April 6, 2012
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
AUBURN, Ala.- On a beautiful Friday evening at Jane B. Moore Field, the #9 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (29-9, 11-6 Southeastern Conference) registered nine two-out runs, posted a seven-tally second inning and got the third career grand slam from sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman in taking its series opener from Auburn (26-13, 5-9 SEC), 9-1 (5 inn.).
Shipman was 1-for-3 with two runs scored and equaled her career-high with four RBIs via her grand slam, giving her a team-leading 41 RBIs for the season. Junior right fielder Kat Dotson was a perfect 2-for-2 at the dish with two RBIs, sophomore Melissa Davin was 1-for-1 with two RBIs as a pinch hitter, sophomore center fielder Tory Lewis was 1-for-2 with a RBI and freshman designated player Cheyanne Tarango went 1-for-3 with her fifth career double.
In the circle sophomore pitcher Ellen Renfroe picked up her 20th overall victory of the year, taking a perfect game into the fourth inning before eventually settling for a one-hitter with a walk and seven strikeouts over five frames of effort.
"I was really happy with the way we swung the bats tonight against a very good pitcher in Auburn's Jenee Loree," Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. "I was especially happy that all of our runs were scored with two outs. I think that's what we're going to need to do if we're going to advance further in the postseason. This is only one night in a tough series though. There are two games left, and I'm sure Auburn will be ready to go tomorrow."
Tennessee managed its initial base runner of the match-up with two down in the top of the first as junior second baseman Lauren Gibson saw a pitch she liked from Auburn starter Jenee Loree and promptly lined a shot through the infield for a single. Shipman stepped into the batter's box and worked the count full before grounding routinely to short as the frame came to a conclusion.
Renfroe got off to a quick start against the Blue & Orange, working through a one-two-three bottom of the first. The Jackson, Tenn., native struck out second baseman Brooke Lathan looking, personally handled a slow roller from center fielder Branndi Melero and induced a liner from shortstop Lauren Guzman.
The Big Orange broke in front on the scoreboard in the top of the second with one of its patented two-out rallies. The outburst got started harmlessly enough with Dotson getting hit by a pitch leading off the inning. A ground ball to second and a fielder's choice that retired Dotson on the base paths threatened to end the scoring opportunity before it even got underway. Tarango set an important two-out tone for the Lady Vol offense by lacing a two-bagger, moving junior first baseman Melissa Brown over within 60 feet from pay dirt. Lewis ripped a hard shot to third that forced third baseman Caitlin Schultze to her right. The ball ricocheted off the tip of her glove and her throw from her knees to first was late as Brown scored to make it 1-0. Junior third baseman Raven Chavanne walked to load the bases and marked the 18th consecutive game that the Thousand Oaks, Calif., native had reached base successfully. That set the stage for a clutch pinch hit from Davin as the Fresno, Calif., product ripped the first offering she received from Loree through the infield, scoring two to make it 3-0. Gibson walked to re-load the bags with the clean-up hitter Shipman coming to the plate. It didn't take long for the 6-1 shortstop to unload them, promptly crushing her third career grand slam to stretch the UT advantage to a commanding seven tallies. A single by Dotson kept things going before a chopper to short finally concluded the frame. Before the two-out assault had come to an end, 11 batters had stepped to the dish in tying for the most runs (seven) put up by the Lady Vol offense in a single frame in 2012.
Suddenly in possession of a huge seven-run lead, UT's 6-0 right hander didn't mess around with the middle of Auburn's line-up in the bottom half of the second. Pitching into her defense, Renfroe got a pop-up from right fielder Lauren Guzman, a liner to second base off the bat of catcher Elizabeth Eisterhold and a high fly out to center by first baseman Caitlin Jordan that was tracked down by UT sophomore Tory Lewis.
The advantage continued to expand in the top of the fourth as the Big Orange again struck with two retired in the inning. Chavanne christened the frame with a lead-off walk and soon moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by senior catcher Ashley Andrews. With two down in the inning, Shipman reached via an error at short and quickly swiped her 11th base of the season, putting a pair of Lady Vols in scoring position. Dotson came through with a clutch, two-RBI base knock through the infield as the UT lead expanded to 9-0.
In the circle Renfroe was dominating, striking out four of five Auburn batters over a stretch that included the end of the third and beginning of the fourth frames. Unfortunately, that came to a sudden end with two outs in the bottom of the fourth as Guzman blasted a solo HR just over the scoreboard in left center. The AU big fly ended the UT hurler's bid for a perfect game as she has retired 11 consecutive Tiger hitters until that point.
With the Tigers down to one final chance to continue the contest before succumbing to the run-rule, Auburn did get a two-out walk from new pitcher Hilary Mavromat. She remained at first, however, as Renfroe registered her seventh strikeout of the contest by catching third baseman Caitlin Schultze swinging to conclude the match-up.
#9 Tennessee and Auburn continue their series on Sat., April 7, at 1 p.m. CT, in a contest that will be broadcast live on ESPNU.