April 13, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- On Friday night in front of 1,514 fans at the Lee Softball Stadium, sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman homered for the fourth straight league contest and for the fifth time over her last five games overall to back another stellar effort from the circle by sophomore pitcher Ellen Renfroe as the #10 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (33-9, 14-6 Southeastern Conference) won its sixth-consecutive game by topping #21 LSU (29-11. 11-4 SEC) in the two teams' series opener, 2-0.
Shipman was 1-for-3 at the plate with her career-best ninth HR, while junior third baseman Raven Chavanne was at her chaos-producing best by going 3-for-4 with a run scored and her team-leading 21st stolen base from the lead-off spot in the line-up. Junior right fielder Kat Dotson (1-for-3) and junior first baseman Melissa Brown (1-for-2) each posted one of Tennessee's six total hits in the match-up, while senior left fielder Shelby Burchell walked three times, including once in the fifth with the bases loaded for a valuable insurance RBI.
Renfroe allowed just three hits in tossing her NCAA Division I-leading 14th solo shutout and her 19th complete game of 2012. The Jackson, Tenn., native walked two and struck out five in improving to 22-3 overall and 10-3 in SEC action.
Each team managed a two-out walk in the first inning for the initial base runner for both squads, but that was all Renfroe and LSU's Rachele Fico would allow.
The contest wouldn't remain scoreless for long, however, as Shipman blasted the very first pitch of the bottom of the second just over the Lee Softball Stadium wall for a 1-0 lead. For the Valencia, Calif., the HR marked her fifth over Tennessee's last five contests and the fourth consecutive conference match-up in which Shipman registered a big fly. A one-out walk to Burchell and a single by Brown put two more Lady Vols on the base paths. Unfortunately, back-to-back strikeouts left the duo stranded, but not before UT had nabbed a one-run lead.
LSU catcher Morgan Russell tried to get the Tiger offense started in the top of the third with a blooper to shallow left center. Lady Vol junior Tory Lewis raced in from her defensive position in center and nearly made a terrific diving catch, but the ball just eluded her for a lead-off single. LSU first baseman Ashleigh Kuhn was asked to drop the sacrifice bunt but popped it up to first instead for the initial out. The wheels came completely off the threat just seconds later as the combo of UT senior catcher Ashley Andrews and junior second baseman Lauren Gibson caught pinch runner Alex Boulet attempting to steal second. Tiger center fielder A.J. Andrews then lifted a "can of corn" to Burchell in left to conclude the frame with no scoreboard damage done.
The Tennessee speed game got the Big Orange rolling in the bottom of the fifth as Chavanne and Dotson registered back-to-back bunt singles to christen the frame. After a fly out by Gibson advanced both runners up 60 feet, Shipman never saw a pitch close to the plate in drawing a walk, packing the bags full of Big Orange. With two retired in the inning, Burchell battled Fico to draw a clutch, bases-loaded free pass as Chavanne trotted home from third to make it 2-0.
A textbook slap single by LSU's Andrews and a stolen base went for naught in the top of the sixth with the help of strong Lady Vol pitching and defense. Renfroe struck out both right fielder Jacee Blades and Langoni looking before getting an incredible play from a teammate. Shortstop Juliana Santos hit a shot that threatened to escape through the middle for a single and likely would have plated a run. Shipman ranged to her left and made a diving stop of the potential hit. The Valencia, Calif., native rolled over, and from her knees, fired a strike to Brown at first for an incredible "web gem" play to end a big LSU threat.
That proved the last gasp for the Tiger offense in the opener as Renfroe retired second baseman Allison Falcon on a foul out outside of third, induced a fly ball to left from designated player Ashley Applegate and had third baseman Tammy Wray cut down by her counterpart Chavanne at third on a bouncer to seal the series-opening triumph.