April 21, 2011
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A clutch two-run, fifth-inning homer from freshman designated player Melissa Davin backed a four-hit, complete-game shutout by rookie starter Ellen Renfroe on Thursday night in front of 1,039 fans at the Lee Softball Stadium as #4 Tennessee improved to 40-6 overall and 16-4 in Southeastern Conference play with a 2-0 victory over Mississippi State.
With the triumph the Lady Vols extended the program's streak of consecutive 40-win campaigns to nine straight dating back to a 45-25 season that began the skein in 2003.
Big Orange Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly was honored prior to the game in ceremonies honoring him on his recent 1000-win achievement. UT Women's Athletics Director Joan Cronan and stadium namesake Sherri Parker Lee were on hand to present Weekly with the game ball in a display case from his historic win at Ole Miss on April 10 as well as a specially-designated print honoring his milestone. Fans were also encouraged to sign a large banner of congratulations that was presented to him postgame.
Davin proved the big heroine at the plate for the Lady Vols on a night when offense was at a premium, going a perfect 2-for-2 with a pair of RBIs via her third HR of the season. Freshman shortstop Madison Shipman was 2-for-3 while scoring a tally and making numerous great defensive stops on the infield. Sophomore left fielder Raven Chavanne (2-for-3, steal) registered two of Tennessee's nine total hits in the match-up and made an incredible running catch in the left field corner to conclude the top of the sixth inning.
Continuing her roll from the circle, UT freshman Ellen Renfroe tossed a four-hit, complete-game shutout with no walks and nine strikeouts on the way to improving to 22-2 overall and 9-1 in league action. Since dropping a 5-4 (10 inn.) decision at #23 Kentucky back on March 13, the Jackson, Tenn., native is an incredible 11-0 with a 0.71 ERA, 10 complete games and 126 strikeouts in 89.1 innings of work while permitting just nine earned runs.
Renfroe showed the Bulldogs that it wouldn't be an easy night at the plate right from the start by retiring MSU's top three hitters in order in the top of the first with a K. She got a little help defensively as well as Shipman made an incredible diving catch of a liner back through the middle by Ali Bainbridge to start the contest.
Things looked promising for the Lady Vols in the bottom of the first as a lead-off infield single by Chavanne, her team-best 25th stolen base of the season and a walk issued to senior center fielder Kelly Grieve put a pair aboard with no one retired. Mississippi State starter Stephanie Becker settled down, however, striking out the next three UT hitters she faced to end a promising Big Orange threat.
More misfortune hampered the UT offense during the bottom of the second as consecutive one-out singles by Shipman and Davin again put a pair of Lady Vols on base. Unfortunately, junior catcher Ashley Andrews ripped a shot that traveled right to the waiting glove of MSU second baseman Heidi Shape. She easily doubled off Shipman at second for a inning-ending twin-killing.
The `Dawgs finally got something started against Renfroe in the top of the third as third baseman Chelsea Raines and center fielder Brittany Gates christened the frame with back-to-back base hits. After a sacrifice bunt moved the duo into scoring position, Renfroe demonstrated her defensive abilities. A hot shot back to the circle by Bainbridge was stabbed on a leap by UT's 6-0 right hander. She fired to Andrews at the plate, eventually catching Raines in a rundown for a huge second retirement. Designated player Jessica Cooley flew out harmlessly to right as MSU also missed a golden opportunity.
Neither team managed any sort of offensive threat until the bottom of the fifth. Shipman began the frame with a base hit, setting the stage for Davin's heroics. The Fresno, Calif., product showed bunt on the first pitch before swinging away at Becker's second offering and depositing the sphere over the wall to make it 2-0 UT.
Right fielder Briana Bell opened Mississippi State's half of the sixth with a lead-off single up the middle. Renfroe coerced a pop-up to third by MSU's leading hitter Bainbridge for a vital first out. With two down and Bell at second following a wild pitch, Ka'ili Smith launched a shot deep down the line in left. Chavanne raced over and managed to make an incredible leaping catch at the wall in foul ground to conclude the inning.
Bidding for some insurance on the scoreboard, Tennessee left a runner stranded at third in the top of the seventh after Gibson had started the inning with a base hit.
That left it up to Renfroe to slam the door on UT's 40th win of the season. It wasn't without some excitement, however, as first baseman Courtney Nesbit began the frame with a single up the middle and pinch runner Jessica Offutt advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch. As the potential tying run, catcher Sam Lenahan grounded out to short, Shape struck out swinging and Raines bounced to Gibson at second as the Big Orange prevailed 2-0.
SportSouth will be on site to air Friday's contest against the Bulldogs at 6 p.m. ET, while radio coverage will be provided via "The Sports Animal" (check either 99.1/99.3 FM or AM 990) for each match-up in the series with the audio feed also available for free 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.