Freshman Kat Dotson
April 23, 2010
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - After watching No. 4 Florida (35-7, 15-4 Southeastern Conference) battle back with a pair of two-out runs in the top of the seventh to nab a 3-2 lead, No. 17 Tennessee (39-9, 15-5 SEC) posted a rally of its own in the bottom of the frame, including a bases loaded, game-ending walk by senior first baseman Erinn Webb, to beat the Gators, 4-3, and split Friday's doubleheader in front of a season-high 1,374 fans at Lee Softball Stadium.
Suffering through a 0-for-3 evening at the dish, Webb fought UF ace Stephanie Brombacher over a nine-pitch at-bat with two outs in the seventh before drawing the crucial walk-off free pass.
Freshman right fielder Kat Dotson led the UT offense with a 2-for-3, two-run scored effort, while senior catcher Tiffany Huff (1-for-3), freshman second baseman Lauren Gibson (1-for-2) and senior designated player Nicole Kajitani (1-for-2) each registered single RBIs. Huff's sac fly in the bottom of the seventh tied the game at 3-3, while Kajitani managed a crucial two-out walk to load the bases and set the stage for Webb heroics. Junior center fielder Kelly Grieve only managed one hit over her four at-bats, but what a hit it was, sliding into first base to beat out an infield single to start the decisive rally in the seventh.
Sophomore Cat Hosfield was terrific over her 3.0 innings of relief work, allowing just two runs on four hits with a pair of walks and two K's while improving to 15-5 on the season. Freshman starter Ivy Renfroe scattered five hits while permitting one tally, walking one and K'ing three in 4.0 frames.
"In Friday's opener I thought our kids played hard," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "It was our first match-up against the No. 4 team in the country, and I think we needed some time to get adjusted to playing against a very good softball team. I was proud of our team after Florida's four-run first, holding such a tough offense to two runs over the final six innings. The finale was just a classic battle in a great environment with so many of our fans in attendance. UF is a tremendous offensive team, and I thought our group really rose to the challenge. This was truly a team victory. Karen (co-head coach Weekly) and I are very proud of everybody on the team. We know we'll face a hungry Gator squad again tomorrow at 1 p.m."
A lead-off single by Florida center fielder Michelle Moultrie was quickly erased in the first inning as the catcher Huff gunned her down attempting to steal second. That seemed to set an early tone as Renfroe got second baseman Aja Paculba to pop-up to the circle and struck out the SEC's leading home run hitter, left fielder Francesca Enea. On Paculba's pop-up back to the circle, Renfroe leapt high in the air to corral the ball, making a great play before it could potentially go over her head and cause trouble.
Tennessee freshman left fielder Raven Chavanne was hit by a pitch starting the bottom of the first, swiped second and eventually advanced to third on a single from freshman right fielder Kat Dotson. Another steal put a pair in scoring position, but a pair of groundouts by the Lady Vols ended the frame with no scoring.
In the top of the second, the Gators managed to load the bases with one out on the benefit of a UT error and a pair of singles. Renfroe was up to the task, however, posting consecutive strikeouts of designated player Kelsey Horton and first baseman Samantha Holle to leave the bases juiced.
Gibson christened the bottom of the second inning by drawing a lead-off walk against starter Ensley Gammel. Kajitani dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt back to the circle, advancing the runner into scoring position with one retired. After a UT strikeout sophomore shortstop Ashley Andrews bounced a ball over third and into shallow left, placing runners at the corners. Chavanne lined a shot the other way but unfortunately right to third baseman Corrie Brooks as UT left a pair stranded for the second straight frame.
UF's Michelle Moultrie began the Gator half of the third with a single over third into left field and was soon joined on the base paths via a walk by Paculba. Enea bounced to Andrews at short and the fielder turned and cut down the lead runner at third for out number one. Unfortunately, catcher Brittany Schutte drove a two-bagger into the left center field gap as Paculba scored from second for a 1-0 Gator advantage. Shortstop Megan Bush ripped a shot to third that was bobbled briefly by Spigner. The Santa Clarita, Calif., native rebounded to gun down Enea at the plate, preventing another run from scoring. UF right fielder Kelsey Bruder was struck by a pitch to load the bases for third baseman Corrie Brooks, but she popped out to second to conclude the frame.
A one-out walk by Spigner started what turned out to be a key scoring opportunity for the Lady Vols in the bottom of the third. A single through the right side off the bat of Huff and Gibson being struck by a Gammel offering loaded the bases for the Tennessee with two outs in the bottom of the third. On her senior weekend Kajitani came through with a huge RBI single back through the middle, plating Spigner to tie the score at 1-1. A strikeout ended the frame, but not before the Big Orange had rallied to deadlock the contest.
After Hosfield managed to get out of a first and second situation in the top of the fifth, Dotson beat out an infield single on a high chopper to short. Spigner was called upon to drop the sacrifice bunt and did her job perfectly, advancing the speedster Dotson into scoring position. Following a groundout up the first base line from Huff, Gibson stepped to the plate and ripped the first pitch she received from Gammel through the left side of the infield for a clutch RBI single to score Dotson from third for a 2-1 advantage.
Facing a 2-2 count leading off the UF sixth, third baseman Corrie Brooks drove a Hosfield offering through the left side for a base hit. Horton delivered a perfect sac bunt to improve pinch runner Lauren Heil into scoring position with one out. Hosfield responded to the threat by striking out Holle and getting a harmless fly out to center by Moultrie.
Down to their last chance in the top of the seventh, Florida got off to the right start as Paculba blooped a base knock into left to start the frame. Following a foul out to third, Schutte walked, placing a pair aboard for Bush. She popped up to short, moving Tennessee within one retirement of a big upset win. Bruder barely made contact on a two-strike pitch with the ball rolling just a few feet up the third base line for an unbelievable single. Brooks delivered in the clutch, blooping a ball to left that barely eluded a diving Andrews in short left field as a pair of Gators raced to the plate to grant UF a stunning 3-2 lead.
Florida's ace Brombacher was summoned into the match-up in relief starting the bottom of the seventh looking for her first save of the season. On an absolutely amazing hustle play after battling out of a 0-2 hole, Grieve bounced to first and beat Holle to the bag, sliding in to secure a vital lead-off hit. Dotson followed by drawing a four-pitch walk, placing the potential winning run aboard with no outs in the frame and the middle of the Tennessee order coming to the plate. Spigner worked the count full at 3-2, in the process fouling a ball well over the batting cage pavilion way down the left field line. She bounced a ball up the middle that was misplayed for a vital error by the shortstop Bush, packing the bags full of Lady Vols. Huff stepped in and blasted a ball to center, allowing the opportunity for Grieve to attempt to score via a sac fly. The Asheville, N.C., native arrived to the plate at the same time as the ball and slid in just under Schutte's tag to knot the score at 3-3. Following a strikeout for the second retirement of the frame, it came down to the seniors Kajitani and Webb, and on their senior weekend, no less. Kajitani worked the count full against Brombacher before coercing a key walk, loading the bases once again with Webb coming to the dish. It looked as if extra innings would perhaps be necessary as the Big Orange first baseman quickly found herself down 0-2 in the count. The Hemet, Calif., product refused to back down, however, fouling off pitch after pitch over a nine-pitch at-bat. Finally Brombacher missed outside for ball four and an Orange-clad mob raced from the dugout to the plate in celebration as Dotson scored the winning tally on a bases loaded free pass.