May 27, 2012
By Brian Rice
KNOXVILLE, Tenn, -- For 12 innings on Sunday afternoon at Lee Stadium, Georgia pitcher Erin Arevalo looked to be a riddle too difficult for the Tennessee offense to solve. But with a trip to Oklahoma City on the line, Shelby Burchell stepped to the plate to ensure that her Tennessee career would extend at least one more weekend.
Arevalo needed just 100 pitches to lead her team past the Lady Vols, 1-0, in the opener, forcing the if-necessary game. The Bulldogs gave Arevalo a run in the fifth inning of Sunday's second game, and many in Lee Stadium wondered if that would be enough to punch Georgia's ticket to OKC. But a half-inning later, the Lady Vols rose to the occasion.
After a Tory Lewis pop-up to lead off the sixth, Raven Chavanne dropped a perfect bunt for a single. Lauren Gibson then hit a comebacker off Arevalo's glove for a base hit. Madison Shipman reached base on a ball to the right side. UGA second baseman Ashley Pauly tagged Gibson with her glove as she ran from first to second, but she had transferred the ball from her glove to her hand prior to the tag, leaving the bases loaded for Burchell.
"Any hitter, obviously, in that position would want to (come up in that situation)," Burchell said. "I knew, in a sense, what was coming at that point, and I just tried to keep my head on it and hit it and do what I could for my team."
And do, she did. Burchell sent a liner to right-centerfield for a single, scoring Chavanne and tying the game at one.
"I didn't know what was coming," Burchell said. "They had pitched me somewhat of the same pitches all day and had successfully gotten me out. I wasn't guessing by any means, but I had a good idea what to look for."
With the bases still loaded, Kat Dotson lifted a fly ball to left that scored Gibson, giving Tennessee its first lead of the day.
"I was trying to get a good outside pitch I could hit hard and lift to the outfield deep enough so Lauren could get in, because she had great speed," Dotson said. "Just hit something hard and deep."
From there, Ivy Renfroe slammed the door, retiring five straight before Bulldog pinch hitter Brittney Hubbard sent a fly ball to foul territory in right field. "Just catch the ball," Dotson said of her thoughts as she chased down the ball in flight. "No matter where it is or what I have to go through to catch it. Just catch it to get the pressure off my pitcher to not have to pitch to (Georgia's) Brittney Hubbard again."
The ball fell into the junior's glove and the jubilation on the field began. For the fifth time in five tries, the Lady Vols won an NCAA Super Regional and are bound for Oklahoma City.
"First of all, I'm very excited, and I'm very proud," Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "We've played five games against Georgia, and four of them have been one-run games. We kept telling our kids, `Somebody's going to find a way; somebody's going to find a way.' And we really erupted when we needed it."