KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (utladyvols.com) -- A powerful offensive attack by #4 Tennessee (41-6, 17-4 Southeastern Conference) and a season-best 13th straight victory weren’t the only major stories on Friday night in front of 1,214 fans at Lee Softball Stadium as Lady Vol sophomore starting pitcher Ivy Renfroe one-upped UT’s 11-hit outburst by tossing her second career no-hitter to lead the Big Orange past Mississippi State, 8-0 (6 inn.).
The Jackson, Tenn., native owned UT’s most recent no-hitter, putting up zeroes in an 11-0 (5 inn.) victory over Western Carolina during her freshman campaign on April 8, 2010. The Tennessee program now owns a staggering 35 no-hitters over the course of its 16-season history.
Over her last six appearances in the circle, Renfroe is an impressive 6-0 overall with a 0.40 ERA, 31 strikeouts in 35 innings of work and three complete-game shutouts while allowing just two earned runs. In all the 6-0 right hander hasn’t allowed an earned tally over her last 25.2 frames of effort. Against MSU, she walked two and struck out five while throwing just 98 total pitches.
“We’re all extremely proud of Ivy for throwing a no-hitter against a good-hitting team like Mississippi State,” Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. “When we’re hitting the long ball at the same time our speed game is working and we’re getting solid pitching like we did tonight, we’re a tough team to beat. Karen (Co-Head Coach Weekly) and I really appreciate the effort our team displayed in stepping up to a challenge.”
At the plate for the Big Orange, sophomore left fielder Raven Chavanne posted a perfect 3-for-3 night with a triple, two runs scored, a pair of steals and an RBI, while senior center fielder Kelly Grieve was 1-for-3 with a towering two-run HR, her career-best fifth big fly of the season.
Junior third baseman Jessica Spigner blasted her fifth HR over Tennessee’s last nine contests (also her 12th HR of the year) with a three-run shot that easily cleared the scoreboard on the fly at Lee Stadium. Sophomore second baseman Lauren Gibson was a flawless 2-for-2 at the dish with a double and two walks to lift her SEC-leading batting average (counting league games only) to an even .500 (31-of-62).
Junior first baseman Shelby Burchell doubled and recorded an RBI as part of her 2-for-4 performance, while freshman Chelsea O’Connor made the most of her start in right for the injured Kat Dotson by going a perfect 2-for-2 with a tally.
Mississippi State managed a lead-off walk from shortstop Ali Bainbridge to christen the contest and quickly moved her into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt from right fielder Briana Bell. The runner never moved from that spot, however, as Renfroe got Ka’ili Smith to fly out harmlessly to right and then struck out first baseman Courtney Nesbit swinging to end the frame.
As they have done so often this season, the Lady Vols managed a run during their initial at-bat, doing so for the 23rd time in 2011. A combination of a lead-off single by Chavanne, a base knock from Gibson and a pair of steals pushed UT in front 1-0 through one inning.
With Renfroe cruising in the circle, the Big Orange added to its advantage in the bottom of the third by tacking on two tallies via a pair of hits. Following another lead-off single by Chavanne, Grieve stepped into the batter’s box and ripped a two-run HR to extend the lead to 3-0.
A one-out base knock off the bat of UT’s O’Connor was cashed in by Chavanne in the bottom of the fourth. The Thousand Oaks, Calif., native blasted a pitch off the very top of the wall that missed going out of Lee Stadium by mere inches. Chavanne settled for an RBI triple as O’Connor scored easily from first to make it 4-0, Big Orange.
A new Bulldog pitcher started the bottom of the fifth in the circle as Misty Flesher relieved starter Stephanie Becker. UT greeted her rudely as Gibson started the assault with a double off the wall and then Burchell drove a single to the outfield grass to put a pair on the base paths for Spigner. The Santa Clarita, Calif., product absolutely crushed a pitch over the scoreboard for her 12th HR of the season as the advantage expanded to seven tallies.
Things got briefly dicey for the Lady Vols and Renfroe in the top of the sixth. Bainbridge started the frame by drawing a walk, but was soon cut down at second on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Bell. Smith dropped a slow roller back to the circle that Renfroe misplayed for an error, putting a pair of Bulldogs aboard with still only one retired. Nesbit lined a shot to short that was caught right off the top of the dirt by substitute shortstop Melissa Brown. She quickly tossed on to Gibson covering second for a big twin-killing.
With zeroes still showing on the scoreboard and Renfroe’s potential no-no in the works, it was left to the Tennessee offense to try to finish the contest early. Gibson managed a two-out walk and soon scampered around with the game-ending run as Burchell contributed a walk-off RBI double.
The series finale between #4 Tennessee and Mississippi State is slated for Sat., April 23, at Noon ET at Lee Softball Stadium. Radio coverage will be provided via “The Sports Animal” (check either 99.1/99.3 FM or AM 990) with free live video and audio also available 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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