Lady Vols’ Abbott overwhelms UH
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. » Hawaii needs its bats to come alive today if the Rainbow Wahine softball team is to advance out of the Super Regional in Knoxville, Tenn.
Hawaii vs. Tennessee
When: Today, 10 a.m., and 12:30 p.m., if necessary
TV: OC 16
Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
Tennessee All-American pitcher Monica Abbott no-hit the Wahine yesterday as the Volunteers secured a 9-0 victory that ended in the fifth inning due to the mercy rule. Abbott struck out 10 UH batters and allowed only two baserunners via walks.
The second game is set for 10 a.m. Hawaii time. If UH wins, then the third and deciding contest is set for approximately 12:30 p.m. for the right to go to the NCAA Women's College World Series next week.
The University of Hawaii softball team waited 22 years for its first trip to the NCAA Super Regionals.
The Wahine will most likely want to forget their first game as soon as possible, and will have to rebound quickly this morning if they want their Super Regional experience to last longer than 24 hours.
No. 1 Tennessee drubbed Hawaii 9-0 at Tyson Park last night with the aid of a mercy-rule-shortened, 5-inning no-hitter by All-American Monica Abbott.
If they want their season to continue past today, Bob Coolen's squad will have to find a way to solve Abbott, who was dominant in striking out 10 and allowing just two baserunners on walks.
"The score says it all," Coolen said. "We just didn't hit our stride. We couldn't solve the riddle on the mound."
Hawaii (49-12) and Tennessee (58-5) play again at 10 a.m. Hawaii time, and if the Rainbow Wahine win, the teams play a decisive third game following that for the right to go to the NCAA Women's College World Series.
Tennessee is looking to make its third trip to Oklahoma City in as many years, although the Lady Vols are still searching for their first softball title.
"Hat's off to my team. Tonight was a good night for the Lady Vols," UT coach Ralph Weekly said. "But this series is certainly not over."
Abbott pitched her second career gem against Hawaii (the other was a perfect game in Hawaii her freshman season) and will step into the pitcher's circle once more today to try to end the Wahine's season.
"Hawaii is a good team, they're offensively strong," Abbott said. "I just had to throw my pitches and throw my game."
Abbott quickly credited her teammates for offensive support, as Tennessee put the game away with a four-run burst in the second inning -- thanks in part to some shoddy fielding by the Wahine.
With the Lady Vols already up 1-0, and with one out in the second, Hawaii third baseman Clare Warwick committed her second error of the game -- not fielding a ball cleanly -- and two batters later Lillian Hammond drove in a run on an infield roller to shortstop.
Coolen said Smethurst (19-9) actually threw too many strikes, and the Australian sophomore agreed.
"I made too many good pitches on 0-and-2 and 1-and-2 pitches," Smethurst said. "I (was supposed to) go out of the strike zone."
The two big hits of the second inning came after Smethurst had two strikes on the hitter.
The Lady Vols piled on four more runs in the fourth, highlighted by Huff's bases-clearing triple past a diving Tanisha Milca in right to put UT up 9-0.
Four of the nine runs Smethurst allowed were unearned. She struck out three and Jessica Morton fanned two more in her inning-plus of work.
In all, Hawaii pitchers walked three batters to go with the three errors, and Tennessee's speed added to UH's misery, as the Lady Vols stole four bases.
Coolen refused to use the fact that the Wahine have been on the road for almost three weeks now as a reason for just the second shutout this season.
"That's not an excuse. We're used to traveling," he said. "Tennessee just turned out to be the better team.
"(Abbott) was bringing it. I don't recall one changeup that she threw."
Abbott hit 70 mph (the equivalent of a 100 mph fastball in baseball) with almost every pitch.
"We need to be aggressive at the plate and come out swinging," shortstop Valana Manuma said.
Manuma said the hitters also will be more wary of Abbott's riseball -- which causes batters to end up chasing bad pitches.
Abbott will go for her 46th victory of the season today. Junior Kate Robinson will start for Hawaii. The Kamehameha product led the team with a school-record 18 home runs this season and was 16-1 in the circle with a 1.71 ERA.
"We still believe they're very good," Weekly said. "They're warriors; they'll be back to fight."