April 2, 2011
Kelly Grieve discusses her walk-off homer to beat Auburn, 2-1 (10 inn.)
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - On a brisk Friday night in front of 1,072 fans at the Lee Softball Stadium and a national television audience watching live on ESPNU, No. 11 Tennessee (28-5, 6-3 Southeastern Conference) got a walk-off, solo home run from senior center fielder Kelly Grieve and a staggering 20-strikeout, complete-game effort from freshman pitcher Ellen Renfroe to out-last #21 Auburn (28-6, 8-4 SEC) in a 10-inning, series-opening marathon, 2-1.
The walk-off occurrence via Grieve's fourth HR of the season marked the third walk-off for the Lady Vol softball team over its last four contests after freshman Chelsea O'Connor and sophomore Raven Chavanne delivered game-ending hits last weekend during the series opener and finale versus South Carolina, respectively.
It was a truly monumental pitching performance by reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week Ellen Renfroe. The Jackson, Tenn., product struck out a career-high 20 Tiger batters over 10 innings of work, walked two and allowed just one unearned run on nine hits. The 6-0 right hander's single-game effort marks the third 20-strikeout performance in Tennessee softball history, trailing only a 22-K output from Monica Abbott at Florida back on March 10, 2007, and equaling an Abbott 20-K effort versus Liberty on March 26, 2004.
UT junior designated player Jessica Spigner blasted her sixth homer of the season, as part of a 2-for-3 effort at the plate, to dead-lock the contest at 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth. Sophomore second baseman Lauren Gibson (2-for-4) extended her career-long hitting streak to eight games by posting two of Tennessee's seven total hits in the match-up.
"Tonight's game was a classic pitcher's duel between two really good pitchers and involving two really good teams," Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. "A hard-fought game like this one tonight is what the Southeastern Conference is all about. Obviously, we're extremely pleased to get this win in the series opener and especially pleased with the individual contributions by Ellen Renfroe, Jessica Spigner and Kelly Grieve."
Despite a one-out infield single from AU right fielder Amber Harrison in the top of the first, Renfroe exerted her dominance right from the start by striking out a pair of Auburn batters in the opening frame.
In the bottom of the second the Lady Vol offense managed the first real scoring threat by either team. After Spigner christened the frame with a base hit and Gibson hit into a fielder's choice that retired the lead runner, junior first baseman Shelby Burchell walked to place a pair aboard with one down. Unfortunately, another fielder's choice and a strikeout left a pair stranded on the base paths.
With one retired in the top of the third, Auburn nearly took the lead. Left fielder Katie Colton started things off with a double into the gap in left center. First baseman Morgan Estell followed immediately by launching a ball to deep left center that hit off the very top of the wall and bounced back into play as Colton was forced to hold up briefly, advancing only to third. That base running decision cost the Tigers as Renfroe rebounded to strikeout Harrison and shortstop Lauren Guzman to conclude the threat.
A hit batter came back to hurt the Big Orange during Auburn's half of the fourth. AU second baseman Kelsey Cartwright was struck by a Renfroe offering to start things off, eventually moving to third on an infield single by catcher Elizabeth Eisterhold and a UT throwing miscue. With runners standing at the corners and no one out, third baseman Kyndall White came through with a base knock past first as Cartwright scored to make it 1-0, Auburn. After a sacrifice bunt moved both base occupants into scoring position, Renfroe again responded with consecutive strikeouts to limit the scoring damage to a single tally.
Tennessee left three base runners combined over the fourth and fifth innings before finally getting its breakthrough during the bottom of the sixth as Spigner delivered her game-tying home run to right.
Both teams had numerous chances to post the decisive run on the scoreboard from the seventh through 10th innings, but Renfroe and Auburn hurler Angel Bunner worked out of dangerous situations over and over again.
The closest prior to Grieve's heroics came during the bottom of the seventh after Lady Vol freshman shortstop Madison Shipman had opened the inning with a single to center and been sacrificed into scoring position. The Auburn catcher Eisterhold threw behind the runner and caught Shipman too far off the base, forcing her to charge towards third to avoid a potential rundown. The Valencia, Calif., native slid in safely as the throw to third traveled high and off the fencing in foul territory. Unfortunately, Shipman couldn't get to her feet in time to potentially race home with the game-winning run, deciding to remain at third. Chavanne stepped in and lifted a fly ball to deep right but into the glove of Harrison as the two teams moved to extra frames.
It was Bunner that finally blinked in the bottom of the 10th as her first pitch to Grieve (her 160th pitch of the night) was deposited well over the wall in right to send the Orange-clad fans home happy with a 2-1 victory.
The Big Orange continues its series against #21 Auburn on Saturday, April 2, at 2 p.m. ET. Free live web streamed video as well as live audio via "The Sports Animal" (99.1 and 99.3 FM, AM 990) will be available for the contest 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.