Freshman Kat Dotson
March 9, 2010
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Behind a 12-hit offensive attack and solid pitching work from freshman Ivy Renfroe and sophomore Cat Hosfield down the stretch, the No. 19 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team improved to 14-4 overall and 1-0 in the Southeastern Conference by rallying from a 3-0, first-inning deficit to triumph in its league opener over Mississippi State (13-7), 8-4, on a rainy Tuesday evening at the MSU Softball Field in Starkville, Miss.
Freshman right fielder Kat Dotson led the way by posting a 3-for-4 day at the plate with a triple and a team-best three RBIs. Sophomore third baseman Jessica Spigner blasted her sixth home run of the year as part of a 2-for-2, two-RBI effort, freshman left fielder Raven Chavanne went 3-for-4 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI and senior shortstop Nicole Kajitani recorded a double and a triple while going 2-for-4 with two tallies.
Freshman starter Renfroe improved to 7-1 during her initial campaign after allowing just one earned run on five hits with eight strikeouts over 5.0 innings of work. Hosfield permitted three hits in two scoreless frames of relief to seal the victory.
Chavanne opened the match-up with a high chopper up the first base line that she beat out for a lead-off single. A sacrifice bunt from junior center fielder Kelly Grieve (2-for-3), an infield base knock off the bat of Dotson and a walk issued by MSU starter Kylie Vry to Spigner loaded the bases with just one retired and brought Bulldog coach Jay Miller out of the dugout to speak to his hurler. It seemed to settle her down in the circle as Vry posted consecutive strikeouts as the Lady Vols left the bases loaded in the first.
Renfroe managed to strikeout Mississippi State All-American catcher Chelsea Bramlett looking on the inside corner, before the rain started again, forcing the umps to call for a delay after just 14 minutes of action. It didn't prove to be a long break as the teams returned to the field after just a couple of minutes and started back with designated player Allie Heon at the plate facing a 0-1 count. On a high chopper on the infield, the ball was thrown high to first for an error as Heon reached safely. First baseman Courtney Nesbit was struck with a 3-2 offering to place two aboard for clean-up hitter Ka'ili Smith. The left fielder blooped a ball just over second base and into center for what ended up as a double as Heon raced across for a quick 1-0 lead. After a strikeout second baseman Ali Bainbridge dropped a slow roller on the infield that was misplayed for the second UT miscue of the frame as MSU added another run to make it 2-0. Right fielder Brittany Bell beat out an infield hit to deep short as Smith crossed to improve MSU's advantage to three tallies. A fly out to center finally ended things for the Big Orange as three unearned runs crossed in the opening inning.
With one out in the top of the second, Kajitani blasted a double just inside the left field line and later advanced to third on a groundout by sophomore catcher Ashley Andrews. Then things took a turn for the bizarre as Chavanne swung and missed at strike three but hustled up the line on a dropped ball behind the plate to reach successfully as Kajitani scored to cut the UT deficit to 3-1.
Despite a two-out double by Heon, Renfroe settled in during the bottom of the second, striking out the side in the form of center fielder Brittany Gates, Bramlett and Nesbit.
Kajitani got the Lady Vols off to a promising start in the top of the fourth by driving a shot down the right field line and into the corner for a lead-off triple. Andrews followed with a five-pitch walk, putting UT runners at the corners with none retired heading to the top of the UT order. That forced a quick change in the circle for the Bulldogs as Stephanie Becker was summoned into the contest in relief of Vry. Kajitani raced home on a stolen base, and then on a Chavanne double down the left field line, Andrews roared to the plate from second base to tie the count at 3-3. With one retired Dotson blasted a 1-0 offering into left field for a single as Chavanne scored to grant Tennessee its first lead of the day at 4-3. Before the frame ended, Tennessee had sent eight hitters to the plate and scored three times with the benefit of a trio of hits, two walks and a hit batter.
Renfroe cruised through the third and fourth frames before running into some trouble in the fifth on a two-out double to right center by Smith. Bailey immediately followed with a base knock through the right side of the infield as the runner scored to deadlock the contest at 4-4. UT's 5-10 right hander eventually got out of the inning by catching Bell on a high swinging strike.
The Big Orange speed game got the UT offense off and running in the top of the sixth as Chavanne and Grieve delivered back-to-back infield singles to christen the frame. Dotson pulled a shot just inside the right field line and down into the corner for a two-run triple as Tennessee re-took the advantage, 6-4. Spigner stepped to the plate and crushed the first pitch she received from Becker over the scoreboard in left for a two-run bomb and suddenly the Big Orange was in firm control, 8-4.
Hosfield was summoned into the match-up in relief starting the bottom of the sixth. After striking out shortstop Erin Nesbit to open the frame, pinch hitter Jessie Spain and then Bramlett delivered back-to-back singles and State was in business once again. On a bouncer to short, Andrews was interfered with by Gates running from second to third to record an automatic out. That took the steam out of the MSU rally as Courtney Nesbit grounded out routinely to short to leave a pair of base runners stranded.
Mississippi State sent Smith, Bailey and Bainbridge to the dish facing its last offensive opportunity in the bottom of the seventh. Smith went down swinging at strike three, and then Bailey ripped a ball right to Spigner who tossed across the diamond to make it two quick outs. Bainbridge fell behind 1-2 before battling Hosfield to a full count. The State second baseman beat out an infield single to deep short to keep the inning alive. Bell stepped in and bounced out to short, however, as Spigner made a strong throw across the diamond to secure the comeback win.
No. 19 Tennessee will contest its series finale at Mississippi State on Wed., March 10, at 5 p.m. ET (a time change from the originally schedule that listed 2 p.m.), before returning to Lee Softball Stadium to host the Tennessee Invitational over March 12-14.