KNOXVILLE, TEN. – The University of Arkansas softball team dropped the first two games of the Southeastern Conference series against top-ranked Tennessee Saturday at Tyson Park in Knoxville, Tenn.
The Lady Razorbacks (12-27, 0-7 SEC) lost 4-0 and 1-0 as the Lady Vols improved to 32-2 overall and 10-2 in the conference.
Arkansas was shut out by the tough pitching combination of Monica Abbot and Megan Rhodes. Abbott and Rhodes combined for 30 strikeouts in the doubleheader and held the Lady’Backs to just four hits. Abbott picked up both wins improving her record to 25-1.
Sophomore Whitney Cloer was the leading hitter for Arkansas with two hits, a single and a double. Senior Rachel LeMaster and junior Samantha Buckner each had a base hit as well.
“Defensively we played well, but we didn’t make a couple plays we needed,” said head coach Jamie Pinkerton. “We’ve played the top four teams in the country now and we can’t make little mistakes against those teams. Offensively we just didn’t do a good job. If we’re not able to put the ball in play, we’re not going to win. We’ve had trouble with contact all year and I knew it was going to be a tough day facing a pitcher like Monica Abbott.”
In game one, Tennessee got out to an early 1-0 lead after the first inning. Kenora Posey singled to left center and then stole second base before Tonya Callahan singled up the middle on two outs, scoring Posey from second.
Arkansas threatened in the second inning as Cloer singled to center field and moved into scoring position by stealing second. Abbott, however, struck out every other batter in the inning.
The Lady Vols added another run in the fourth inning for a 2-0 lead after Liane Horiuchi singled, stole second base, advanced to third after the throw from Cloer got into center field, and then scored on a single by India Chiles.
Cloer got into scoring position again in the fifth inning after ripping a change-up down the left field line for a double. She attempted to steal third and advanced on a dropped ball on the throw down to third base. Three other strikeouts in the inning again left Cloer stranded.
In the sixth inning, Tennessee padded their lead to 4-0 with two more runs. Lindsay Schutzler hit an in-the-park home run to left center on a ball that was just off the glove of a diving Jessica Bachkora. After the ball bounced off of Bachkora’s glove, it went rolling back to the fence in left field where Jocelyne Moncrief chased after it, but the speedy Schutlzer was already crossing home plate before the ball got back into the infield. Chiles also scored on the play.
Dixon picked up the loss in the circle, pitching a complete game. Abbott earned the win, striking out 16, and recording her 15th shutout of the season.
Game two was a pitcher’s duel, remaining scoreless through five and a half innings of play before the Lady Vols muscled one run across the plate. Posey led off the inning with an infield single followed by Chiles who singled through the left side. The runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Horiuchi before Schutzler hit a sacrifice fly to left field that scored Posey from third.
The Lady’Backs had a runner in scoring position just once in game two, coming after a lead-off third-inning single by Buckner. Sophomore Brandy Baze advanced Dara Clark, who pinch ran for Buckner, to second on a sacrifice bunt, but tremendous pitching and defense by Tennessee kept Clark on second.
Junior pitcher Katy Henry picked up the loss in the second game, pitching a complete game and giving up just one run on five hits. Henry also struck out four and walked one.
“The pitching was there today,” said Pinkerton. “Miranda and Katy came out and threw well.”
Abbott relieved Rhodes on the mound in the sixth inning and earned the win. Rhodes allowed one hit and fanned 10, while Abbott allowed no hits and struck out four in two innings of work.
“I thought our players did a good job, they were just better than us today,” Pinkerton said. “I just hope the kids come out and have fun tomorrow. Players like Abbott don’t come along very often and number seven might be the best that’s ever played the game. They have one more crack at her and I want them to let it all hang out. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Arkansas returns to action tomorrow at noon to finish the three-game series with Tennessee.
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