June 5, 2010
By Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - With the largest single-session crowd in Women's College World Series (8,694) history watching on Friday night at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla., No. 16/15 Tennessee improved to 49-13 overall and a perfect 2-0 at NCAA Division I softball's premier event by racing past No. 9 Georgia (49-12), 7-5.
With the triumph the Big Orange joins UCLA as the only two unbeaten teams left in the WCWS and has earned Saturday off while the remaining squads face elimination. UT will next be in action on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET against an opponent still to be determined live on ESPN HD/ESPN3.com
The big blow of the evening was the second career grand slam from senior first baseman Erinn Webb as part of a 1-for-4, four-RBI effort. The Hemet, Calif., native is now hitting an impressive .368 during NCAA Tournament action with two doubles, a triple, three HR's and eight RBIs. Freshman right fielder Kat Dotson (2-for-3, RBI, run) and rookie second baseman Lauren Gibson (2-for-4, run) each posted two of Tennessee's eight total hits in the match-up, while freshman left fielder Raven Chavanne tallied her team-best fifth triple of the year in delivering a 1-for-4, run scored performance.
In picking up her 31st victory of the campaign, freshman starter Ivy Renfroe kept Georgia in relative check until a late outburst in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Jackson, Tenn., native allowed five runs on 10 hits, but recorded a career-high-tying 10 strikeouts in tossing her 14th complete game. Since the NCAA Tourney began, Renfroe is 5-0 with a 1.21 ERA, three complete-game shutouts and 42 K's in 34.2 innings of work, including wins at #2 Michigan and versus #3 Arizona and #9 Georgia.
"It was a typical Sunday game in the SEC," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "It's almost like that every day, and I'm not belittling. We're both very fortunate to be here at the Women's College World Series. This is the fifth time we've played Georgia, and the first time was our opening SEC game (in March). We had a 5-1 lead going into the sixth inning, and they almost came back to beat us. Our pitchers were really young at that time, and they've improved quite a bit. Georgia's a great team, great offensive team. They just keep coming at you. They're in attack mode the whole time. I couldn't be more proud of our kids. They refuse to lose."
After Tennessee went down in order in the top half, Georgia tallied the contest's initial base runner in the bottom of the first as left fielder Megan Wiggins drew a one-out walk off Renfroe. A wild pitch advanced her into scoring position where she was joined on the base paths via free pass by third baseman Alisa Goler. UT's 5-10 right hander responded to the threat by getting catcher Kristyn Sandberg to pop-up in foul ground outside of first and then struck out designated player Ashley Razey on a rise ball to leave the Bulldog duo stranded.
Sophomore third baseman Jessica Spigner christened the top of the second by battling to draw a lead-off walk off Georgia starter Sarah McCloud. With Webb at the dish, the UGA hurler uncorked consecutive wild pitches allowing Spigner to move all the way to third with still no one retired. Georgia coach Lu Harris-Champer strode out of the dugout and made a pitching change, bringing in Erin Arevalo in relief. She immediately retired Webb on a chopper back to the circle for the first out. She wasn't so fortunate on her next offering, however, as a wild toss in the dirt eluded Sandberg and rolled to the backstop as Spigner scored to make it 1-0, UT. That set a tone as Gibson and senior catcher Tiffany Huff followed with consecutive singles and then sophomore designated player Shelby Burchell was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. The fourth wild pitch of the frame, this one on a 1-2 count, permitted Gibson to cross from 60 feet away as the lead grew to two runs. A Lady Vol strikeout finally ended things, but not before the Big Orange scored two runs on a pair of hits with a walk, a hit batter and a staggering four Georgia wild pitches.
Trailing 2-0 on the scoreboard, UGA got a lead-off single from first baseman Brianna Hesson to open the bottom of the second. Right fielder Brittney Hubbard unleashed the old "swinging bunt" for a base hit, placing a pair of Bulldogs aboard with no one retired. Renfroe got a big strike three looking on shortstop Laura Trout, marking the hurler's third K of the contest. Ashley Pauly bounced out to second base as Gibson corralled the ball, looked to second but made the only play available, nailing the runner at first. Renfroe tossed a ball low that eluded Huff behind the plate and rolled toward the backstop. The UT catcher tracked down the ball, raced back to the plate and dove to tag out pinch runner Sara Sikes on an amazing hustle play for a huge inning-ending out.
