Arizona's down to its last strike, but forestalls defeat with a bloop single... It's 0-2 on the next hitter, so again, the Wildcats are down to their final strike; this time it's an easy fly-out to center. Vols win 3-0. Monica Abbott puts up "only" eight strikeouts. Tennessee will try to close it out tomorrow night.
Tennessee's staging a late rally to get some insurance runs. In the top of the seventh, with two outs and the bases loaded... (cue the Hollywood suspense music)... India Chiles comes up as a pinch-hitter and, sure enough, hits a bloop single up the middle. It's now 3-0 Vols...
Shannon Doepking just pulverizes a drive to left, 2-0 Tennessee with one out, top of the fourth...
Surprise, surprise. Tennessee frosh Alexia Clay, quiet for much of the World Series, homers with two out in the top of the second to make it 1-0 Vols (the first inning was quite uneventful)...
One important development at gametime is that Tennessee's India Chiles, whom I've discussed extensively in previous postings including today's "Pregame Thoughts," is being held out of the starting line-up. Whether she'll come in later tonight and/or play in the remaining games of the World Series remains to be seen.
Some pregame thoughts...
I think the key to the final series will be Tennessee's offensive production. Monica Abbott is going to allow few -- if any -- runs. She'll dominate most of the time -- with her World Series average of 2.33 strikeouts per inning.
But Arizona will undoubtedly threaten a couple of times, as it did in the teams' first match-up in OKC. With Caitlin Lowe and Kristie Fox as the pillars of the offense, and others such as Sam Banister and Jenae Leles coming up with clutch hits, the U of A is always dangerous.
The Wildcats' Taryne Mowatt is obviously not a power-pitcher like Abbott, and the Arizona hurler can be wild at times. Still, Mowatt finds a way to avoid giving up runs. One thing I've noticed -- and without proper statistical analysis, it remains purely a conjecture -- is that Mowatt seems to spread around the instances in which runners get on base. This obviously minimizes the other team's scoring potential. The brief stretch last night against Washington, when the Huskies put together three straight singles, really seemed to be an exception.
The Vols' India Chiles has been nothing short of spectacular, not merely playing with a torn ACL from a couple weeks ago, but playing extremely well. She may be Tennessee's most consistent hitter at this point. Other players, such as Lindsay Schutzler, Tonya Callahan, Shannon Doepking, Kenora Posey, and Tiffany Huff, are going to have to string together combinations of walks and hits to score some runs for Abbott.
Shifting from keys to the game to what a championship would mean for each school, Tennessee is in position to capture two key jewels -- if not the key jewels -- of women's collegiate sport in the same year. Earlier, of course, the Lady Vol basketball team won Coach Pat Summitt's seventh NCAA title.
No school has won the NCAA women's basketball and softball titles in the same year, thus far. On one of the telecasts, the announcers mentioned that Abbott met with Summitt during the former's recruiting visit. To my knowledge, Summitt has not been at any of this year's softball World Series games. Might she come in for the championship series? If she does, will she lead the Tenneseee fans in their traditional song, Rocky Top?
Over at the Arizona athletics site, there's a display of the seven previous NCAA softball trophies the school has won, with the heading: "Arizona Two Wins from Eighth NCAA Title."
If you want to read even more about the Arizona-Tennessee match-up, ESPN.com's Graham Hays has written a dissertation on it.