March 8, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.-- Welcome to 2013 SEC softball. Madison Shipman came through with a game-winning RBI single in the bottom seventh and Cheyanne Tarango hit a monster three-run homer in the fourth to lead No. 8/10 Tennessee to a thrilling 4-3 victory over rival No. 1/2 Alabama on Friday night at Lee Stadium.
The Lady Vols (20-3, 1-0 SEC) took command of the game in the fourth thanks to Tarango's blast, but Alabama (22-2, 0-1 SEC) came roaring back with one run in the sixth and two more in the top of the seventh to tie the game and set up Shipman's late heroics. Friday's game was sold out with 1,689 fans at Lee Stadium to watch the SEC opener for both teams.
Tennessee has beaten a No. 1 ranked Alabama team in each of the last three seasons, knocking the Crimson Tide off 5-2 last season and 4-1 in 2011.
Whitney Hammond drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the seventh, just moments after Alabama had seized momentum to tie the game. Hammond advanced to second on a wild pitch and Raven Chavanne moved her to third base with an infield single. Chavanne would then steal second base, giving her 121 for her career to pass Lindsay Schutzler and become Tennessee's all-time stolen base queen. Two batters later, Lauren Gibson drew an intentional walk with one out to load the bases. Then, on a 2-2 pitch, Shipman ripped a single down the line in left field to plate Hammond and win the game.
Shipman finished 2-for-4 with the game-winning RBI. Tarango's homer in the fourth was her team-high sixth on the year. Gibson went 2-for-3 with a run scored. Chavanne tied Schutzler's previous record of 120 stolen bases with a swipe in the third inning.
Jackie Traina (10-2) took the loss for Alabama after striking out four and allowing four earned runs over 6.1 frames.
The teams were locked in a pitchers' duel through the first three frames before Tennessee's bats broke loose in the bottom of the fourth. Gibson led off the frame with a single to third and Shipman followed with a single to right center. After Shipman stole second and Gibson advanced to third, Tarango stepped in and a launched a 1-1 pitch from Traina over the wall in center field, bouncing off one of the light poles about a third of the way up. The Lady Vols were in the driver's seat with a 3-0 lead.
Alabama's bats got going in the top of the sixth when the Tide opened the inning with back-to-back singles in front of home plate by Andrea Hawkins and Kayla Braud. Two batters later, with runners on first and second and one out, Kaila Hunt knocked an RBI single to left field to plate Braud and bring UA to within 3-1.
In the top of the seventh, Danielle Richard opened the inning with a single up the middle. After Danae Hays drew a four-pitch walk, Ivy Renfroe entered the game in relief of Ellen Renfroe. After a short pop up, Hawkins came through for Alabama, knocking a double to left field to plate two runs and knot the game at 3-3. The Crimson Tide loaded the bases later in the inning, but Traina popped up to Gibson at second base to end the Alabama scoring threat.
Tennessee and Alabama will play the second game of their season series on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The game will feature a free live video broadcast through UTSports.com with Evan Ellis on the call. There will also be free live statistics and a free live interactive blog through UTSports.com. All three games of the UT-UA series are sold out.
Sunday's third game is at 1:30 p.m. It's Family Day, so the first 150 kids 12 and under will eat for free. There will also be a pre-game kids carnival with fun activities.