March 18, 2011
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee Lady Vol freshman pitcher Ellen Renfroe flirted into the seventh inning with a perfect game, eventually settling for a two-hit shutout, and sophomore right fielder Kat Dotson and junior designated player Jessica Spigner each blasted solo homers as the Big Orange (23-4) swept its two-game series against Iowa with a 2-0 victory on a beautiful Friday night at the Lee Softball Stadium.
Ellen Renfroe discusses her near perfect game and 15 K's against Iowa
Renfroe was amazing throughout her complete-game effort, beginning the seventh with a perfect game intact and striking out a career-high 15 Hawkeyes. In the process the 6-0 right hander became the first Lady Vol pitcher to K 15 batters in a single contest since Monica Abbott punched out 17 Northwestern Wildcats during a 3-0 victory at the 2007 Women's College World Series. The Jackson, Tenn., native fired 105 total pitches, allowed just two hits, walked none and faced just two batters over the seven-inning minimum.
At the plate Tennessee received the team-leading 10th home run and 50th overall RBI of the season from Dotson (1-for-3) and the fourth round-tripper of the year by Spigner (1-for-2) to produce the only two tallies necessary to secure a Lady Vol victory.
"It was an outstanding performance in the circle tonight by Ellen Renfroe, and we got long balls from both Kat Dotson and Jessica Spigner," Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. "We had a lot of other chances to score but left the bases loaded twice. It was enough, however, to get the job done against a very solid Iowa team. It's always good to put another one in the win column before heading back into the SEC schedule."
Renfroe came out ready to go from the opening pitch, striking out Iowa second baseman Katie Keim and third baseman Michelle Zoeller during a quick one-two-three top of the first.
With two retired in the bottom half of the opening frame, Dotson struck by blasting an 0-2 offering from UI starter Chelsea Lyon well over the Lee Stadium wall to grant the Big Orange a 1-0 lead. In the process the Savannah, Ga., native became the first Lady Vol to reach double figures for HR's since Spigner blasted 14 long balls back in 2009 and has now more than tripled the HR output from her All-American freshman campaign (three HR's).
After UT's hurler struck out the Iowa side in the top of the second, Spigner made it 2-0 in favor of the Orange & White on her fourth big fly of the campaign with one out in the bottom half. Unfortunately, a two-out infield single off the bat of Lady Vol sophomore third baseman Melissa Brown and back-to-back walks drawn by junior catcher Ashley Andrews and sophomore left fielder Raven Chavanne went for naught as a fly out to center left the bags packed.
Through four frames of effort, Renfroe was still perfect in the circle having retired 12 consecutive Hawkeyes. UT freshman shortstop Madison Shipman helped out her pitcher in a big way with two down by handling a slow roller off the bat of Chelsey Carmody and firing to first in the nick of time to keep all zeroes on the UI side of the scoreboard.
A Shipman walk, stolen base and an Iowa wild pitch had the Valencia, Calif., native standing just 60 feet from pay dirt with two retired in the fourth. Andrews walked to put Lady Vols at the corners, but a bouncer to second soon ended the inning with no scoring.
It was Brown's turn to help out Renfroe in the field with one down in the top of the fifth. Iowa catcher Liz Watkins laced a rocket shot to third that the Valencia, Calif., native grabbed on a terrific, quick-reaction play. Brown's long throw across the diamond proved just a little high but junior first baseman Shelby Burchell leapt in the air to snag it and came down on the bag for a huge out.
The Big Orange managed to load the bases for the second time in the contest with two outs in the bottom of the fifth as Burchell singled, sophomore second baseman Lauren Gibson registered an infield hit and Spigner walked. Once again, UT would come up empty as a fly out to right center left the trio stranded.
In the top of the sixth Renfroe punched out the Iowa side for the second time in the contest and equaled her previous career-high of 13 K's established during Tennessee's 10-inning, 5-4 loss at #23 Kentucky on March 13.
Venturing to the top of the seventh with the perfect game still intact, it took just one pitch for the magic to come to an end as Keim blooped the first offering of the inning into short left field for a single. Renfroe rebounded from any disappointment immediately by catching Zoeller swinging for her career-best 14th K. Following a fielder's choice that cut down the lead Hawkeye runner at second, first baseman Stephanie Ochoa gave the home crowd a moment of pause with a base knock to left that brought the potential go-ahead tally to the plate. UT's pitcher wouldn't be denied, however, finishing off the two-hit shutout with her 15th strikeout as Watkins looked at a called strike three.
The Tennessee Lady Vol softball team steps back into Southeastern Conference action in a big way on Tuesday, March 22, at 4 p.m. ET at the Lee Softball Stadium by hosting a doubleheader against No. 2 Alabama. Live free web video will be available for both contests through UTLadyVols.com/allaccess. Check both http://twitter.com/LadyVol_Sftball and http://twitter.com/LadyVol_Sports for the most up-to-date information on Tennessee softball.