Freshman Kat Dotson
April 11, 2010
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
AUBURN, Ala. - With No. 17 Tennessee facing a 2-0 deficit heading to the fourth inning, the Lady Vols got a huge momentum-building, two-run homer from senior designated player Nicole Kajitani and later a clutch two-RBI single by freshman right fielder Kat Dotson on the way to a 5-3 comeback victory over Auburn on Sunday in front of 417 fans at Jane B. Moore Field in Auburn, Ala.
With the triumph UT took the series from the Tigers two-games-to-one and improved to 33-8 overall and 12-4 in the Southeastern Conference.
Dotson and junior center fielder Kelly Grieve led the Big Orange offense with two hits apiece, while both Dotson and Kajitani each posted a pair of RBIs. Freshman second baseman Lauren Gibson was 1-for-3 at the dish with a run scored,
Rookie starter Ivy Renfroe improved to 19-2 on the year and 9-1 in league contests by working 6.1 innings over two separate stints in the circle. The Jackson, Tenn., native allowed three earned runs on four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. Sophomore Cat Hosfield fired 0.2 of an inning in relief, permitting two hits and issuing a single free pass.
"This was a great softball game," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "We got down early and fought back. This Tennessee team never quits. Kat Dotson and Nicole Kajitani were huge today offensively, and both pitchers threw well to contribute to the victory."
After two sharp slaps that traveled right to fielders off the bats of freshman left fielder Raven Chavanne and Grieve starting the top of the first, Dotson battled starter Jenee Loree for a two-out walk to become Tennessee's initial base runner. Unfortunately for the Big Orange, the Savannah, Ga., native was cut down during a steal attempt of second on a strong throw from Auburn catcher Elizabeth Eisterhold.
A fielding miscue off the bat of AU's Caitlin Stangl put the lead-off hitter on base for the Tigers in the bottom half of the first. On a swinging strikeout by third baseman Kyndall White, the base resident swiped second, reaching scoring position with one down in the frame. She never moved from that spot, however, as Renfroe caught designated player Amber Harrison looking at strike three and then Spigner and Brown combined to gun down Eisterhold, via a tipped ball of the former's glove, on a close play at first.
AU second baseman Kelsey Cartwright registered the first hit for either team starting the bottom of the second on a sharp single through the left side of the infield. With one out left fielder Katie Colton blooped a ball just over the second base bag and barely out of the reach of diving Tennessee shortstop Melissa Brown for a single. Center fielder Krista Clyde jumped on Renfroe's first pitch, driving it to the wall in right center for a run scoring double as Auburn nabbed a 1-0 advantage. On a 2-2 offering and with runners at second and third with one out, first baseman Kelley Smiley lifted a sac fly to center as Colton crossed for a 2-0 AU lead. Spigner made a great play on a sharp chopper to her left and made a strong toss across the diamond to end the frame, but not before the Tigers had nabbed the early lead.
Tennessee got an offensive threat started against Loree in the top of the third. Brown was struck by a pitch, Chavanne hit into a fielder's choice that cut down the lead runner at second and Grieve then managed a two-out infield single for UT's first hit of the contest. That ended the AU starter's stay in the circle as Anna Thompson was summoned into the contest in relief with Lady Vols holding down positions at first and second. The move paid dividends for Auburn as a hitter went down swinging to leave the duo stranded on the base paths.
In the top of the fourth and Tennessee still trailing 2-0, Gibson managed what turned out to be a vitally important two-out single by driving a pitch the other way through the left side of the infield. Following a Thompson wild pitch to advance the runner into scoring position, Kajitani stepped into the box and absolutely crushed a two-run homer to deep left center, just her second big fly of the season, deadlocking the contest at 2-2.
Lady Vol fans might remember that the diminutive, 5-3 "Peanut" drilled a big sixth-inning, solo HR last season off AU's ace Thompson during a 2-1 (11 inn.) win against Auburn in Knoxville. The San Bernardino, Calif., product also managed a walk-off, two-run triple in the bottom of the seventh during the series finale as UT rallied for a 3-2 victory to sweep the Tigers.
After Renfroe rolled through the Tiger line-up in order in the bottom of the fourth with two straight strikeouts, sophomore shortstop Ashley Andrews christened the fifth by drawing a walk. That ended Thompson's stay in the circle as Auburn head coach Tina Deese made the move to the bullpen, summoning in Lauren Schmalz as the Orange & Blue's third hurler of the contest. Chavanne slapped what appeared to be a fairly routine ball to third that was corralled on a hop by Kyndall White. The fielder checked at second but couldn't make a throw to catch the lead runner because no one was covering the bag. She turned and fired to an uncovered first base, allowing the ball to roll up the line in right as Big Orange runners ended up at second and third with still none retired. With one out in the frame, Dotson came through with a high chopper over third and down the left field line for two RBIs as Tennessee grabbed its first lead of the day, 4-2. Consecutive Auburn fielding errors at short allowed Dotson to score and make it 5-2, Lady Vols.
A walk to Stangl with one out in the bottom of the fifth broke a string of five consecutive Tigers that Renfroe had retired. White made it two straight free passes, joining her teammate on the base paths and ending the stay in the circle for UT's 5-10 right hander. Hosfield was summoned in facing a potential save situation to battle Harrison. The 5-9 right hander looked as if she had strike three looking on the outside of the plate, but didn't get the call. That hurt as the next pitch was drilled off the wall in left for a single, packing the bags full of Tigers. Eisterhold bounced out to first as a run scored to cut Auburn's deficit to 5-3. The decision was made to walk yesterday's first game Tiger heroine Cartwright to get to the .238-hitting Guzman. With the bases loaded and two retired, Hosfield had the count at 2-2 and the batter looked to have swung as she actually ended up dropping the bat out in front of the plate. An appeal failed to post the K, however, forcing UT's hurler to throw a pressure-packed 3-2 pitch. Guzman made solid contact on the offering, but the liner traveled right to Andrews at short for a huge third out as Auburn left the bags packed.
Colton opened Auburn's half of the sixth with a lead-off single back through the middle. Renfroe re-entered the contest for her second appearance in the circle and immediately settled things down, retiring Clyde, Smiley and Stangl in order to send the match-up to the final inning.
Tennessee left a runner on second in the top of the seventh, bringing the Orange & Blue up for the final chance in regulation.
With the help of two outstanding plays in the hole at short by Andrews and some solid Renfroe work in the circle, the Lady Vols raced through the Tigers one-two-three in the bottom of the seventh to secure the series victory, two-games-to-one.
No. 17 Tennessee will continue SEC road action on Wed., April 14th, in Fayetteville, Ark., with a doubleheader against the home-standing Arkansas Razorbacks. First pitch is slated for 5 p.m. CT from the Bogle Park.