Senior catcher Tiffany Huff
May 1, 2010
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - No. 16 Tennessee (39-10, 15-6 Southeastern Conference) out-hit No. 4 Alabama (41-9, 19-4 SEC), 7-6, during the opener of a Saturday doubleheader at the UA Softball Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., but left nine runners on base in dropping a hard-fought 4-2 decision.
Junior center fielder Kelly Grieve led the Lady Vol offense with a 2-for-4 effort at the dish, while senior catcher Tiffany Huff (1-for-4) was credited with UT's lone RBI on a sixth-inning double. Freshman left fielder Raven Chavanne (1-for-4, run), senior designated player Nicole Kajitani (1-for-3) and freshman second baseman Lauren Gibson (1-for-3) each tallied one of UT's seven base knocks against junior `Bama starter Kelsi Dunne.
Sophomore Cat Hosfield took the tough loss in falling to 15-6 on the season, allowing three earned runs on five hits with a walk and five strikeouts over four frames of relief work. Freshman Ivy Renfroe started the contest, permitting one tally on a single hit with two walks and four K's during the opening 2.0 innings.
Both UT's Renfroe and Alabama starting pitcher Dunne came out ready to throw in the first inning as each allowed a walk but worked through a relatively easy opening frame.
Lady Vol freshman second baseman Lauren Gibson tallied the first base knock for either team with two outs in the top of the second, but never moved from that spot as senior first baseman Erinn Webb bounced out harmlessly.
A one-out walk came back to hurt Tennessee in the bottom of the second. Renfroe battled left fielder Jazlyn Lunceford over a 10-pitch at-bat before issuing a free pass. On a strikeout of third baseman Courtney Conley, the runner swiped second to reach scoring position. That set the stage for an RBI double down the left field line off the bat of catcher Kendall Dawson as Alabama nabbed a 1-0 lead. Renfroe rebounded to catch center fielder Keima Davis swinging at a high pitch to post the 5-10 hurler's fourth strikeout, but not before the Crimson Tide had nabbed an early lead.
With one down in the top of the third, Chavanne got the Big Orange speed game started by beating out an infield single to third base. Bama's Conley threw high to first base and into the UT dugout, allowing the runner the chance to cruise into scoring position. Grieve stepped to the dish and slapped a high chopper to third that Conley corralled on a leap. She took way much time checking the occupant back to second, and then threw wide to first for her second error of the frame as Chavanne raced around to tie the count at 1-1.
Hosfield was summoned into the contest starting the bottom of the third inning and rolled through the `Bama line-up in order. Gibson backed up her hurler with an impressive play on a quick grounder to her right, making the grab, pivoting and firing in time to nail right fielder Cassie Reilly-Boccia.
The Crimson Tide re-took the advantage in the bottom of the fourth as clean-up hitter Whitney Larsen and then Lunceford each hit solo homers to left center to grant `Bama a 3-1 lead.
Tennessee sophomore shortstop Ashley Andrews managed a walk with one down in the top of the fifth. The Tumwater, Wash., native swiped second and eventually moved to third on an infield single to second as Grieve managed to slide in safely at the bag before the throw. Unfortunately in an attempt to be aggressive on the base paths, Grieve was gunned down on a steal attempt at second to end the frame with no Tennessee scoring.
Gibson made her second tremendous defensive play of the game in the bottom of the fifth. With one out and `Bama's Kayla Braud at first, Reilly-Boccia ripped a shot that threatened to get up the middle. Gibson dove fully extended to her right and corralled the ball before getting to her knees and throwing out the runner at first. Power-hitting first baseman Charlotte Morgan lifted a fly ball to short center and Andrews made the inning-ending play in front of Grieve before falling gingerly backwards over her teammate.
Needing a patented late Big Orange rally, Spigner got the offense rolling in the sixth by waiting on a change-up and lifting it into shallow left field for a one-out single. Huff stepped into the box and drove a pitch the other way down the line in left that dropped just inside the chalk and eluded a dive from Lunceford for a double as freshman pinch runner Leah Taylor scored all the way from first. With Alabama's lead cut to 3-2 and Huff standing in scoring position, Kajitani blooped a ball just over second that seemed to cross up Braud. The ball ricocheted off the `Bama fielder's glove, as she leapt in the air, and dropped in for a hit as the lead runner cruised up 60 feet to third. Unfortunately for UT with occupants at the corners, a pair of strikeouts left the duo stranded.
Larsen managed a lead-off single to left in the bottom of the sixth as the Crimson Tide looked for some valuable insurance. After Hosfield K'ed designated player Amanda Locke following a failed attempt to drop a sac bunt, Lunceford ripped a shot to right that hit off the wall for a long single as Locke raced around to third. Conley lifted a sac fly to left center allowing the runner to score from third to make it 4-2, `Bama.
Down to Tennessee's final chance in regulation, Andrews reached the painful way opening the seventh, being hit by a Dunne 1-1 offering. After Chavanne bounced into a fielder's choice that cut down the lead runner, Grieve slapped a perfect ball over third into short left field, placing UT occupants at first and second with still just one retired. Dotson battled Dunne over numerous pitches before being struck in the upper back on a 2-2 offering, loading the bases for the middle of the Big Orange order. The strikeout killed the Lady Vols once again, however, as consecutive swinging K's left the bags packed and ended Alabama's 4-2 win in the opener.