Feb. 26, 2012
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
CLEARWATER, Fla. - On Sunday afternoon at the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Clearwater, Fla., the #9 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (10-3) got another complete-game shutout effort from sophomore pitcher Ellen Renfroe and a three-run home run by junior second baseman Lauren Gibson in recording a 5-0 victory over Massachusetts.
During the NFCA Leadoff Classic, Tennessee hit .338 as a team while posting a 4-1 record and out-scoring its five opponents by a total of 24-4.
Renfroe improved to a perfect 8-0 for the year by scattering five hits and striking out four over seven innings of work. The Jackson, Tenn., native completed the event with a 3-0 record, a 0.56 ERA and 25 K's in 25 total frames on her way to Most Valuable Pitcher honors.
At the plate Gibson was a perfect 2-for-2 with a steal against the Minutewomen while blasting her sixth HR of the season. The Pasadena, Md., product lifted her season average to .405 and currently leads the Big Orange with 17 RBIs. Junior third baseman Raven Chavanne, chosen as the Most Valuable Player of the NFCA Leadoff Classic, was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two stolen bases, marking her fifth-straight game with at least two hits and boosting her overall average to a staggering .632 (12-for-19) following her initial weekend of play in 2012. Junior designated player Kat Dotson was 1-for-2 at the plate against UMass with an RBI single.
"Karen (Co-Head Coach Weekly) and I were very proud of our team today," Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. "We didn't come out fired up in the first game of the tournament and lost to a good Winthrop team that's been in NCAA Regionals before. We kind of challenged them after that loss, and they really stepped up. We're really pleased with our effort today against an All-American pitcher in UMass' Sara Plourde, because she had shutout Georgia Tech and Michigan already this season. We had a good game plan entering today. The game plan worked and the speed game worked. Lauren Gibson's big home run in the sixth inning gave Ellen a cushion, and she brought it home."
In the top of the first, Massachusetts received a two-out bloop single to center off the bat of right fielder Katie Bettencourt. The base runner didn't faze Renfroe, however, as the 6-0 right-hander posted a pair of strikeouts during the opening frame, including one of designated player Lindsay Webster to finish off the inning.
The UT speed game was off and running opening the bottom of the first as Chavanne dropped a perfect bunt single out in front of the plate and quickly swiped second to move into scoring position. The Thousand Oaks, Calif., native took advantage of a wild pitch from UMass starter Sara Plourde to race into third and was joined on the base paths via walk by senior catcher Ashley Andrews. Infield confusion on a steal attempt of second granted Chavanne the opportunity to roll home from 60 feet away for a 1-0 lead. A single off the bat of Gibson set the stage for a long sacrifice fly from Dotson as Andrews scored to improve the Lady Vol advantage to 2-0.
With Renfroe in control from the circle, senior right fielder Shelby Burchell attempted to get the Big Orange offense going again in the bottom of the second by battling to draw a five-pitch lead-off walk. With one down Chavanne moved the runner up 60 feet on a sac bunt where she was soon joined on the base paths by Andrews and Gibson via free passes. With the bags packed and two retired, sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman lifted a ball into foul ground that was caught on a terrific leaping catch at the top of an eight-foot dugout fence by UMass catcher Stephanie Mayne as UT left the bags packed.
The Minutewomen immediately took advantage of the momentum from the "web gem," getting a lead-off infield single from center fielder Christine Della Vecchia and a stolen base. Shipman made a couple of solid plays on tough chances at short and Renfroe posted her third strikeout of the match-up to hold the runner 60 feet from paydirt.
UMass third baseman Teea Rigers broke up a string of seven consecutive retired by Renfroe with a one-out base knock into right center in the top of the fifth. Della Vecchia made it two hits in two at-bats for her in the game with a perfect slap single to second as UMass registered a serious scoring threat. Left fielder Cyndil Matthew chopped a ball to third that Chavanne smothered before turning quickly and shoveling to Shipman covering the third base bag for a big second out. The Minutewomen duo remained where they stood as shortstop Quianna Diaz-Patterson lifted a ball to short as UT escaped the frame with no damage done.
Plourde appeared to be laboring a bit starting the bottom of the fifth, issuing consecutive walks to Andrews and Gibson to get a Tennessee scoring chance started. A one-out single from Dotson packed the bags for the Big Orange, but a fielder's choice, that cut down the lead runner at the plate, and a strikeout left the bases juiced as UT's left stranded count rose to eight.
The insurance for the Big Orange came via one of UT's long-patented two-out scoring rallies in the bottom of the sixth. Chavanne got it rolling with another infield single and Andrews kept the threat going by drawing a big walk. Gibson strode to the plate and blasted her sixth homer of the season just over the outfield wall to boost Tennessee's advantage to a more comfortable 5-0.
A two-out fielding miscue on the Lady Vol defense bestowed UMass some brief life in the top of the seventh as Della Vecchi reached via the error. It didn't matter, however, as Renfroe handled a bouncer back to the circle from Matthew, turned and tossed on to first to conclude the Big Orange triumph.