May 31, 2012
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Trailing 4-0 after the first inning, the #5 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (52-13) showed determination in battling valiantly to the last pitch but dropped its opener to #3 Alabama (56-7) on Thursday evening at the Women's College World Series, 5-3.
The Big Orange now faces possible elimination on Sat., June 2, at 2:30 p.m. ET against #12 Oregon live on ESPN2.
The occurrence marked the first time in its five trips to the WCWS that Tennessee suffered a defeat in its event opener, having topped #3 Arizona (1-0 in 2005), #1 UCLA (4-3 in 2006), #7 Texas A&M (2-0 in 2007) and #3 Arizona (9-0, 5 inn. in 2010) in previous Oklahoma City, Okla., visits.
Sophomore left fielder Melissa Davin (1-for-2, two runs, HR, two RBIs) provided the big blow for the Tennessee offense, blasting her eighth HR of the season, a two-run shot off Crimson Tide All-American Jackie Traina during the top of the second to help UT climb within 4-2. Junior NFCA All-American third baseman Raven Chavanne was 1-for-4 from her lead-off spot in the order with a RBI, while junior right fielder Kat Dotson (1-for-4), junior second baseman and NFCA All-American Lauren Gibson (1-for-3) and junior first baseman Melissa Brown (1-for-3, run) each recorded one of Tennessee's five base knocks in the contest.
In the circle junior Ivy Renfroe (25-9) suffered just her third decision defeat since March 21, allowing three earned runs on three hits with four walks over 2.2 innings of work as the starter. In a relief appearance sophomore NFCA All-American Ellen Renfroe permitted a single run on a pair of hits with three walks and a trio of K's over 3.1 frames.
"Well, first of all that was a dominating performance by Jackie Traina," Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. "She did a fantastic job, and the Alabama team deserves credit. They came out on fire and attacking the ball. But I'm still proud of our kids. I think that we fought the whole game, and I think after the first inning, it could have been a lot worse except that our kids fought and fought and hung in there. You know, this is the World Series. People have asked me about all kinds of different excuses. There are no excuses. That was a softball game. We played hard, they played hard, and they came out on top."
After a quick one-two-three top of the first for the Lady Vol offense, Bama's speed game wasted no time getting something started against Ivy Renfroe in the bottom half. Left fielder Kayla Braud christened the outburst with a slap single to short, swiped second and was soon joined on the base paths via walk by center fielder Jen Fenton with still no one retired. Shortstop Kaila Hunt lifted a fly ball to the outfield that was dropped for an error, loading the bases. They were quickly unloaded as first baseman Cassie Reilly-Boccia laced a double the other way to left center, making it 3-0 Crimson Tide. A walk issued to designated player Amanda Locke quickly ended Ivy Renfroe's stay in the circle as sister Ellen entered for a relief appearance. The new 6-0 right-hander immediately issued free passes to consecutive batters, forcing in another tally to grant UA a 4-0 advantage. That's when another visit to the circle by Co-Head Coach Karen Weekly seemed to settle things down as Ellen Renfroe quickly retired three straight, including one via a liner right back to the circle, as Alabama left the bases loaded.
As seems to happen so often with the 2012 Lady Vol offense, UT saved its best for the two-out mark of the top of the second. Brown laced a single through the left side of the infield, setting the stage for a two-run blast to left center by Davin as the Big Orange sliced the `Bama lead to 4-2. For the Fresno, Calif., native, the big fly came in the very first at-bat of her career at the WCWS.
The contest settled down after the wild start as each team stranded a base runner during the third frame. Tennessee's Chavanne reached via an error starting the inning and Alabama's Traina walked with two down in UA's half, but neither team managed to string together a serious threat.
That semblance of peace lasted until the bottom of the fourth as a Braud double got another Tide rally started with one retired. Fenton stepped into the batter's box and ripped a RBI single back through the middle as Braud scored easily from second to grant UA a 5-2 advantage.
Tennessee's offense desperately tried to rally in the top of the sixth as Dotson beat out an infield single to second with one down and Gibson hit a hot shot deep into the hole at short to reach, placing a pair aboard with two retired. Unfortunately, a slow roller to Alabama second baseman Danae Hays was corralled and tossed to first as UT left its duo stranded on the base paths with the Tide still ahead by three tallies.
With the Lady Vols down to one final chance in the top of the seventh, freshman pinch hitter Cheyanne Tarango drew a one-out free pass off Traina to grant UT some life. Rookie pinch hitter Hannah Akamine followed with a walk, setting up a potential RBI situation with two Lady Vols on board. Chavanne delivered in the clutch via a base knock to the right side, cutting Alabama's advantage to just 5-3. That was as close as Tennessee would get, however, as consecutive strikeouts with the potential winning run standing at the plate completed the Crimson Tide triumph.