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April 29, 2012

Tennessee extended its winning streak to 17 games with another SEC softball sweep and the Lady Vols track and field squad made noise at the Penn Relays to highlight the Big Orange athletics weekend.

Softball (3-0 for the weekend)
Lady Vols 5, Mississippi 1
In front of a sold out crowd of 1,773 Orange-clad faithful on Friday night at the Lee Softball Stadium, the No. 6 Tennessee Lady Vols picked up their 15th-straight win overall and its 11th-consecutive SEC victory by topping Ole Miss in the two teams' series opener, 5-1.

The Big Orange banged out eight hits in the triumph, even invoking some of its patented fifth-inning magic by plating two runs during a fifth-frame outburst. UT has now totaled a staggering 33 tallies during the fifth over the course of its 15-game winning streak, accounting for 40% of Tennessee's total offensive output over that span.

Sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman (1-for-4, double, two RBIs) continued her impressive work at the plate, knocking in two more runs to give her a SEC-best 56 RBIs for the campaign. Junior second baseman Lauren Gibson was 1-for-2 with a two-RBI single and junior third baseman Raven Chavanne was 2-for-4 with two runs and a RBI while raising her season average to a squad-best .420 and reaching base successfully for the 31st-straight contest. Junior right fielder Kat Dotson was 2-for-3 with a pair of tallies, sophomore left fielder Melissa Davin was a perfect 1-for-1 with a run scored and two walks and sophomore center fielder Tory Lewis was 1-for-2.

In the circle sophomore Ellen Renfroe improved to 26-3 overall and 13-3 in league action, allowing a single run on one hit with five walks and eight strikeouts over 4.2 innings of effort. Junior Ivy Renfroe earned her third save of the year by permitting just one hit with three K's in 2.1 frames of relief.

Lady Vols 9, Mississippi 0 (5 inn.)
Perfection was achieved on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in front of 1,762 fans at the Lee Softball Stadium as junior pitcher Ivy Renfroe fired her first-career perfect game and fifth no-hitter as the No. 6 Tennessee Lady Vols won their 16th-straight game by rolling past Ole Miss, 9-0 in 5 innings.

Certainly not to be overshadowed was the offensive effort of sophomore left fielder Melissa Davin. The Fresno, Calif., native blasted two HR's in a single game for the third time in 2012 as part of a perfect 2-for-2, five-RBI performance, keeping her series average against Ole Miss at a flawless 1.000 (3-for-3, three walks, 2 HR's, five RBIs).

Junior second baseman Lauren Gibson knocked in her 40th and 41st runs of the season while going 1-for-2 with a run scored, sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman delivered her SEC-leading 57th RBI via a sacrifice fly, and junior right fielder Kat Dotson went 2-for-2 at the dish with two runs scored. Junior third baseman Raven Chavanne was also 2-for-2 with a pair of tallies, improving her league-leading batting average to .428 as the Thousand Oaks, Calif., native also reached successfully for the 32nd-consecutive contest.

Renfroe faced the minimum of 15 Rebel hitters, striking out six while securing her 12th-straight decision victory and improving her overall record to an impressive 17-6.

Lady Vols 2, Mississippi 1
On Sunday afternoon in front of the second-largest crowd in Lee Softball Stadium history (1,843), the No. 6 Tennessee Lady Vols wrapped up their 2012 league campaign with their 13th-straight SEC win and 17th-consecutive triumph overall, sweeping the series over Ole Miss, 2-1.

Junior pitcher Ivy Renfroe picked up her 13th-straight decision victory and improved to 18-6 overall, allowing a single run on three hits with a walk and three strikeouts over 5.1 innings of relief. Sophomore Ellen Renfroe started the contest in the circle, permitting just one hit, walking three and K'ing one in 1.2 frames.

