March 11, 2012
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in front of another sold-out crowd of 1,713 fans at the Lee Softball Stadium, sophomore pitcher Ellen Renfroe was again solid in the circle for the #9 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (15-5, 1-2 Southeastern Conference), but UT's offense left 11 base-runners stranded as the Big Orange dropped a tough, 1-0 decision to #3 Florida (23-2, 4-1 SEC).
Six different Lady Vols recorded hits in the contest: junior second baseman Lauren Gibson (1-for-3, walk), junior right fielder Kat Dotson (1-for-4), freshman designated player Cheyanne Tarango (1-for-3), senior left fielder Shelby Burchell (1-for-1, two walks), junior first baseman Melissa Brown (1-for-3) and sophomore center fielder Tory Lewis.
Renfroe (11-1) allowed just one run on four total hits over a complete-game effort, walking five and striking out seven while throwing 136 total pitches. The loss marked the first for the Jackson, Tenn., native since last May 22 during NCAA Regional action in Knoxville.
"I'm not into moral victories, bit I'm proud of our kids today," Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. "I mean they fought, and that last shot into the gap in the seventh inning by Kat Dotson, if it had been right or left about 10 feet, we'd have probably won. It was that kind of ballgame. Florida's a great team, and Ellen (Renfroe) pitched another fantastic game. She didn't deserve to lose it. We out-hit them, but we left more runners on base and just couldn't win it."
Despite hitting center fielder Michelle Moultrie with a pitch and giving up a single to designated player Lauren Haeger, Renfroe picked up seemingly where she left off from Friday night's 15-strikeout effort in the top of the first by striking out third baseman Sami Fagan, shortstop Cheyenne Coyle and designated player Bailey Castro.
Gibson became Tennessee's initial base runner in the bottom of the second as the Pasadena, Md., native reached on a lead-off walk. Dotson dropped a perfect bunt just in front of the batter's box, but the ball struck her leg as she began her trip up the first base line and went down as a tough initial out. With two retired in the inning, Burchell bounced a single through the infield that advanced Gibson to third. Unfortunately, a Lady Vol strikeout ended the frame as UT left two stranded on the base paths.
Florida managed to get on the board with a 1-0 lead as Moultrie blasted a solo shot to center field with one down in the top of the third.
Lewis attempted to get something going with a single to third, leading off the bottom of the third. The Chattanooga, Tenn., product advanced to second after junior third baseman Raven Chavanne grounded out to the shortstop. Andrews followed that with a shot to shortstop, but the liner traveled right to Coyle. With two down, Shipman hit a bouncer back to the circle that was fielded by Bache to end the inning.
A one-out single off the bat of Dotson got the most serious threat started for the Big Orange in the bottom of the fourth. Tarango stepped into the batter's box and battled over eight total pitches before driving a double to the wall as freshman pinch runner Hannah Trainer ended up stationed just 60 feet from paydirt. Burchell joined her teammates via a walk, but again UT missed a big chance to get on the board as a fly ball to left and a bouncer to first left the runners stranded.
Tennessee again got the lead-off on base as Chavanne reached on a bad throw at first to open the bottom of the fifth. Back-to-back strikeouts and a fielder's choice off the bat of Gibson to short concluded the inning.
The Gators very nearly cashed in a lead-off walk by Coyle in the top of the sixth, but a great defensive play kept the count at just 1-0 in UF's favor. With two outs catcher Kelsey Horton ripped a liner to shallow center. Lewis raced over quickly towards left center and dove to make a terrific, inning-ending grab.
The Lady Vol left on base count rose to nine in the bottom of the sixth as a two-out walk by Burchell and a single through the infield from Brown went for naught as a strikeout looking concluded the frame.
Florida left three on in the top of the seventh as the Lady Vol defense kept the deficit at one. Following a walk and a Fagan single to left to start the inning, Tennessee catcher Andrews made a great diving catch on bunt towards Florida dugout to record the first out. Both of the Gators moved up on the basepaths after a sac bunt by Sami Fagan. Moultrie was intentionally walked to load the bases and give UT a force out opportunity at any base. Coyle could not extend the lead for Florida, however, sending a high fly ball down the left field line that was caught by Holly Baker in foul territory.
Tennessee had the top of the order up in its last chance in the seventh. With one down, Andrews granted the Big Orange life after drawing a five-pitch walk. Shipman ripped a liner to center that was caught by Moultrie on the run to push Tennessee to its final out. Gibson battled to work the count full before lining a single through the infield as Andrews advanced to second. Like Shipman, Dotson rocketed a drive to center, but it was hauled in by Moultrie for the final out.
The Lady Vols will take a quick break from non-conference action Tuesday, as the squad faces Georgia Southern in a double header beginning at 4 p.m. ET. The two teams were originally set to face off on Feb. 29 but those contests were postponed as a result of heavy storms.