Sophomore Jessica Spigner
March 6, 2010
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Four home runs, including a pair of round-trippers from sophomore third baseman Jessica Spigner, rallied No. 20 Tennessee (11-4) from a 4-1, third inning deficit to a 6-5 victory over Illinois State on Saturday night in Tennessee Classic action at the Lee Softball Stadium. With the triumph the Lady Vols remain the only unbeaten team in the event at 2-0 overall.
Spigner carried the offensive load for the Big Orange, going 3-for-4 at the plate with two home runs and four RBIs. The Santa Clarita, Calif., native now owns the team lead in HR's (five) and RBIs (17). Senior catcher Tiffany Huff went back-to-back with Spigner on big flies during UT's three-run fifth inning as part of her perfect 3-for-3 night. Fellow senior first baseman Erinn Webb (1-for-3) delivered her first homer of the year in the fifth, deadlocking the score at 4-4.
Freshman Ivy Renfroe picked up her fifth victory of the year after firing 3.2 frames in relief, allowing just two hits and posting four strikeouts. Sophomore starter Cat Hosfield worked 3.1 innings, eventually picking up her third save of the campaign while permitting three earned runs on five hits with six K's.
"We are really proud of the way our team fought back today against two very good teams in Texas and Illinois State," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "ISU hits the ball extremely hard and Texas is a legitimate top 15 team in the nation. There were too many great individual plays to single out any one player on our squad tonight. These were team victories in every way."
Tennessee's offense struck first in the opening frame as a walk issued to junior center fielder Kelly Grieve, two stolen bases and an RBI base knock up the middle by Spigner pushed the Lady Vols quickly in front, 1-0.
The Redbirds answered with a run in the top of the second as first baseman Michelle Henderson hammered a solo homer deep over the left field wall to knot the count at 1-1.
The advantage expanded for Illinois State in the third as catcher Caiti Kopp homered to left, and then with two runners on, third baseman Abby Olson singled into right center as the ISU lead grew to three tallies.
Suddenly trailing 4-1 on the scoreboard, the Lady Vols tried to get something going in the bottom of the third. Freshman right fielder Kat Dotson christened the inning with a single through the left side, but Spigner bounced into a 6-4-3 double play as Illinois State recorded two quick outs. That play probably saved the Redbirds at least one run as Huff followed with a base knock up the middle and then freshman designated player Lauren Gibson singled through the left side. With two down Webb grounded harmlessly to short as ISU survived three hits in the frame with no scoreboard damage.
Illinois State shortstop Niki Stansell christened the top of the fourth with a base hit to left field. After a strikeout, left fielder Shelby Music laced a shot through the right side of the infield. Dotson corralled the ball and came up throwing, eventually nailing Stansell at the plate for a huge out number two. A routine grounder from Kopp concluded the frame with ISU still leading 4-1.
The Big Orange utilized the long ball to climb right back into the contest in the bottom of the fifth. Spigner blasted a solo homer to deep left and then Huff followed on the next pitch with a drive off the scoreboard in left center as Tennessee cut its deficit to 4-3. That marked the first time UT posted back-to-back homers since Huff and Spigner worked the same magic on Feb, 24, 2009, during a rout of Liberty. Following a K, Webb stepped into the box and continued the power show by hammering a long shot to deep left center that hit about 30 feet up on the light standard to knot the contest at 4-4.
Stansell ripped Renfroe's first offering of the top of the sixth to deep right center. Grieve took off sprinting into the gap and caught the ball over her shoulder in a spectacular "web gem" grab just before running into the wall. The Big Orange defense continued to make its mark later in the frame with a runner occupying second as Dotson raced in quickly on a dying quail off the bat of Kopp to make a run-saving, diving catch to end the frame.
Spigner granted the Lady Vols their first lead since the opening inning by cashing in a Dotson walk with a towering drive deep over the scoreboard in left center as Tennessee nabbed a 6-4 advantage.
With one last opportunity in the top of the seventh, second baseman Kara Nelson drove the first pitch she received from re-entered pitcher Hosfield off the scoreboard in left center to make it 6-5. With one out third baseman Abby Olson struck out but reached safely via a wild pitch to bring the potential go-ahead run to the plate. Catcher Elizabeth Kay grounded to first, advancing an ISU runner into scoring position. Hosfield closed the door, however, by getting Henderson on a bouncer to second that senior Nicole Kajitani scooped and tossed on to first to seal the comeback victory.
The Tennessee Classic at Lee Softball Stadium wraps up on Sunday with three games on the slate, starting with No. 13 Texas versus Illinois State at 11 a.m. ET. The 20th-ranked Lady Vols will be in action at approximately 1:30 and 4 p.m. ET against Ohio and Illinois State, respectively. Check out Tennessee Classic Tournament Central at http://www.utladyvols.com/sports/w-softbl/spec-rel/tennclassic.html for live stats and audio links.