At the plate sophomore left fielder Melissa Davin continued her incredible weekend at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a RBI, improving her series totals to a .833 batting average with two HR's and six RBIs. Junior third baseman Raven Chavanne was a perfect 3-for-3 at the dish, reaching safely in her 33rd-consecutive match-up while raising her SEC-best batting average to .439. Junior right fielder Kat Dotson (1-for-3), senior designated player Shelby Burchell (1-for-3) and sophomore center fielder Tory Lewis (1-for-3) each contributed one of the Tennessee offense's eight total hits.

"Every win's a good win, no question about it," Lady Vols Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. "Ole Miss' Kendall Bruning threw a really good game today. We seemed to hit a dozen ground balls with runners in scoring position. Pretty good pitching, but our defense played great. Tory Lewis' catch to end the fifth inning was phenomenal."

A sellout crowd of 1,843 turned out to see Tennessee improve to 44-9 overall and 22-6 in the SEC.

Next: Wednesday vs. Louisville, 6 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE

Women's Outdoor Track and Field (Penn Relays/UCSD Triton Invite)
Penn Relays (Day 1)
UCSD Triton Invitational (Day 2)
PHILADELPHIA -- The Lady Vols claimed an upset victory in the sprint medley relay, and the Vols followed that performance with a runner-up showing of their own Friday, providing a warm, Big Orange blast at the end of a cold, blustery day at the 118th Penn Relays.

Facing an LSU squad that had won the last five sprint medley Championship of America titles at Franklin Field, the Lady Vols shrugged off pre-race predictions and put their school back in the winner's circle here for the first time since 2010. With a clocking of 3 minutes, 43.79 seconds, which ranks as third-best in UT history, the squad from Rocky Top chalked up win number three in this event (2004, 2006, 2012) and registered UT's 20th overall women's baton-event title at the Penn Relays. Twelve of those triumphs have come since Clark took over the program in 2002-03.

In a relay that features a mixture of sprint and middle distance runners, senior Brittany Jones and junior Martinique Octave handled the first two hitches, with 200m legs that kept Tennessee in the thick of the competition on a day that saw 39,531 fans move through the turnstiles. With her team standing in third, senior Ellen Wortham's turn was next, and she catapulted Tennessee into first place with a 53.2 400m split.

With Wortham depositing the baton into her hand, Chanelle Price set sail for the closing 800m hitch with a 10-meter lead. After seeing her DMR team wind up second on Thursday, Price's focus on Friday was to help her team fight its way to victory and also add a sixth Penn Relays winner's watch to her collection. Price's 2:03.6 turn with the baton was more than enough to hold off LSU anchor Charlene Lipsey and complete her acquisition of new jewelry. The Tigers finished second in 3:44.50.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee throws corps is on the West Coast competing in the UCSD Triton Invitational in LaJolla, Calif.

On Friday, senior Annie Alexander and sophomore Aslynn Halvorson posted 12th-place finishes in the Invitational and Open discus throws, respectively, with marks of 177-4 and 161-7. Junior Jessie Harrison was 19th in the Invitational hammer throw at 167-9.

Penn Relays (Day 2)
UCSD Triton Invitational (Day 3)
PHILADELPHIA -- Tennessee finished its stay at the 118th Penn Relays with a pair of top-three efforts, and a trio of former members of the program fueled wins for Team USA in front of a Saturday crowd of 49,810 at Franklin Field.

In the women's Championship of America 4x800m relay, the Lady Vols ran the No. 5 time in school history, but that readout of eight minutes, 27.04 seconds was not enough to match victorious Oregon, which covered the distance in 8:24.16 for its first Penn Relays title in that event. UT had hoped to capture its second baton event win at this meet and claim its eighth 4x8 triumph here. The Big Orange women, however, did match their DMR runner-up effort from Thursday and had the upset win in the sprint medley relay on Friday.

The UT 4x8 lineup included junior Nijgia Snapp, sophomore Kianna Ruff and seniors Brittany Sheffey and Chanelle Price, who closed her Penn Relays career with a 2:04.2 anchor leg. Entering the race with six Penn relay titles, Price was one win shy of matching Cathy Rattray for the most Penn victories in school history. She ends up tied with Lady Vols Joetta Clark and Phoebe Wright and Vols Willie Gault and Reggie Jones.

