Posted: May 11, 2013 3:18 PM
Updated: May 12, 2013 8:27 AM
LEXINGTON, KY. - Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year Chelsea Thomas helped No. 8 Missouri past No. 4 Tennessee with a 3-0 SEC Tournament semifinal victory at John Cropp Stadium on Saturday. The two-time All-American struck out eight while scattering five hits and received run support in two RBI from senior catcher Jenna Marston and a solo home run from sophomore 1B Kelsea Roth.
The No. 3-seeded Tigers improved to 35-10 with the victory, while the second-seeded Lady Vols ended their conference tournament with a 44-10 overall record. Missouri made it three wins in four tries against Tennessee this season, with UT entering the tournament with an SEC-best .343 batting average in overall games.
The win advanced Missouri to the SEC Tournament Championship Game in the program's first tournament appearance. The Tigers face No. 1-seeded Florida (51-7) at 7 p.m. CT in a national television broadcast on ESPN.
The 2013 SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Marston drove in the Tigers first two runs in the top of the third inning with a double to left center field. The liner to the gap scored red shirt freshman OF Carlie Rose and freshman 2B Emily Crane, who had both previously reached base with infield singles.
Thomas pitched shutout softball for the fourth-straight start and got the Tigers out of an especially tough spot in the bottom of the fourth. Lady Vol runners had advanced to second and third base with two outs before Thomas was able to record one of her nine strikeouts on the day to end UT's chances.
Roth added the Tigers final run with her solo shot to left center in the top of the sixth inning, a long ball that bounced off the stadium's scoreboard. The home run was Roth's 14th of the season, which ties her for 10th on Missouri softball's all-time single season home runs list.
Marston's run-scoring double in the third inning was the 52nd of her career, moving her within four of matching former Tiger Micaela Minner's 56 from 2005-09. The double was her 15th of 2013, which ties for fifth-best in school history.