May 29, 2012
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - As fans entered Lee Softball stadium back in early February for the second-annual "Meet Your Seats" event, a sign above the clubhouse read, "Welcome Back 2012 World Series Team." Nearly four months and 52 wins later, the #5 University of Tennessee softball team touched down in Oklahoma City, Okla., on Tuesday for the 2012 Women's College World Series.
Though impossible to predict the future in February, the Lady Vols certainly lived up to the goal outlined by the banner over the clubhouse and will now make their fifth World Series appearance this Thursday in an opening game against #3 Alabama (55-7) at 7 ET/6 CT.
The Big Orange truly battled and persevered to reach this point, rebounding after falling to Miami (Ohio) on day one of NCAA Regionals and winning four straight to advance to the NCAA Super Regionals.
After defeating #11 Georgia in the opening contest of NCAA Super Regionals by a 3-2 count, Bulldog pitcher Erin Arevalo quieted the UT bats for all of game two and five innings in the all-important deciding matchup.
Down, but certainly not out, some late-inning heroics from the Tennessee offense during the top of the sixth backed by junior Ivy Renfroe retiring the final six UGA hitters down the stretch was enough for the Orange and White to return to Oklahoma City for the second time in three years.
Tennessee also has experience on its side this week as 11 members of the current roster of 19 will be returning to the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium for their second go-around in the WCWS.
Renfroe, who was a major contributor to the World Series team two years ago, winning 29 games leading up to the event, understands having knowledge of the inner workings of the early portion of the week will be beneficial to her before the first pitch is ever thrown.
"I think the whole routine of the media craziness, my experience helps from what to expect from that point of view," Renfroe explained. "When you get on the field, it's just like another game really. From the outside and from people that are watching from home, it doesn't seem that way but it really is. You are just on another field, playing another game. "
For others it may be their first trip to Oklahoma City, but the focus remains on the games and the exhilaration that will surround the next week.
"I don't try and let the actual pressure of the actual game get to me at all," sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman said. "I can just go out there and play like it's any other game in the conference or preseason."
Though Renfroe has one trip under her belt and Shipman is making her debut on the grand stage, the duo both are eager to get out on the diamond.
"I get super excited when I'm out there on the field, and I know the crowd is going to be huge, but I'm just excited to get out there on the field," Shipman said.
"It's a lot of fun - it's the most fun I've ever had playing softball," Renfroe echoed.