"We always come out and do the best that we can," UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark said. "We're always in the running for a win, and I've seen that consistently from our team at the Penn Relays. Over the years, we've collected quite a few victories, and we are probably in the running for the top two here more than any other team in recent years.

The Tennessee throws corps wound up its West Coast swing Saturday with three top-10 finishes at the UCSD Triton Invitational, one of the top throws meets in the country.

In the women's Invitational shot put, senior Annie Alexander carded a fourth-place finish with a toss of 56 feet, 9½ inches. Her season-best mark placed her as the top collegiate finisher.

Next: May 10-13 at SEC Championships, Baton Rouge, La. // FULL SCHEDULE

Men's Outdoor Track and Field (Penn Relays/UCSD Triton Invite)
Penn Relays (Day 1)
PHILADELPHIA -- The Vols followed the Lady Vols' upset victory in the sprint medley relay with a runner-up showing of their own Friday, providing a warm, Big Orange blast at the end of a cold, blustery day at the 118th Penn Relays.

The Vols, meanwhile, turned in an equally-uplifting performance, carding a second-place outing in a time of 3:21.41 to send the squad back to its road quarters on a very positive note. That good feeling is bolstered by the fact that three of the four legs are slated to return in 2013.

Junior Arnez Hardnick and freshman Jamol James handled the back-to-back 200m legs, sending Tennessee to the lead as senior Varick Tucker took the stick. Though Tucker delivered a strong 47.4 400m turn, he found himself in third as he made the pass to freshman anchor Nick Kaiser. Kaiser had too much ground to make up to catch victorious Penn State (3:18.47), but his 1:51.8 stint with the baton moved the Vols past Norfolk State (3:22.54) and into second place.

"Obviously, coming out here and being involved with best at the Penn Relays is always exciting and coming fairly close at the end to a victory is exciting," Clark said. "I see the momentum and seeds of progress starting to be made. Last night, having some PRs from two out of our three distance guys, and today, having the sprint medley come around and take second at the Penn Relays is always a big feat.

Penn Relays (Day 2)
UCSD Triton Invitational (Day 3)
PHILADELPHIA -- Tennessee finished its stay at the 118th Penn Relays with a pair of top-three efforts, and a trio of former members of the program fueled wins for Team USA in front of a Saturday crowd of 49,810 at Franklin Field.

In the men's championship pole vault, it was a mixed bag for the Vols on a cool, breezy day. Sophomore Chase Brannon turned in a clearance of 16-6¾ to snare a third-place finish with his second-best height of the outdoor campaign. Senior teammate Robert Rasnick, though, suffered his first no-height showing since the outdoor season opener.

"This is not a great place to vault," Clark said. "They had a hard time finding their steps and there always is a swirling wind in this stadium. One minute it was in their face and the next it was at their back. Trying to get in a groove is just tough here in that environment, but they did get some work in that will help them as they prepare for SECs in two weeks."

In UT's only other event of the final day, the men's 4x800m relay carded a 10th-place result in the Championship of America race with a readout of 7:33.98. Carrying the baton were freshman Nick Kaiser, senior Garrek Thompson, senior Joe Franklin and freshman Antonio Carter, with Kaiser posting the fastest leg at 1:52.1.

The Tennessee throws corps wound up its West Coast swing Saturday with three top-10 finishes at the UCSD Triton Invitational, one of the top throws meets in the country.

Redshirt freshman Tavis Bailey checked in with a fourth-place finish in the open division of the shot put, stretching the tape measure to 51-3½. Junior Drew Thomas added the third top-10 outcome, finishing sixth in the hammer throw at 180-2. Though he finished 17th in the open discus, redshirt freshman Matthew Hoty uncorked the No. 9 mark in the SEC this season with a career-best toss of 171-3.

