GAINESVILLE, Fla. – No. 4 Florida (47-8, 21-7 Southeastern Conference) secured the SEC Eastern Division crown by finishing off its series on Sunday, May 8, at Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., with a 7-2 victory over No. 3 Tennessee (44-10, 20-8 SEC).
The Lady Vols are now the third-seed for next week’s SEC Tournament (May 12-14) in Oxford, Miss., and are expected to face sixth-seeded Kentucky on Thurs., May 12, at noon ET in the opening round.
Big Orange freshman hurler Ellen Renfroe suffered the loss in the circle, dropping to 23-5 overall and 10-4 in league play. The Jackson, Tenn., native allowed three runs (only one earned) on eight hits with four K’s over 4.2 innings of work. Sophomore reliever Ivy Renfroe permitted four tallies (three earned) on two hits with a pair of walks in 1.1 frames of effort.
At the plate for Tennessee, sophomore second baseman Lauren Gibson went 1-for-3 with an RBI double, while freshman shortstop Madison Shipman was 1-for-2 while contributing her fourth HR of the campaign. Sophomore left fielder Raven Chavanne (1-for-4), sophomore right fielder Kat Dotson (1-for-3, run) and freshman designated player Melissa Davin (1-for-2) each registered one of UT’s five total hits in the match-up.
Dotson became Tennessee’s initial base runner of the contest by lacing a one-out single through the right side of the infield in the top of the first. Grieve stepped to the dish and blasted a shot the other way to deep right, but it was tracked down on an impressive running back-handed catch by Florida’s Kelsey Bruder. With two down in the frame, Gibson hammered a drive to deep left center that ricocheted off the wall for a double as Dotson raced to the plate to make it 1-0, Lady Vols. Spigner drove the first offering she received from UF starter Hannah Rogers to deep center, but not quite deep enough as Florida’s Michelle Moultrie tracked the ball down short of the warning track to end the frame.
The Gators answered right back in the bottom of the first with help from the Lady Vol defense. Paculba lined a shot to the UT outfield with one down that was dropped for an error, allowing the runner to hustle into third. On a hard liner to first that was knocked down by Burchell, Paculba scored to dead-lock the contest as UT’s first baseman applied the tag for the second out. A slow roller off the bat of first baseman Megan Bush was booted on the infield, allowing the Gators to have two on with two still retired. Catcher Tiffany DeFelice made the Big Orange pay for its mistakes with an RBI single to center as Schutte scored for a 2-1 advantage. Ellen Renfroe limited any further damage by catching shortstop Cheyenne Coyle looking at strike three, completing an adventurous first inning of play.
After the Lady Vols left a runner in scoring position in the top of the second following a one-out single from freshman designated player Melissa Davin, UF received a two-out double to the wall in left center from Moultrie in the bottom half. That set the stage for Paculba to cash her in via a RBI base knock back through the middle as the Gator lead expanded to 3-1.
Dotson made a terrific defensive play for the Big Orange with two retired in the bottom of the third. Coyle blasted a pitch from reliever Ivy Renfroe to deep right center that Dotson caught while crashing into the wall padding.
Starting the top of the fourth, a lead-off walk issued to Tennessee’s Spigner was quickly wiped away as freshman pinch runner Tory Lewis was thrown out on a steal attempt by the combo of UF’s DeFelice and Coyle. That killed any potential momentum in the inning as a strikeout and an infield pop-up concluded the frame.
Florida added to its advantage in the bottom of the fourth as designated player Kelsey Horton blasted a solo shot to left that just cleared the wall to make it 4-1, UF. The Gators kept the pressure on as Moultrie singled with one out and then Paculba and Bruder drew back-to-back walks to pack the bags. Ellen Renfroe was summoned back into the contest and her first offering was ripped into right by Schutte to plate two more. After Bush went down swinging, a UT passed ball permitted Bruder to cross and improve Florida’s advantage to 7-1.
Shipman made her mark offensively in the match-up by crushing Rogers’ first pitch of the top of the fifth well over the wall in left as the Valencia, Calif., native’s solo shot cut the UT deficit to five tallies.
Down to a final chance in the top of the seventh, Davin tried to get something started for the Orange by drawing a one-out walk. Following a groundout by Shipman, surprise pinch hitter Cat Hosfield also drew a free pass, placing a pair of Lady Vols on the base paths. Unfortunately, a slap up the middle off the bat of sophomore left fielder Raven Chavanne was snagged by Rogers as she turned and tossed on to first to finish off Florida’s win.
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