Freshman Raven Chavanne
March 9, 2010
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Despite rallying from a deficit for the second straight game and taking a one-run lead late, No. 19 Tennessee (14-5, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) watched as Mississippi State (14-7, 1-1 SEC) scored twice in the bottom of the seventh to post a 5-4 victory on a rainy Tuesday night at the MSU Softball Field in Starkville, Miss.
Freshman right fielder Kat Dotson and sophomore designated player Shelby Burchell each led the UT offense by going 2-for-3 at the plate with a run scored and an RBI. Rookie left fielder Raven Chavanne posted a 2-for-3 effort, while freshman shortstop Melissa Brown recorded an RBI on a sacrifice fly.
Sophomore right hander Cat Hosfield took a tough defeat to drop to 7-4 overall, allowing three earned runs on eight hits over 5.2 innings of work with three walks and two K's. Freshman Ivy Renfroe walked two and struck out one over two-thirds of a frame in the circle.
"We made too many mistakes tonight to win a game against a good Southeastern Conference opponent," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "We made two critical freshman base running errors, which each directly cost us a run. We also hit and walked a batter with the bases loaded to force in a pair of runs. We are a young team, and we will get better."
A one-out single by Dotson, a stolen base and a wild pitch put a runner on third with two retired in the top of the first. Unfortunately, sophomore third baseman Jessica Spigner popped up into short center as MSU shortstop Erin Nesbit squeezed the sphere for the third out.
Mississippi State lead-off hitter Chelsea Bramlett led off the Bulldog half of the first with a single through the right side of the infield. After a flyout to left, third baseman Jessie Bailey laced a double into right center that scored Bramlett for a quick 1-0 lead. Left fielder Ka'ili Smith stepped into the box and singled up the middle as Bailey raced around third attempting to score. Junior center fielder Kelly Grieve came up throwing, nailing the runner at the plate for the second out. Second baseman Ali Bainbridge bounced back to the circle to conclude the opening frame.
In the bottom of the second after Tennessee wasted a pair of lead-off walks in the top half, an UT infield error on a bouncer off the bat of shortstop Erin Nesbit and a base knock to left center by first baseman Shelby Fisher put two Bulldogs on base and ended the start for Hosfield after just 1.1 innings. Renfroe entered in relief and uncorked a wild pitch with pinch hitter Courtney Nesbit at the plate, advancing the base occupants to second and third with one down. On a 3-2 pitch C. Nesbit ripped a shot to second that was corralled and then thrown home, but too late to get the batter's sister as E. Nesbit scored for a 2-0 MSU lead. Dangerous lead-off hitter Bramlett was walked intentionally to load the bases. Designated player Allie Heon swung and missed at strike three, but the next batter, third baseman Jessie Bailey, was struck with an inside pitch to force home a tally as the Bulldogs nabbed a 3-0 lead. Left fielder Ka'ili Smith ripped a pitch to third but right to Spigner as she caught the liner to leave three MSU base runners stranded.
In the top of the third Chavanne singled to open the frame, moved to second on a groundout and with two down advanced to third on an illegal pitch by MSU's Misty Flesher. Dotson ripped a dying liner to left that was caught on the run at the shoe tops by Smith. Chavanne took off for the plate but was judged to have taken off too early from third base. The ball was tossed behind her to third to end the inning via an unconventional double play.
A lead-off walk issued to MSU's Bainbridge in the bottom of the third forced co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly to bring Hosfield back into the circle. She immediately coerced a fly out to left by right fielder Brittany Bell and then got some defensive help from her teammates to conclude the frame. Erin Nesbit lined a ball toward senior first baseman Tiffany Huff. The Saugus, Calif., native leapt in the air to make the catch and then turned and tagged the bag for a double play.
Illegal pitches by Flesher changed the complexion of Tennessee's half of the fourth inning. With a 3-2 count sophomore third baseman Jessica Spigner appeared to have flown out to mid-center, but the umps ruled the hurler had tossed an illegal pitch. That put the Santa Clarita, Calif., product on via a surprise walk and she was soon replaced on the base paths by freshman pinch runner Leah Taylor. Another illegal offering advanced the runner to second with Huff standing at the dish. She bounced routinely to Jessie Bailey at third. The MSU fielder caught Taylor standing too far off second, nailing her for a costly fielder's choice. On a 2-2 offering Burchell blasted an RBI two-bagger to the wall in right center as Huff scored to cut the Bulldog lead to 3-1. Kajitani battled hard over a nine-pitch at-bat before bouncing to second as Burchell advanced up 60 feet to third. Sophomore catcher Ashley Andrews made solid contact but flew out to mid-range left for the third out.
The Lady Vols demonstrated the speed game at its finest starting the top of the fifth as freshman pinch hitter Whitney Hammond and Chavanne delivered consecutive infield singles. Grieve moved both runners into scoring position on a bouncer to short. That play proved important as Dotson lined out to left on a sacrifice fly as Hammond crossed to cut the deficit to 3-2. Spigner blasted a towering shot to deep right but it came up just a few feet short of a homer as Bell made the inning-ending catch on the warning track.
Desperately searching for the tying run Burchell got things going in the top of the sixth with a one-out single to left. Kajitani reached on a throwing error by the pitcher and then rookie pinch hitter Lauren Gibson walked to load the bases. Brown came through in the clutch with a sac fly to left as Burchell scored, completing the rally from three runs down and tying the count at 3-3. Chavanne was intentionally walked to pack the bags once again, but Grieve popped up to short for the final out as the game moved to seventh deadlocked.
Bainbridge led off the Mississippi State half of the sixth with a sharp single to center. Bell tried to sac the runner over via bunt, but Spigner pounced on the ball and cut down the lead runner. Hosfield struck out E. Nesbit and then Bainbridge swiped second to reach scoring position with two outs. Fisher walked to place runners at first and second with pinch hitter Jessie Spain called on to bat in a big situation. She fought off numerous pitches before flying out to right to leave the duo stranded and send it to the seventh tied at three.
Dotson got the top of the seventh off to a promising start with a lead-off single back through the middle. After two quick retirements, Burchell chopped what appeared to the inning-ender to short. Moving to her left, Erin Nesbit corralled the ball but threw low to first as Dotson rolled around to score from second with the go-ahead run as Tennessee nabbed its initial lead of the contest at 4-3.
The Bulldogs answered right back in the bottom of the seventh as the speedster Bramlett chopped one over the third baseman's head and slid into second with a lead-off double. Looking to drop the sac bunt, Heon popped it up behind the plate as Andrews squeezed the orb for a big first out. Bailey was hit by a pitch to put a pair aboard with clean-up hitter Ka'ili Smith stepping to the plate. Following a wild pitch, Smith was intentionally walked to load the bases for Bainbridge with one down. On a 3-2 offering she lined a single barely over the glove of a leaping Brown at short to tie the game at 4-4. Bell also lifted a pop-up just over shortstop that Brown tried in vain to catch on the run over her shoulder. She couldn't hold on as she hit the ground, however, allowing the winning run to cross as MSU prevailed 5-4.
No. 19 Tennessee will contest the "rubber match" 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.