March 24, 2012
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
STARKVILLE, Miss. - On Saturday afternoon in front of 813 fans at the MSU Softball Stadium, the #11 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (22-7, 6-4 Southeastern Conference) registered the most hits (13) and tied for the most runs (10) allowed this season by the Mississippi State Bulldogs (18-14, 3-9 SEC) in securing a series victory via a 10-3 triumph.
Big Orange junior second baseman Lauren Gibson led the offensive onslaught by going 3-for-4 with a double, her team-leading ninth HR of the year and four RBIs. Sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman was 3-for-4 with a stolen base and her squad-best 31st RBI, while junior right fielder Kat Dotson posted a 2-for-3 effort with three runs tallied, a theft and her ninth RBI of the campaign. Senior utility player Shelby Burchell also contributed a pair of RBIs in a 1-for-3 performance.
In a relief appearance in the circle, sophomore hurler Ellen Renfroe improved to 17-1 overall and 6-1 in league action, scattering seven hits, allowing no runs while walking one and striking out eight over 6.0 innings of work. Junior pitcher Ivy Renfroe started the contest, permitting three tallies on a trio of hits with two walks and a K over one frame.
"Today there were a lot of adverse conditions thrown at our team," Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Karen Weekly said. "I thought our players handled that really, really well. We threw a punch in the first inning, they threw a punch right back, and we held our ground. We just kept putting some runs on the board as the game went along. I was really proud of the way our pitchers fought, because they faced some really tough conditions. They just hung in there and did what they needed to do to give us a chance to win."
Junior third baseman Raven Chavanne got what proved to be a huge Tennessee opening frame started by virtue of being struck by a 1-0 offering from Mississippi State starter Kylie Vry leading-off the top of the first. A perfect sacrifice bunt from sophomore center fielder Tory Lewis advanced UT's Thousand Oaks, Calif., speedster into scoring position and set the stage for a RBI single off the bat of Dotson as the Big Orange nabbed a quick 1-0 advantage. A theft by Dotson, an infield base knock from Shipman and another steal moved a pair of Lady Vols into scoring position with just one retired in the frame. After battling to a full count, Gibson saw a pitch she liked, dropping a single just over the infield and onto the grass for two RBIs as Tennessee's lead expanded to 3-0. A base knock and steal from sophomore left fielder Melissa Davin put a pair in scoring area for Burchell, and the Columbia, Tenn., native delivered by driving a shot through the infield to plate two more tallies. An Ashley Andrews hit continued the onslaught, plating Burchell to lift the advantage to a commanding 6-0. A grounder to short finally concluded the attack, but not before the Big Orange had sent 10 batters to the plate in totaling six runs on six hits.
With Mississippi State immediately forced to play from way behind in the bottom of the first, catcher Ka'ili Smith and center fielder Jessica Offutt got the Bulldogs off to a great start by drawing consecutive walks to christen the frame. The duo swiped a base and soon raced across the dish via a two-RBI single up the middle from third baseman Sam Lenahan, cutting UT's lead to 6-2. A strikeout of designated player Brittany Bell and a sac bunt from second baseman Heidi Shape got Ivy Renfroe closer to getting out of the frame. Left fielder Jessica Cooley contributed a single to left that dropped in front of Davin, putting Bulldogs at the corners. Tennessee escaped the jam, however, as first baseman Shelby Fisher hit a ball to third that Chavanne corralled before tossing across the diamond to leave a pair of MSU runners on base.
After Shipman was left stranded at first following a two-out infield hit in the top of the second, MSU opened its half of the frame with a double off the left field wall by shortstop Erin Nesbit. That ended Ivy Renfroe's stint in the circle as sister Ellen entered in a relief appearance. The first batter the new UT hurler faced, right fielder Brittany Gates, managed a perfect slap single to deep short for an infield single, placing a pair aboard with still no Bulldogs retired. Smith made it three consecutive hits, blasting a RBI double into the gap in right center as the Big Orange lead was cut to 6-3. With the potential tying run at the plate, Ellen Renfroe settled things down from there. The 6-0 right-hander struck out Offutt, got Lenahan to hit a liner to first and then K'ed Bell looking to leave a MSU duo stranded.
A lead-off walk by Tennessee's Davin and a one-out free pass drawn by Burchell went for naught in the top of the third as a bouncer back to the circle and a sharp grounder to short left the pair in scoring position.
MSU's Shape started the bottom of the third with a base knock through the right side of the infield and immediately took advantage of the UT infield's rare lack of attention to steal second on the same play. A fly ball to mid-range right from Cooley was handled routinely by Dotson as the runner advanced up within 60 feet from pay dirt. UT's pitcher responded to the threat with consecutive strikeouts, however, as Fisher went down looking and Nesbit swinging at a rise ball.
The Big Orange added two more tallies in the top of the fourth to nab an 8-3 advantage. A one-out walk to Dotson and a passed ball on Mississippi State's catcher Smith set up a runner in scoring position. Shipman cashed in that tally via a sharp RBI single back through the infield. Leading 7-3 on the scoreboard with two retired after Shipman was caught attempting to swipe third, Gibson blasted her ninth HR of the campaign to push the advantage back to five tallies.
The Bulldogs managed to get the lead-off on base for the fifth straight inning in the bottom of the fifth as Bell drew a walk. The MSU occupant wasn't out there for long as a strong throw from Lady Vol catcher Andrews to Shipman at second retired Bell via a caught stealing. With two retired following Ellen Renfroe's sixth strikeout of the game, Cooley ripped a single through the left side of the infield and Fisher followed by blooping a base knock to left, making the previous caught stealing even more vital to UT's efforts. Nesbit stepped into the batter's box and ripped a shot right back to the circle. Ellen Renfroe leapt in the air to make the grab and tossed on to Brown at first, raising the Bulldog left on base total to eight through five complete frames.
Gibson continued her own personal onslaught with two retired in the top of the sixth. The Pasadena, Md., native followed a one-out single from Dotson with a RBI double that ended up at the base of the wall at the MSU Softball Stadium, expanding the lead to 9-3. Baker followed immediately with a shot back through the infield as Gibson rolled around easily from second to make it a seven-run advantage.
From there Ellen Renfroe settled in, retiring the Bulldogs one-two-three in the bottom of the sixth, before finally having her own personal streak of five consecutive MSU hitters retired end via a one-out base knock from Bell in the seventh. Shape blasted a shot deep to left center that appeared to have extra bases written all over it. Sophomore center fielder Tory Lewis raced over from her defensive position and made another running, back-handed "web gem" catch before running into the wall. The Chattanooga, Tenn., product quickly turned and easily worked with a relay to double off pinch runner Ashley Phillips at first for a game-ending double play.