterwards that it was just a matter of one team was going to blink first, and hopefully it wouldn’t be us. I was proud of the way our kids battled and the way Monica (Abbott) settled down after those first couple of innings and worked her way through tough situations. We kept fighting, and that is what we kept talking about in the dugout, was to keep battling and battle every pitch and put the ball in play.”
Abbott (47-3) struck out 15 hitters, giving her 665 for the season, a number that eclipses the previous NCAA best held by former Southern Mississippi hurler Courtney Blades in 2000. The Salinas, Calif., native adds the record to her already-impressive resume that includes the NCAA career marks for strikeouts and wins.
Abbott’s no-hitter marks the third time in series history that two no-hitters have been tossed on the same day of the tournament.
Texas A&M hurler Amanda Scarborough pitched very well also, suffering the loss to fall to 26-9 after allowing both runs on 11 hits despite tying her career high with 12 strikeouts.
“I thought Amanda (Scarborough) threw very, very well. She did a great job getting some big strikeouts to get out of some tough jams, and she did a great job on their big hitters,” Aggie’ head coach Jo Evans said. “I saw some good things out of our team. We came here with a lot of fight, and right now we are a fired-up team ready to play the next game and win a ball game. We are not feeling discouraged. Obviously it’s tough against a pitcher like Monica (Abbott) and a team like Tennessee. The difference in the game was that they were able to put the ball in play. They didn’t hit the ball hard, but they found holes there in key situations to get a couple of runs across in the seventh.”
The combined 28 strikeouts for Abbott and Scarborough established a new WCWS record for combined strikeouts in a game, surpassing the previous mark of 27 set by Michigan and Texas in 2005 and Texas and Arizona State last season.
Both pitchers held their opponent’s offense in check until the top of the seventh, when Tennessee broke through with the deciding runs.
Kenora Posey led off with bunt single, and moved into scoring position when she swiped her second base of the game. She moved to third as Lindsay Schutzler, who went 2-for-4 in the game, grounded out to second base.
Chiles plated Posey with the game’s first run as she looped a single over the left side of the Aggie infield. Chiles’ hit proved to be the spark for the Lady Vols as they followed with three straight singles. Following base hits from Tiffany Huff and Tonya Callahan, Shannon Doepking capped her 2-for-4 day with a single up the middle that scored Lillian Hammond, who pinch-ran for Chiles.
“In my other two at-bats I just wasn’t being smart and I didn’t make adjustments,” Chiles said. “ My teammates picked me up and kept me positive between that at-bat and the one where I got the hit. I just really evaluated my performance. The slogan on the team is ‘never say die.’ You always want to be up with the game on the line. My teammates told me to not worry about it and that I was going to get the game-winning hit. I embraced that opportunity and made that adjustment and stuck with the pitch.”
Until the heroics in the seventh for UT, both teams tried to break-through but were unable to thanks to the stellar pitching of Scarborough and Abbott.
The Aggies looked to take the lead in the first thanks to control issues from the Tennessee hurler. Abbott walked the first two hitters she faced, and with one out, loaded the bases. She worked out of the jam, however, when she got Jami Lobpries to ground into a fielder’s choice and struck out Alex Reynolds.
“In the first inning I think I forgot to breathe,” Abbott said. “When you forget to breathe you tend to tense up. It ended up affecting my pitches because they were all going a little high. I just settled down and all my teammates told me to calm down and take a deep breath, and to bear down and focus and get out of the inning.”
Following that initial threat, A&M only advanced one runner to second base as Abbott retired 20 of the last 21 she faced. Tennessee, meanwhile, put runners in scoring position in the next four innings before the deciding seventh.
UT put a runner at second in the second inning, but Scarborough got a strikeout to end the threat. She encountered more trouble in the third as UT put runners at first and second with no outs. The Aggie all-American, however, struck out Chiles and Huff, and following a walk to Callahan, retired Doepking on strikes to silence the threat.