Next: May 10-13 at SEC Championships, Baton Rouge, La. // FULL SCHEDULE

Rowing (Princeton Dual Meet)
Princeton Dual Meet
The Tennessee rowing team finished the regular season strong against seventh-ranked Princeton on Saturday morning.

"As a team, these races were a leap in the right direction --we had a great opportunity and took advantage of it with strong racing this morning," senior Erika Lauderdale said. "The racing was fun and exciting with beautiful rowing weather. We now have our eyes set on C-USA where we are eager for some great racing close to home."

The Lady Vols 2V4+ defeated the Tigers' squad, crossing the finish line in 8 minutes 7.9 seconds, nearly six seconds ahead of Princeton.

The Lady Vols 2V8+ finished just a few seconds behind Princeton's while defeating the Tiger's third eight by more than seven seconds.

Next: May 12 vs. Conference USA Championships, Oak Ridge // FULL SCHEDULE

Baseball (0-3 for the weekend)
Auburn 12, Vols 5
AUBURN, Ala. - Tennessee rallied to tie the game after trailing by five runs early, but Auburn answered with seven two-out runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to claim a series-opening 12-5 victory on Friday night at Plainsman Park.

"I'll look at the positive side first," UT head coach Dave Serrano said. "We were down 5-0 and obviously Zack Godley is injured and we are trying to piecemeal a pitching staff together. I wanted to get a better outing out of Nick (Williams) and we didn't get it, but I thought we got it stopped and the offense started clicking a little bit.

"We got back in the game and then they brought in some of their relievers and stopped us. We couldn't get that sixth run across and our bullpen kind of imploded there in the eighth inning. The final score doesn't dictate how good of a game it was through seven innings. I thought both teams were fighting and clawing like two teams that are fighting and clawing to get into the SEC Tournament."

After falling behind 5-0 after three innings, Tennessee posted one of its most impressive comebacks of the season, rallying back with five runs over the next three innings to tie the game up at 5-5.

Although the Vols held the Tigers off the scoreboard for four straight frames while bringing the contest back to a deadlock, Auburn plated seven runs, all with two outs, in the bottom of the eighth en route to the win.

Auburn 12, Vols 3
AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn rode a six-run fourth inning to a 12-3 victory in game two against Tennessee on Saturday afternoon at Plainsman Park.

"This team is struggling right now in all phases," UT head coach Dave Serrano said. "It's hard to pinpoint what we can do right now, but as coaches we have to stick with the processes that we believe in and these guys have to fight their way out of this.

"If we want to have a chance of reaching our long-range goals we have to come out and fight because to me the season is on the line tomorrow even with three more weekend series to go. We have to get a win on the road and prove some character. I told the team that tough times don't last, tough people do."

The Volunteers managed just five hits in the contest with Davis Morgan collecting the team's only extra-base hit on the day. Freshman Robbie Kidd (2-2) suffered the loss after allowing seven runs on six hits and four walks over the first 3.1 innings.

Auburn 11, Vols 4
AUBURN, Ala. - Tennessee jumped out to an early lead but couldn't hold on as Auburn scored 10 unanswered runs over the final six innings to claim an 11-4 victory in the series finale on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Plainsman Park.

The Volunteers raced out to a 4-1 lead after three innings, but managed just two baserunners over the final six against the Auburn bullpen.

Sophomore Nick Williams got the Vols off to a strong start, allowing just two earned runs and striking out five in the first four innings before handing the ball over to the bullpen.

"Nick gave us a chance," Serrano said. "He was on a pitch count because of throwing 50-plus pitches on Friday so I had to get him out and go to the bullpen. It's not a good sign when you go to the bullpen and walk the first guy, especially when it was a 4-3 game. That kind of just opened up the floodgates.

"That's been our bugaboo. We create things for the other team and they take advantage of it. We're getting those opportunities too, but aren't taking advantage. For some reason we are going through this. I can only look at it one way and that is that we will become stronger because of it. We just have to continue to grind through it."

Next: Friday-Sunday vs. Vanderbilt, 6 p.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE

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