No. 4 Tennessee softball team wins 11th straight

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (utladyvols.com) -- A combined four-hitter by Ivy and Ellen Renfroe, capped by a walk-off single from sophomore outfielder Raven Chavanne, allowed the #4 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (39-6) to equal its longest winning streak of the 2011 season at 11 games on Tuesday night, defeating the Radford Highlanders, 9-1 (5 inn.), at Lee Stadium.

Sophomore starting pitcher Ivy Renfroe struck out five and scattered four hits over four and a third innings to improve to 14-3 overall, while freshman Ellen Renfroe pitched a perfect two-thirds of an inning in relief.

Junior third baseman Jessica Spigner led the UT attack offensively, going a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate with four RBI. The Santa Clarita, Calif., native's sterling effort was highlighted by a towering two-run home run, her 11th of the campaign, as part of a four-tally fifth to close out the game for the Lady Vols.

"This was a difficult game for us because Radford is a tough team to have coming in for a mid-week contest," Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. "They entered today at 28-14 and leading the Big South Conference and are coming off NCAA Tournament appearances. We told our team pre-game of the challenge we would face tonight, and they responded. Jessica Spigner was phenomenal at the plate and Lauren Gibson continued her torrid hitting. Both Ivy and Ellen Renfroe threw very well against a tough line-up."

Gibson was 2-for-3 at the plate with a triple, two runs scored and an RBI, improving her batting average since being spiked in the leg at #2 Georgia, an injury that required 10 stitches to close, to a staggering .520 (13-of-25) with with two triples, two HR's and 13 RBIs. Sophomore left fielder Raven Chavanne (2-for-4, RBI), freshman designated player Melissa Davin (2-for-2, run, RBI) and rookie shortstop Madison Shipman (2-for-2, RBI) each tallied two of Tennessee's 15 total hits. Freshman pinch hitter Melissa Brown made her one at-bat count by blasting an RBI double to the outfield wall in the bottom of the fifth.

Despite allowing a lead-off bloop single to Radford shortstop Kristen Shifflett to begin the game and a stolen base, Ivy Renfroe responded in dominant fashion by striking out second baseman Nicole Beall, first baseman Taylor Cunningham and center fielder Shannon Keefe in order to leave the runner stranded at second.

UT's 6-0 right hander improved her K count to five in the top of the second as catcher Michelle Beall and designated player Meredith Moore became strikeout victims.

Tennessee's offense got untracked in the bottom of the second as junior first baseman Shelby Burchell (1-for-3) doubled to christen the frame. Gibson stepped into the box with the Highlander out fielders literally playing defense at the base of the wall and promptly ripped an RBI single that landed in front of left fielder Lauren Williams to grant UT a 1-0 lead. Spigner followed with an RBI base knock, moved to second on a wild pitch and soon scored on an RBI single by Davin as the Big Orange raced in front 3-0.

Radford managed to cut into its deficit in the top of the fourth with a little Tennessee assistance. A fielding error on the UT infield starting the frame allowed Nichole Beall to reach first safely. Following a sac bunt and with two down in the inning, third baseman Vicki Madden laced a single into left field. Chavanne corralled the ball and came up throwing but her toss proved just a bit late as an unearned tally crossed to make it 3-1.

A long triple off the bat of Gibson got another UT outburst started in the bottom of the fourth. Spigner followed immediately by ripping an RBI single to the outfield to plate the Lady Vols' fourth run of the contest. New Radford pitcher Chelsea Kelley granted a base hit to Davin, uncorked a wild offering and then watched as Shipman contributed an RBI single, expanding the advantage to 5-1.

Ojeda christened the Highlander half of the fifth with a bloop single to center that dropped just in front of senior Kelly Grieve. A groundout advanced the runner into scoring position, and then Shifflett singled on a rocket shot off Ivy Renfroe's leg to put occupants at the corners with one retired. Ellen Renfroe was brought on in a relief appearance to face Radford's leading hitter Nichole Beall. The squeeze play was on, but she missed getting the bunt down as Ojeda was caught in a rundown between third and home. With two outs pinch hitter Jessica Agee popped up harmlessly to third to conclude a once promising Radford half-inning with no scoring.

The Big Orange finished the contest up early in the bottom of the fifth by tallying four runs on five hits. An infield single by sophomore right fielder Kat Dotson was quickly cashed in on a towering two-out, two-run HR by Spigner to make it 7-1. A walk by freshman Chelsea O'Connor was followed quickly by an RBI double from the pinch-hitting Brown. With a runner occupying second, Andrews singled to place Lady Vols on the corners and set the stage for a walk-off. Chavanne came to the dish and promptly delivered a long shot off the outfield wall that went down as just an RBI single as the contest ended via run-rule, 9-1 (5 inn.).

The #4 Lady Vol softball squad returns to league play over April 21-23 at Lee Softball Stadium by hosting Mississippi State in a three-contest set. In ceremonies prior to Thursday night's 7 p.m. ET series opener, Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly will be honored for his recent 1000 career win achievement.

SportSouth will be on site to televise both Thursday and Friday's (6 p.m. ET) contests against the Bulldogs, while radio coverage will be provided via "The Sports Animal" (check either 99.1/99.3 FM or AM 990) for all three match-ups with the feed also available for free through UTLadyVols.com/allaccess. Check both http://twitter.com/LadyVol_Sftball and http://twitter.com/LadyVol_Sports for the most up-to-date information on Tennessee softball.


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