May 20, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - For the first time in program history, the #5 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (50-11) battled out of the loser's bracket to win a regional title as the Lady Vols won four games over two days to secure the championship of the Knoxville Regional with a commanding 10-2 victory over Virginia Tech (42-21) in front of a sold-out crowd of 1,718 at the Lee Softball Stadium.
The Big Orange now advances on to battle 10th-seeded Georgia in the best-of-three NCAA Super Regionals next weekend at times and dates still to be determined. Check into UTLadyVols.com for more information as it becomes available.
The Lady Vol offense banged out a season-high 16 hits in the victory, led by three hits each from senior designated player Shelby Burchell (3-for-4, two doubles, two RBIs), sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman (3-for-4, two runs, RBI) and junior right fielder Kat Dotson (3-for-5, RBI). Junior third baseman Raven Chavanne was 2-for-4 with a double and a pair of RBIs, while junior second baseman Lauren Gibson was 2-for-4 with a run scored and a pair of runs knocked in. Sophomore left fielder Melissa Davin (1-for-3, RBI) and freshman pinch hitter Cheyanne Tarango (0-for-1, RBI) were each credited with an RBI in the triumph.
In the circle junior Ivy Renfroe picked up all four elimination victories over the last two days of the regional, improving to 23-8 on the year. The Jackson, Tenn., native allowed just two hits, walked one and struck out three over five innings of effort against the Hokies. Sophomore starter Ellen Renfroe allowed one earned tally on two hits with a pair of walks and two K's over 2.0 frames.
"I said Friday night that we weren't done," Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. "I really believed in this team, and when we talked to the team Friday night, we didn't dump on them like a lot of coaches might when we played like we played Friday night. We just told them what we told you guys earlier, that we won 20 straight games and we can win four. It's all about players, and I know that is what coaches always say, but it's the truth. It's all about players.
"These kids refused to lose. They wanted to advance, they wanted to play in the Super Regional and they did everything they needed to do to do it. We got through some injuries. As you probably saw, one of the reasons (Ellen Renfroe) didn't pitch very much in this tournament was because of what I've told you for the last couple of weeks. We've been working through something, and I am positive that she will 100 percent next week when we go against Georgia, but Ivy had to carry a tremendous burden the whole time and did it fantastic."
Tennessee's offense got off to a rousing start in the top of the first, plating a pair of runs on three hits off Virginia Tech starter Jasmin Harrell. Dotson got the assault started with an infield hit, moving to second after a walk was issued to Shipman. Facing an early RBI situation, Burchell delivered in the clutch, blasting a double to the wall as Dotson scored for a 1-0 lead. A perfect bunt single off the bat of Gibson proved plenty to both reach safely and score Shipman as the advantage quickly expanded to a pair of tallies.
The Hokies answered right back in the bottom half of the first, however, with the benefit of some Lady Vol defensive assistance. An error on a grounder by center fielder Lauren Gaskill granted Va. Tech a lead-off base runner. After a steal, second baseman Kylie McGoldrick singled on the infield and suddenly the Hokies had runners at the corners and no one out. Ellen Renfroe responded to the threat with a big strikeout of first baseman Courtney Liddle. Third baseman Kelsey Mericka blasted a drive to deep left center that was tracked down on the run near the track by sophomore Tory Lewis as Gaskill scored via the sac fly to cut the VT deficit to just 2-1. The Hokies wouldn't get anymore, however, as Davin handled a fly ball off the bat of catcher Betty Rose to conclude the threat.
The Tennessee offense blew the game wide open in the top of the third, plating five runs on five hits with the benefit of a pair of Hokie miscues. Shipman got it all started with an infield single and soon found herself crossing home plate as Burchell doubled her in all the way from first for a 3-1 lead. Consecutive RBI base knocks from Gibson and Davin plated two more tallies, while a RBI groundout by Tarango lifted UT's advantage to a commanding 6-1. Chavanne blasted a double into the gap for a RBI, but was caught in no man's land between second and third, getting tagged out to finally end the onslaught with the Big Orange up by six runs.
Trying to claw back into the contest, Virginia Tech's Gaskill christened the bottom of the third with a single through the right side of the infield. A walk issued to McGoldrick ended the stint in the circle for Ellen Renfroe as sister Ivy came on for a relief appearance for the fourth consecutive contest during the Knoxville Regional. The new 6-0 right hander allowed a single back through the middle from Liddle, loading the bags full of Hokies with still none out. Following a foul pop-up that senior catcher Ashley Andrews raced over to grab to the right of the plate for the first retirement, Rose hit a slow roller up the third base line that Chavanne charged. Her only play was to first as a run crossed, cutting the UT lead to 7-2. An almost identical slow grounder off the bat of Banks to third was handled by Chavanne, retiring the side as Virginia Tech left a pair on the base paths.
Bidding for more on the scoreboard, Lewis christened the top of the sixth with a sharp single into the outfield. A wild pitch and a groundout back to the circle by Chavanne advanced the UT speedster to within 60 feet of pay dirt. With two retired Shipman chopped a high bouncer deep into the hole at short, bringing Lewis across the dish for an 8-2 advantage.
With Tennessee looking for the knockout blow, Holly Baker continued her recent hot hitting by opening the top of the seventh with a base knock through the infield. With one down in the frame, there proved to be a special moment for the Lady Vols as senior Cat Hosfield returned from arthroscopic knee surgery to a standing ovation from the Lee Stadium crowd, eventually drawing a walk off Harrell. Consecutive two-out infield singles from Chavanne and Dotson brought home the Big Orange's final two tallies setting the damage at 10 runs on a season-best 16 hits.
Down to one last chance to keep the contest going in the bottom of the seventh, Tech did receive a two-out single from Gaskill. Ivy Renfroe refused to be denied the victory, however, getting McGoldrick to pop up to Chavanne at third to conclude UT's Knoxville Regional triumph.