Oct. 26, 2010
By Amy Hughes, NCAA.com
Softball is a family sport.
When the oldest kid in a family starts going to practices and games, it is far from unusual for younger siblings to follow.
The Renfroe family of Jackson, Tenn., and now the Tennessee Lady Vols is no exception.
Older sister, Ivy, will be a sophomore for the Lady Vols in the spring. During the 2010 collegiate season, she led UT with a 31-6 record and 232.1 innings pitched, striking out 235 opposing batters. Renfroe and Cat Hosfield split pitching duties through regionals and super regionals, but once Tennessee advanced to Oklahoma City, Renfroe started each of the Lady Vols four games in the circle.
The Lady Vols will return to the skinned infield in February with the rest of the NCAA Division I teams. But this time, it will be with twice as many Renfroe sisters on the roster as freshman pitcher Ellen Renfroe joins Hosfield and her sister Ivy on the UT staff.
"It's been really cool," said Ivy of Ellen's arrival in Knoxville. "It's good that she's here because I was a little homesick last year, so it's good to have my little sister here and we'll be a little family. [Ellen] is getting used to having to go to workouts and practice and schoolwork too, so I've been helping her with that and giving her little tips here and there."
Ellen feels that her transition to college softball started almost a year ago. "When Ivy came back home last year over Christmas break," said Ellen, "I got the chance to talk to her. We worked with each other and I went through some of the workouts with her. She told me what (co-head coaches) Ralph and Karen (Weekly) and (assistant coach) Marty (McDaniel) expected of the pitchers and the differences in collegiate players and hitters vs. high school. That helped me focus on what would be expected of me once I got to college and so I already had an idea once I got here of what it would be like."
With just a 14-month age difference, having a sister on the same pitching staff is nothing new to Ivy and Ellen. "We've been on travel ball teams, high school teams and middle school teams together," said Ivy. "In middle school and high school, we were the only two pitchers.
"We have very good chemistry," said Ivy of playing with her sister. "We get along really well and we're fine with sharing innings. We're two very different pitchers. [Ellen] has really good movement and knows how to control her pitches and I'm more aggressive with how I throw."
Sharing coaches throughout their softball careers, the sisters are a big help to each other both on and off the field. "It's easy for us to give each other tips on certain pitches," said Ivy. "We can say 'oh, you're doing this wrong' or 'you need to do this.' We help each other a lot pitching-wise."
Ellen credits both her sister and Hosfield with smoothing the transition to college life. Ivy's apartment is just a few minutes away from Ellen's dorm room on the UT campus.
"Obviously been a change just because it's going from a really small high school to a really big SEC Division I school," said Ellen, "but it's been an easy transition for me, especially having Ivy here and knowing a lot of the girls on the team from being around them last year coming when I'd come to watch Ivy play. [Ivy] and Cat have both been really helpful to me in making the transition to facing these collegiate hitters since they are so much better than what I've been facing in the past. Overall they've both been a really big help to me going through these workouts in the fall."
Ellen is excited to continue following in her sister's athletic footsteps.
"It doesn't bother me (to be following Ivy to UT)," said Ellen. "I don't think I would have it any other way. We'll be able to share these memories with each other. I love it and I wouldn't have it any other way."