March 20, 2010
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - On a sunny, spring-like Saturday afternoon at the Lee Softball Stadium, No. 17 Tennessee (21-5, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) nabbed the opener of a key Eastern Division series from No. 6 Georgia (20-4, 1-3 SEC), 5-4.
The victory marked the 300th home triumph for the Tennessee softball program, combining the all-time efforts at both Lee Stadium and the former friendly confines at Tyson Park.
UT freshman designated player Lauren Gibson guided the Lady Vol offense by going a perfect 2-for-2 at the plate with three RBI while blasting her third homer of the campaign. Sophomore third baseman Jessica Spigner went 2-for-3 at the dish with a double and also registered her first career save from the circle, pitching a no-hit seventh inning to fight off a last-ditch Bulldog rally. Senior first baseman Erinn Webb posted a 1-for-2 effort with an RBI, while junior center fielder Kelly Grieve (1-for-3) launched her seventh two-bagger of the season and also plated a run.
Rookie pitcher Ivy Renfroe improved to 11-1 on the year, allowing three runs on seven hits with two walks and two strikeouts over 5.1 frames of work. Sophomore Cat Hosfield permitted one tally on a trio of base knocks in two-thirds of an inning of relief.
Georgia's offense opened the contest with a lead-off walk as center fielder Taylor Schlopy drew a free pass against Renfroe and then quickly swiped second. UT's 5-10 hurler was up to the challenge, however, coercing groundouts by left fielder Megan Wiggins and designated player Ashley Razey and then striking out dangerous third baseman Alisa Goler.
After a quick one-two-three bottom of the first for the Lady Vols, Georgia first baseman Brianna Hesson recorded the game's first hit on a single through the left side of the infield opening the second frame. Renfroe easily got out of any potential trouble by retiring catcher Kristyn Sandberg, right fielder Amberlie Sexton and shortstop Laura Trout in order.
Spigner got the UT offense started in the bottom of the second by hustling down the line to beat out a single to deep short. Senior catcher Tiffany Huff blasted a pitch from UGA's Erin Arevalo to deep right center and off the wall for what became an extremely long base hit. Senior second baseman Nicole Kajitani was hit by a 3-2 pitch, loading the bases with still no one down in the frame. Gibson managed a walk to force in the contest's initial tally and then Webb drove a 1-0 offering to deep center for a sacrifice fly as Tennessee raced in front, 2-0.
With one down in UGA's half of the fourth, Hesson drew a four-pitch walk. Sandberg followed with a double into the right center field gap, placing runners at second and third with one down. Jennie Auger stepped into the box and singled through the left side of the infield. Freshman left fielder Raven Chavanne corralled the ball and came up throwing, firing a strike to the plate to nail Sandberg for a vital second out. Trout was hit by a pitch and then second baseman Ashley Pauly bounced a promising shot up the middle. Sophomore shortstop Ashley Andrews ranged to her left to nab the bouncer and stepped on second base to conclude the inning with no further damage.
The Big Orange responded immediately to Georgia's scoring by adding to its advantage in the bottom of the fourth. A lead-off walk drawn by Huff was cashed in on a towering shot to right field by Gibson as the Lady Vol lead expanded to 4-1.
Grieve got another scoring opportunity started by leading off the Lady Vol fifth with a double down the right field line. With one out in the frame, Spigner laced an RBI two-bagger just inside the third base bag and into the left field corner as Grieve raced around to the plate, upping the count to 5-1.
The Red & Black got a solo homer to right center field from Goler starting the top of the sixth as Georgia cut its deficit to 5-2. Sandberg hammered a shot to the wall in right center for a one-out double to end Renfroe's stay in the circle. Hosfield entered in relief and immediately got a groundout to short by Auger. Trout lifted a short pop-up just behind the circle that barely dropped in for a hit as pinch runner Sara Sikes scored to make it 5-3. On a Schlopy infield bouncer, the ball was thrown wide to first for an error. Trout rounded third and managed to get caught in huge inning-ending rundown as UT got out of the jam.
Facing its last chance in the top of the seventh, Georgia showed it wouldn't go down without a fight as Wiggins blasted the first pitch of the inning over the center field wall to make it 5-4. Renfroe re-entered the contest and immediately gave up a single through the left side to Razey. That forced co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly to bring Spigner into the circle to attempt to nail things down. The Santa Clarita, Calif., native battled Goler over eight pitches before issuing a walk, placing Bulldogs on first and second with still no one retired. On an offering in the dirt, both base occupants took off attempting to advance. UGA pinch runner Macie Couey managed to get to third but overslid the bag as newly-entered Lady Vol third baseman Melissa Brown tagged her for a huge initial retirement. Hesson launched a high fly ball to left that was caught by freshman Megan Givens to get UT within one out of a big win. UGA's Sandberg and her perfect 2-for-2 day stepped to the plate with the potential tying run in scoring position at second base. On a beautiful change-up, Spigner caught the hitter looking at strike three, ending the 5-4 victory.
No. 17 Tennessee continues its Southeastern Conference Eastern Division series against No. 6 Georgia on Saturday at approximately 3:50 p.m. ET. The contest is being broadcast live on Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS -- Comcast Channel 33 in the local Knoxville area) with Justin Cazana and Cheri Kempf on the call.