OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (UT release) -- A 2012 campaign that witnessed the Lady Vol softball program win its fourth Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title, win 50 games for the seventh time and secure a fifth trip to the Women’s College World Series concluded earlier than hoped on Saturday in front of 8,504 at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium as #12 Oregon (45-17) scored twice in the first inning on the way to ending #5 Tennessee’s (52-14) season, 3-1.
With the loss the Big Orange senior class of Ashley Andrews, Holly Baker, Shelby Burchell and Ashley Andrews completed their careers at Rocky Top as part of 190 career wins and two WCWS appearances.
UT’s offense managed just four hits off UO starting pitcher Jessica Moore (33-14), led by senior catcher Ashley Andrews who went 1-for-2 at the plate with her eighth stolen base and a run scored while also gunning out a Duck base runner attempting to steal. Sophomore center fielder Tory Lewis contributed Tennessee’s lone RBI as part of a 1-for-2 effort, while junior right fielder Kat Dotson (1-for-2, 15th steal of the year) and sophomore left fielder Melissa Davin (1-for-3) added the Big Orange offense’s other base knocks.
In the circle sophomore Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-American Ellen Renfroe took the loss in falling to 27-5 on the season, allowing two runs on three hits with a walk and a single strikeout over 2.0 innings. In a relief appearance junior Ivy Renfroe permitted one tally on a trio of hits with three K’s over 5.0 frames.
“Well, first of all, I'd like to thank the host, the NCAA and ESPN, for a tremendous tournament once again,” Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. “We lost two very close ballgames. Our kids gave it everything we had. We just couldn't hit in the clutch. We're hitting the ball pretty good in BP and hitting the ball pretty good yesterday, and that happens at times. It's really not anybody's fault. There was no lack of effort out there, and we just got beat both times. I have to give credit to Oregon. They had a great game plan, and their pitcher did well. We hit a lot of ground balls.”
It took only two pitches for #12 Oregon to get on the scoreboard as lead-off batter and right fielder Samantha Pappas drove her 10th HR of the season out of the stadium just over the glove of leaping center fielder Tory Lewis. Quickly up 1-0, second baseman Kaylan Howard continued the early outburst by lacing a double into the left center field gap. Following a strikeout of shortstop Kelsey Chambers for the initial retirement of the frame, first baseman Kailee Cuico ripped one down the line in left as Howard scored to make it 2-0. On the play Davin raced over quickly to cut off the ball, pivoted and cut down Cuico at second for out number two. Christie Nieto lifted a fly ball to left that Davin tracked down near the line to conclude the inning.
With the Lady Vols attempting to answer back immediately in the bottom half of the first, Dotson beat out an infield single to second. With the speedster on third following her 15th stolen base of the campaign and a UT groundout, sophomore All-American shortstop Madison Shipman managed a two-out walk and theft, placing a pair in scoring position. Unfortunately, a routine bouncer to short on a 3-2 count was corralled by Oregon’s Chambers and the play made to first as Tennessee left a pair stranded on the base paths.
As happened so often this season, the Big Orange offense manufactured a run on the scoreboard with two down in an inning. Andrews got things started in the bottom of the second with a single through the right side of the infield, hustling down the line to avoid a 9-3 putout from the right fielder. With the senior catcher on second after UT’s third steal over the initial two frames, Lewis slapped a single into right center as Andrews sped around from second, cutting Oregon’s lead in half at 2-1.
Ivy Renfroe entered in relief for her sister Ellen beginning the top of the third and quickly set the Duck offense down in order. The 6-0 right-hander personally caught a liner back to the circle from Pappas and induced consecutive groundouts from Howard and Chambers as part of the one-two-three frame.
Nieto became Oregon’s first base runner off the elder Renfroe via what turned into a damaging, one-out hit-by-pitch in the top of the fourth. That set the stage for a RBI double off the wall in left center by catcher Alexa Peterson as Nieto scored all the way from first to make it 3-1 Ducks. Chambers popped a ball up towards the third-base dugout as Andrews raced over to make a terrific grab near the backstop. Ivy’s first strikeout of the contest ended the inning, but not before UO had extended its advantage back to a pair of tallies.
A slow bouncer off the bat of Davin turned into a lead-off infield single for the Lady Vols christening the bottom of the fourth. Senior designated player Shelby Burchell stepped to the dish as UT’s top NCAA Tournament hitter in 2012 and promptly blasted a rocket to short. Unfortunately, the drive was right to Chambers as the Ducks infield managed to turn a 6-4-3 double play and wipe the bases clear of Big Orange. A swinging strikeout ended the once promising Tennessee frame with no scoreboard damage done and UO still leading by a 3-1 count.
UT managed some more life in the bottom of the sixth as Dotson was hit by a Jessica Moore pitch starting the inning. After a fielder’s choice from Gibson cut down the lead runner for the first out, there was some controversy on a play as Shipman hit a chopper to the second baseman. Oregon’s Howard turned and fired to second for the force, and attempting to turn the twin-killing, Chambers’ throw struck Gibson running between first and second. Originally ruled safe on the play, a conference of the umpiring crew ruled the throw had been obstructed and called Shipman out via an inning-ending double play.
Faced with one last chance to extend their season, the Lady Vols couldn’t get an attack going against Moore in the bottom of the seventh as a fly out and consecutive strikeouts concluded Oregon’s 3-1 victory.