Tennessee to face defending champ Arizona in NCAA softball finals

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Monica Abbott led Tennessee to the Women's
College World Series finals Sunday, throwing her third straight
shutout in the Lady Vols' 3-0 victory over Northwestern.

In the best-of-three championship series beginning Monday night,
the Lady Vols (62-6) will face defending champion Arizona, which
advanced by beating sixth-seeded Washington twice Sunday by scores
of 2-0 and 8-1.

Abbott (49-3), the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year,
struck out 17 in a two-hitter to help Tennessee reach the
championship series for the first time. The Lady Vols had finished
third the past three years.

"It's really awesome because we've come so close the past three
years," Abbott said.

Tonya Callahan had an RBI groundout and Tiffany Huff added a
sacrifice fly in the first inning as Tennessee took an early 2-0
lead against Eileen Canney (33-11). Northwestern (52-13), last
year's runner-up, couldn't mount a rally.

To win the championship, the Wildcats will have to get past
Abbott. The hard-throwing lefty threw her 23rd career no-hitter in
the opening round and has allowed only eight hits in 21 innings in
the World Series. She allowed six hits in a 1-0 win against Arizona
earlier in the tournament.

"She's a great pitcher," Arizona outfielder Caitlin Lowe said.
"She's going to come at us with the same gameplan. We just need to
make our adjustments before she does."

Abbott and Tennessee also beat Arizona 1-0 at the World Series
last year, but the Wildcats came back to beat the Lady Vols 6-0 to
advance to the finals of the double-elimination tournament.

"I think there's a difference from past seasons to now,"
Tennessee co-coach Karen Weekly said of Abbott. "I think it's about
developing more pitches and working more up and down in the zone,
and I think that's made a big difference. And then I think her
mental game is outstanding, her poise on the mound, her confidence,
her maturity.

"You can just see the focus in her eyes every game here."

Katie Logan and Tammy Williams each had singles for
Northwestern's only baserunners, and the Wildcats never got a
runner to second base against Abbott in her latest gem.

Washington starter Danielle Lawrie (31-13) had been as dominant
as Abbott, throwing a no-hitter and allowing only two hits in 17
shutout innings at the World Series before top-seeded Arizona
(48-13-1) rallied for two runs in the sixth inning of the first

Jenae Leles singled and Laine Roth drew a two-out walk before
Sam Banister doubled to right center to make it 2-0. Banister also
had the game-winning hit in Arizona's 5-4 extra-innings win against
Washington (42-19) on May 12.

Later Sunday, Arizona got to Lawrie early with Leles' two-run
double in the first inning. She finished with four RBIs and Chelsie
Mesa added three hits, drove in two runs and scored three times to
lead Arizona's offense.

Taryne Mowatt (39-11) threw a pair of four-hitters, allowing
only a two-out RBI single by Lauren Greer that cut Arizona's lead
to 3-1 in the fourth inning of the second game.

Leles answered that run with a sacrifice fly in the top of the
fifth, and Mesa's two-run double in the sixth made it 6-1. Kristie
Fox added a sacrifice fly before Leles capped the scoring with an
RBI single.

"I hope every one of these kids has grown mentally, and I think
at this stage of the game that's what counts," Arizona coach Mike
Candrea said. "It becomes a mental war."