March 31, 2010
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The No. 16 Lady Vol softball team (26-7) wasted little time, one hour and 17 minutes to be exact, in powering past in-state foe Middle Tennessee, 9-1 (5 inn.), on a beautiful Wednesday evening at the Lee Softball Stadium.
The victory marked UT's 65th straight triumph over "Volunteer State" opposition dating back to its last loss to an in-state squad (Middle Tennessee) on March 22, 2000.
Big Orange freshman second baseman Lauren Gibson (1-for-2, two RBIs) hammered a two-run homer during UT's three-tally third inning, marking her fourth big fly of the season. Sophomore third baseman Jessica Spigner absolutely crushed a solo shot to deep left in the fourth for her team-best seventh round-tripper of 2010. In the process, the Santa Clarita, Calif., native even came through big-time for a UT student in attendance as Emily Ward won a $700 prize as part of a "If a Lady Vol Homers During the Inning" marketing promotion.
Freshman left fielder Raven Chavanne did what she seemingly always does, posting another perfect 3-for-3, two-RBI effort to improve her season average to .517. Reigning USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Week and Southeastern Conference Player of the Week Kat Dotson (1-for-3) knocked in her 27th run of the year on a second inning base hit. Junior center fielder Kelly Grieve went 2-for-3 at the dish with her second triple of 2010 and two RBIs, while senior first baseman Erinn Webb tallied an RBI on a two-bagger to center.
In the circle freshman Ivy Renfroe, the current SEC Pitcher of the Week, picked up her 15th victory of the campaign, allowing four hits and one earned run with a walk and five strikeouts during a complete-game effort.
"We challenged our players to come out tonight with fire and enthusiasm and to respect the challenge we always face against good in-state teams like Middle Tennessee," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "We're very pleased with the way our team got out of the gate quickly and kept pushing all the way through. Ivy Renfroe hit 68 mph several times tonight on the gun and just gets better and better each time out in the circle. She just needs seasoning and experience when coming up against the top-tier SEC teams."
After each squad left a runner stranded in the first inning, including Chavanne who reached (single) leading off UT's initial at-bat of the game for the 17th time in 2010, the Lady Vol offense got untracked in the bottom of the second, registering five runs on five hits during the frame.
With Renfroe in firm control early, Spigner got the second inning assault started with a single down the left field line. With the ball being misplayed for an error down in the left field corner, the third baseman easily strolled into scoring position. Sophomore designated player Shelby Burchell walked and after a UT fly out, Webb stepped in and launched a rocket to center for a two bagger as Tennessee nabbed a 1-0 advantage. With two down in the frame, Chavanne delivered a single back through the middle and advanced to second on the throw to the plate as Burchell and Webb crossed for a three-run lead. An RBI triple down the right field line from Grieve and a Dotson RBI base knock up the middle set the final count at 5-0, UT.
Middle Tennessee managed to get one back in the top of the third as Renfroe made her only real mistake of the game, allowing a two-out solo homer to left by center fielder Kelsey Dortch as the lead shrank slightly to 5-1.
Not to worry, however, as the Orange & White managed a lead-off double from Spigner, Gibson's two-run blast to right center and an RBI single from Grieve in the third as the advantage expanded to 8-1.
With Lady Vol subs being entered into the contest at numerous positions opening the fourth, Renfroe permitted a one-out single to first baseman Kelsey Popham. The 5-10 righty took control, however, handling a ball back to the circle off the bat of designated player Jessica Ives, turning and starting a 1-6-3 double play with the assistance of freshman shortstop Melissa Brown and Huff as the inning came to a speedy conclusion.
Needing one tally to bring the run-rule into play, Tennessee got it in the bottom of the fourth as Spigner ripped a towering home run to deep left.
Renfroe took care of things from there, despite allowing a one-out base knock, striking out second baseman Jessi Couch and coercing consecutive groundouts from shortstop Brittney Banania and Dortch to end the contest.
After a 14-game home stand at Lee Softball Stadium, No. 17 Tennessee finally ventures back out on the road, heading to South Carolina over Friday and Saturday, April 2-3, for a three-game set versus the Gamecocks. The schedule for the weekend has been altered from the usual Saturday-Sunday league set-up because of the Easter holiday. Live stats will be available via Gametracker through utladyvols.com and live audio is expected to be available for Saturday's doubleheader with the "Voice of the Lady Vols" Mickey Dearstone on either 99.1 or 99.3 FM or 990 AM depending on baseball coverage.