March 7, 2010
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The 20th-ranked Lady Vol softball squad (13-4) swept through its five contests this weekend with an unbeaten 5-0 record to win the Tennessee Classic title, wrapping up the championship with an 8-4 victory over Illinois State on Sunday afternoon at the Lee Softball Stadium.
Junior center fielder Kelly Grieve went 2-for-4 versus the Redbirds with a double and two RBIs, while senior second baseman Nicole Kajitani delivered a 1-for-3 performance with a two-run homer, her first big fly of the year. Sophomore third baseman Jessica Spigner was 3-for-4 at the dish with two doubles and an RBI, freshman left fielder Raven Chavanne doubled as part of a 2-for-4 effort with a run scored and freshman designated player Lauren Gibson (1-for-4) singled in a tally during UT's six-run sixth inning.
Sophomore hurler Cat Hosfield improved to 7-3 on the season after allowing four earned runs on four hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 6.0 innings of work. Freshman Ivy Renfroe permitted one base knock, no runs, a walk and posted three K's in a single relief frame in the circle.
"Our bats came alive today," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "We started slow in both games but finished strong. Our coaching staff was happy with our team's effort this weekend. It's always great to go 5-0 against three really great teams such as No. 13 Texas, Illinois State and Ohio."
Tennessee put the first run on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second with the help of a two-out fielding error by Illinois State. After Spigner opened the inning with a two-bagger down the left field line, senior first baseman Tiffany Huff and Kajitani joined her on the base paths by a hit and walk, respectively. Following a fielder's choice for the second out of the frame, a Redbird miscue on a bouncer to third allowed Huff to score from 60 feet away and make it 1-0.
Freshman right fielder Kat Dotson was struck by a pitch from Illinois State starter Megan Warner with one out in the bottom of the third to set the stage for another Lady Vol tally. Spigner stepped in and ripped a single past diving shortstop Niki Stansell and into left center, allowing the lead runner to race into third with Spigner occupying second. Dotson got caught straying too far off third, as Huff offered at a pitch, and looked as if she would be picked off. The Savannah, Ga., native proved too quick, however, turning for home as the ball was tossed to third and sliding in easily for a steal of home to make it 2-0.
Redbird third baseman Abby Olson cut ISU's deficit to 2-1 by driving a lead-off solo homer to right in the top of the fourth inning.
Chavanne and Grieve attempted to get a Tennessee rally started in the bottom of the fifth by driving consecutive singles through the left side of the infield. Unfortunately, on a bouncer toward second by Dotson, Grieve was struck while leaping over the sphere. She was immediately called out and Chavanne was forced to return to second on the dead ball. Spigner then routinely flew out to mid-left center and Huff ripped a shot right back to the circle to end what once was a promising inning with no scoring.
With Hosfield controlling things from the circle through six frames, an Illinois State fielding error on a Gibson bouncer opening the bottom of the sixth was cashed in on the first homer of the season by Kajitani to grant UT a 4-1 advantage. With that the door was wide open for Tennessee's offense as a single by sophomore Ashley Andrews and consecutive doubles from Chavanne and Grieve plated two more runs to make it 6-1, Big Orange. A RBI two-bagger to right center by Spigner and an RBI single up the middle from Gibson set the final offensive tally for UT at eight runs venturing to ISU's last chance.
The Redbirds wasted little time trying to claw back into the game in the seventh as designated player Elizabeth Kay doubled to open the inning and scored on a single back through the middle from pinch hitter Emma Clark. With it suddenly 8-2, left fielder Shelby Music walked to end Hosfield's stay in the circle as Renfroe entered to try to close out the contest. Kopp loaded the bases via a free pass before Stansell got caught swinging at a high strike three for the initial retirement of the inning. Nelson hammered the first pitch she received to right field and off the wall as two Redbirds raced around to cut the deficit to just 8-4 with runners still standing on second and third. UT's 5-10 right hander shut the door, however, by posting consecutive strikeouts of right fielder Jhavon Hamilton and Olson to end the game.
The No. 20 Lady Vols now turn their attention to the opening of Southeastern Conference action with a three-game series at Mississippi State over March 9-10, before returning to Lee Softball Stadium to host next weekend's Tennessee Invitational.