Lady Vols break home run record in rout of LSU

BATON ROUGE, La. ( -- A career-best two-HR, seven-RBI day from sophomore second baseman Lauren Gibson and a four-hit complete-game shutout by sophomore pitcher Ivy Renfroe helped lead #6 Tennessee (37-6, 14-4 Southeastern Conference) to both a commanding 11-0 victory over #19 LSU (26-14, 8-8 SEC) and its ninth-straight win overall on Saturday afternoon in front of a national television audience on ESPN2 and 1,260 rowdy fans at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge, La.

The 11-run Big Orange margin of victory was the largest for either team in 42 total meetings. UT now leads the series versus the Bayou Bengals for the first time in program history at 21-20-1 overall.

Tennessee's offense blasted three round-trippers during the triumph to give the squad 53 HR's on the year, breaking the program's long-standing single-season mark of 52 established back in 1996 and since equaled in both 2002 and 2005.

"Karen (Co-Head Coach Weekly) and I are extremely proud of our team's effort today," Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. "Our players came out focused and ready for the challenge to register a true team victory over a tough opponent. Lauren Gibson and Ivy Renfroe had standout performances for us while facing a difficult road crowd and a national TV audience."

Gibson led the offensive charge for the Lady Vols by going 3-for-4 at the plate with her first career two-HR effort and a career-high seven RBIs. Included in the staggering performance for the Pasadena, Md., native was a solo HR, her first collegiate grand slam and a two-run double that helped raise her SEC-leading batting average (counting league games only) to .491 overall with 24 RBIs. For the year, Gibson now leads the Lady Vols with a .439 average to go along with 10 doubles, five HRs and 50 RBIs.

Junior designated player Jessica Spigner blasted her 10th HR of the campaign, a two-run shot during the seventh frame, to give Tennessee a trio of 10+ HR players (Spigner, junior Shelby Burchell, sophomore Kat Dotson) for the first time since 2002, the Weeklys' initial season at the helm of the Lady Vol program. Sophomore third baseman Raven Chavanne was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI, while junior left fielder Shelby Burchell was credited with RBI number 48 of the year via a bases-loaded walk during UT's five-score third frame.

In the pitching circle Ivy Renfroe fired a complete-game, four-hit shutout on just 92 pitches. The Jackson, Tenn., native walked one and struck out five in improving to 13-3 on the season and 6-2 in league contests.

After a one-two-three top of the first for the Lady Vol offense against LSU starter Rachele Fico, Tiger right fielder and lead-off hitter Tiffany Shaw christened the bottom half of the first with a perfect slap single to short. Center fielder Simone Heyward attempted to drop the sacrifice bunt, but popped it up right to Chavanne who was charging in hard from third for a big first out. Shaw successfully swiped second and then first baseman Anissa Young walked to put a pair of Bayou Bengals aboard with still only one retired. Left fielder Ashley Langoni chopped a ball to second that Gibson corralled. The UT fielder tagged Young on the way by and fired just in time to nail the runner at first for a huge, threat-killing double play.

Tennessee got on the board via the long ball in the top of the second. Following her impressive play in the field to end the first, Gibson got the job done at the plate by rocketing a one-out liner over the Tiger Park wall to grant the Big Orange a 1-0 lead.

LSU attempted to answer back immediately in the bottom of the second as back-to-back one-out singles from third baseman Juliana Santos and shortstop Tammy Wray got the Tigers in business. Designated player Morgan Russell bounced a ball that appeared to be on its way through the right side of the infield. Gibson dove fully extended to make the play, however, and got to her knees in time to toss on to UT freshman first baseman Melissa Davin for out number two. Renfroe then managed a huge strikeout of second baseman Cassie Trosclair to leave the LSU duo in scoring position at second and third.

Lady Vol freshman shortstop Madison Shipman began the top of the third by driving Fico's first pitch back through the infield for a lead-off base knock. Junior catcher Ashley Andrews was asked to drop the sacrifice bunt and did a terrific job as an eventual play to second in an attempt to nail the lead runner was too late putting a pair of Lady Vols aboard. Chavanne used her impressive bat control to guide a bunt into a hole on the infield, packing the bags full of Orange with still none retired in the frame. A pop-up to the catcher and a Lady Vol K threatened to de-rail the scoring threat, but Burchell managed a five-pitch walk off Fico to force in a run and make it 2-0, UT. Perhaps more importantly however, the free pass extended the inning. Gibson took advantage of the provided opportunity by crushing a grand slam to left center that landed on the berm as the Tennessee advantage expanded to a half dozen runs. It marked the sixth grand slam of the season for the Big Orange and the second in as many days after Shipman's shot during the series opener on Friday against LSU.

In the top of the fourth, a LSU throwing error on a Shipman grounder to third by Juliana Santos led to another UT tally. With two retired and the Lady Vol runner standing just 60 feet from paydirt, Chavanne ripped an RBI base knock back up the middle to plate Shipman for a 7-0 advantage.

Meanwhile Renfroe was setting down LSU batters left and right with the assistance of some terrific defense from her teammates. Chavanne made two impressive plays in the bottom of the fifth, including one while ranging to her left on a grounder off the bat of Trosclair.

An infield single by Shaw beginning the bottom of the sixth broke a string of 11 consecutive Bayou Bengals retired by UT's 6-0 right-handed pitcher. Despite hitting first baseman Anissa Young with a one-out offering, Renfroe also struck out Jacee Blades, got a fielder's choice that Shipman handled at short and a pop-up off the bat of catcher Lauren Houston to leave LSU occupants at the corners.

Things got completely out of hand for LSU in the top of the seventh as Tennessee struck for four tallies on a quartet of hits. Chavanne and sophomore right fielder Kat Dotson got the attack started with infield singles, but were still stuck at first and second following a pair of Big Orange K's. Gibson delivered once again in the clutch, however, blasting a two-out double into the gap to stake UT to a nine-run lead. Spigner followed with a towering two-run HR to left to finalize the stunning scoreboard total at 11-0.

The Tigers couldn't mount any sort of rally in the bottom of the seventh against Renfroe as she set down Santos, Wray and Russell in order to secure UT's ninth-straight victory.

#6 Tennessee wraps-up its three-game series against #19 LSU at Tiger Park on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. The radio broadcast will be available via "The Sports Animal" (either 99.1/99.3 FM or AM 990) with Jeff Jacoby and for free through Check and for the most up-to-date information on Tennessee softball.

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