March 21, 2012
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - On Wednesday evening at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., the #11 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (19-7, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) battled #1 Alabama (26-0, 7-0 SEC) to the limit over 11 stressful innings before succumbing with two outs in the bottom of the 11th via a walk-off solo HR, 3-2 (11 inn.).
The Big Orange offense out hit the powerful Crimson Tide line-up by a 9-5 count, holding UA to its second-lowest hit total of 2012, but were victimized by leaving 13 runners on base in the contest. The 11-inning match-up equaled a program-high for the Lady Vol softball program, last occurring back on April 11, 2009, during a 2-1 (11 inn.) home victory versus Auburn.
Lady Vol junior pitcher Ivy Renfroe was phenomenal in the circle for the Lady Vols, posting a career-high 14 strikeouts while tossing a personal-high 10.2 innings during the hard-luck defeat. The Jackson, Tenn., native walked four and allowed three earned runs on five hits while seeing her record drop to 5-6 overall.
At the plate Tennessee sophomore center fielder Tory Lewis equaled her career-high with three hits in her five total at-bats. Sophomore Melissa Davin was 2-for-3 with a double and a RBI, and freshman designated player Cheyanne Tarango was 1-for-5 with a RBI. Junior third baseman Raven Chavanne (1-for-5, walk, run), junior second baseman Lauren Gibson (1-for-4, walk, run) and junior first baseman Melissa Brown (1-for-5) totaled UT's other base knocks.
After a quick one-two-three inning for the Lady Vols in the top of the first, Renfroe started off Alabama's half of the frame by catching left fielder Kayla Braud looking at strike three. A walk issued to center fielder Jennifer Fenton and a stolen base put the speedster in scoring position. A grounder from first baseman Cassie Reilly-Boccia advanced Fenton within 60 feet of pay-dirt, but she remained right there as Renfroe caught designated player Amanda Locke looking at a called strike three.
UT's 6-0 right-hander was on her game early on, punching out shortstop Kaila Hunt and pitcher Jackie Traina in the bottom of the second to give her four K's through the initial two frames.
The Crimson Tide's second baseman Danae Hays christened the bottom of the third with a lead-off walk. Following a looking strikeout of right fielder Jazlyn Lunceford, Braud managed a perfect slap single on a high-chopper to third, putting a pair aboard for UA with just one retired. Fenton hit a shot to third that was corralled by Chavanne. The Thousand Oaks, Calif., native stepped quickly on third to get the lead runner and tossed across to first, proving just late to end the frame via a double play. With the bases loaded after a walk by Reilly-Boccia, Locke hit the first pitch to third as Chavanne made the play to leave the `Bama trio stranded.
Tennessee managed its initial base runner of the contest leading off the top of the fourth as Chavanne registered a single on a 2-2 pitch. Lewis followed immediately with a base knock of her own, putting a pair on base with no one out. A sacrifice bunt from sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman and an intentional walk issued to Gibson packed the bags for the Lady Vols. With two outs in the frame, Tarango hit a cue shot that dropped right in front of Hays at second and took a tough short hop for a RBI single as Chavanne crossed from 60 feet away to make it 1-0.
Junior right fielder Kat Dotson demonstrated her impressive glove skills beginning the bottom of the fourth as the Savannah, Ga., native charged in on a blooper to right by Hunt. Despite still dealing with the effects on an injured knee, she dove to make a basket catch "web gem" play for a big first out. Renfroe then continued her dominant effort from the circle, posting back-to-back strikeouts of Traina and third baseman Courtney Conley to give her seven K's in the match-up.
Singles from Brown and Lewis went for naught during Tennessee's half of the fifth as the duo was left on the base paths.
Lunceford started a Crimson Tide scoring opportunity during the bottom of the fifth via a one-out single back through the middle. With the Lady Vol corner infielders charging in with a slapper at the dish, Braud popped up her bunt attempt but got fortunate when the ball proved far enough to drop in behind Chavanne at third for a base knock. Fenton battled the count full against Renfroe before hitting a drive to center that short hopped the wall for a RBI double as Lunceford rolled home to dead-lock the scoreboard at 1-1. Reilly-Boccia followed with a fly ball to left that proved plenty deep enough to score Braud as Alabama nabbed its first lead of the contest at 2-1.
A lead-off base knock from Gibson got the game-tying Tennessee rally underway in the top of the sixth. With one retired Tarango hit a high chopper to third that was corralled by Conley. The `Bama fielder's throw to second was in time but failed to find purchase, however, as the ball ended up rolling into right center as UT's lead runner raced all the way around to third. Pinch hitter Davin hit a slow bouncer just to the right of the circle that proved just enough to bring home the tying tally as Gibson slid around behind a tag attempt at the plate.
Tennessee left a runner stranded and then Alabama went down in order in the seventh as the two teams required extra innings to settle the doubleheader opener.
In the top of the eighth, an error on UA first baseman Reilly-Boccia on a Dotson grounder and a one-out single from Davin put a pair of Lady Vols on base. Unfortunately for the Big Orange, a pair of strikeouts left the duo stranded as the UT left on count grew to 10.
The Crimson Tide got the potential game-winning run on opening the bottom of the eighth as Reilly-Boccia was struck by a Renfroe offering. Renfroe bore down from the circle, however, striking out Locke for her season-high 11th K of the contest. Hunt hit a shot to third that was nabbed by Chavanne before she pivoted and started a crucial 5-4-3 double play to send the squads on to a ninth frame.
Both pitchers effectively settled things down in the ninth and 10th frames, but Tennessee's Davin christened the top of the 11th with a lead-off double into the gap. With two down in the inning, Chavanne was intentionally walked and then Lewis induced a free pass, loading the bases. Unfortunately, a swinging strikeout left the trio where they stood as the score remained 2-2.
The contest finally came to a conclusion with two retired in the bottom of the 11th as Traina drove Renfroe's initial offering deep to center for a walk-off solo HR and a 3-2 victory.