The Lady Vol speed game got the offense going in the top of the third as Dotson was hit by a pitch to open the frame. Then junior center fielder Kelly Grieve dropped a perfect bunt single back to the circle, putting a pair of Tennessee speedsters on the base paths with none out. That brought about yet another pitching change for Georgia as Alison Owen entered the circle in relief of Arevalo. She made Spigner the Big Orange's third hit batter victim of the match-up, loading the bases for Webb. The Hemet, Calif., native continued her incredible NCAA Tournament production, blasting the first pitch she received from Owen just over the wall in right center to mark her second grand slam of the season (both occurred versus Georgia as she hammered one versus the Bulldogs back on March 21st) and her career as Tennessee roared to a commanding 6-0 advantage. The grand slam was only the sixth all-time in WCWS history.
With Renfroe rolling from the circle, the Orange & White added to their advantage in the top of the fourth. Chavanne christened the frame with a triple into the right center field gap and Dotson followed with a slap single to shallow left to plate the runner as UT improved its advantage to 7-0. With two outs in the inning, Webb nearly hit her second HR of the contest as her drive to deep center was caught at the top of the wall by UGA's Taylor Schlopy.
Razey broke a string of six consecutive hitters retired by Renfroe with a one-out single just inside the left field line in the bottom of the fourth. Sophomore shortstop Ashley Andrews and Gibson combined on a fielder's choice to make pinch runner Macie Couey the second out of the frame. Hubbard battled to draw a walk and then shortstop Laura Trout was hit by a pitch, as Georgia loaded the bases with Pauly stepping to the dish. She bounced to deep short, forcing Andrews to attempt a difficult backhand play. The Tumwater, Wash., native kept the ball on the infield, but it went for a RBI single as Georgia cut its deficit to 7-1. UGA All-American Schlopy stepped in with a chance to really get the Bulldogs right back in the game, but Renfroe struck her out for the second time in the contest to leave three stranded and maintain Tennessee's commanding six-run lead through four.
A lead-off single from Wiggins ended up costing the Big Orange in the bottom of the fifth. After two consecutive Renfroe strikeouts looking, Razey lifted a fly ball into short right that Gibson nearly caught on the run. The ball just tipped off her glove as Wiggins raced around to make it 7-2. UT's pitcher rebounded to punch out first baseman Brianna Hesson, striking out the side and running her K total to a NCAA career-best nine through five innings of work.
Each squad managed a base hit during the sixth inning, but could get nothing strung together to add anything on the scoreboard.
Down to Georgia's final chance in the bottom of the seventh, Wiggins got a late rally started by drawing a lead-off walk. Third baseman Alisa Goler followed with a single into right field and suddenly the Bulldogs had runners at the corners with no one out. Clean-up hitter Sandberg popped up harmlessly to Webb at first for the initial out. Razey stepped into the batter's box and drove a three-run HR over the wall down the right field line to make it 7-5. Hesson followed with a base knock back through the middle to bring the potential tying run to the plate as Big Orange hearts skipped a beat. Facing a huge situation, Renfroe managed a big strikeout of Hubbard to equal her career high of 10 K's set back at Tennessee Tech on April 20th. Trout came to the plate as the last opportunity to extend the match-up and bounced wide to Spigner's left at third base. The Santa Clarita, Calif., native managed a stunning snag of the ball as it threatened to go by, rose quickly and tossed over to first to wrap up the 7-5 victory over Georgia.
As a result of being 2-0 at the WCWS, Tennessee has earned Saturday off. The Lady Vols will return to action on Sunday, June 6, at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN HD/ESPN3.com with a chance to earn a berth in the best-of-three WCWS Championship Series for the second time in program history.