April 25, 2012
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- On Wednesday night at the Lee Softball Stadium, the #6 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (41-9) weathered a 55-minute rain delay during the fourth inning and got two RBIs each from senior designated player Shelby Burchell and junior second baseman Lauren Gibson in defeating Tennessee State, 5-0.
For the Lady Vols it marked their season-high 14th-straight win as well as UT's 75th consecutive triumph over an in-state opponent dating back to March 22, 2000.
Burchell led the Big Orange offense by going 2-for-4 with her seventh double and a pair of RBIs, while Gibson was 1-for-2 with a pair of walks (team-high 40 free passes) and two RBIs. Junior first baseman Melissa Brown knocked in a tally via a 1-for-3 effort, and junior third baseman Raven Chavanne improved her season batting average to .417 by going a perfect 3-for-3 at the dish with a walk, two tallies and her squad-leading 24th and 25th steals.
Junior pitcher Ivy Renfroe won her 11th consecutive decision from the circle, limiting the Tigers to just two hits with a walk and 10 strikeouts as part of her eighth solo shutout of 2012.
"It's always a huge challenge to play in-state teams," Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. "They come ready to play. Tennessee State has a good young pitcher who's done well for them all season long. We hit a lot of "at-em" balls tonight. We had a lot of base hits, but we also hit a lot of balls right at people. The weather delay prevented us from playing two games. This was a good game for our team, and I'm proud of our players' effort."
After Renfroe rolled through the Tiger line-up in order in the top of the first, the Tennessee offense immediately jumped in front of TSU, putting up a pair of runs during the bottom half. Chavanne got the outburst started with a perfect bunt single, reaching scoring position by stealing her team-high 24th base of the season. A sac bunt from junior right fielder Kat Dotson advanced the UT speedster to third where she soon was joined on the base paths via walk by sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman. The 6-1 shortstop swiped her 16th bag of the year, setting the stage for a two-RBI base knock off the bat of Gibson as the Big Orange nabbed a quick 2-0 lead.
The Lady Vols threatened during both the second and third innings but failed to add to their advantage. Consecutive two-out singles from sophomore center fielder Tory Lewis and Chavanne in the former and a two-out double by Burchell in the latter granted UT scoring chances against Tennessee State starting pitcher Shea Morris. With Burchell at second with two down in the third, Brown ripped a promising shot into the gap, but the ball was tracked down on a great running grab by TSU center fielder Jennifer Givens.
It didn't really matter with Tennessee's 6-0 hurler in firm control of the proceedings, retiring the first nine batters she faced through the opening trio of frames with five strikeouts.
With two outs in the top of the fourth, TSU finally managed its initial base runner as catcher Devin Amar drew a walk. She never moved a muscle from first as Renfroe recorded her sixth K of the contest by catching first baseman Jordan Rehl swinging to end the frame.
The skies opened up at the point as the two teams retreated to their respective dugouts for what amounted to a 55-minute rain delay.
Tennessee State broke up Renfroe's no-hit bid with one down in the top of the fifth as second baseman Kelly Troglin hit a high chopper up the middle that was corralled on the run Gibson, but she had no play.
The Lady Vol speed game got the Big Orange offense off-and-running again in the bottom of the fifth. As she so often does, Chavanne got the attack started with an infield single and stolen base. Dotson followed immediately with a sharp single into the outfield, placing a pair of speedsters on the bags with still none out. With one down following a Dotson steal, Gibson battled to draw a walk, loading the bases for Burchell. The Columbia, Tenn., native stepped into the batter's box and ripped a two-RBI base knock through the infield, making it 4-0. The advantage expanded to five tallies just seconds later as Brown followed with a RBI single of her own to score Gibson.
With Renfroe in complete control from the circle, UT nearly added to its lead in the bottom of the sixth as walks by Chavanne and Gibson as well as a base hit by Shipman packed the bases with two retired. Unfortunately, a bouncer to short was corralled by Tennessee State's Ashley Haynes and tossed to first as the Big Orange left the bags juiced.
From there it was left to the Lady Vol hurler to finish the shutout, and she did just that in the top of the seventh. Despite allowing an infield single up the first base line that appeared to strike the bag, Renfroe rebounded for consecutive strikeouts of pinch hitters Shann'da Hamer, Brittany Davis and Susie Burke to seal the victory.