Lady Vols slug past Ole Miss, take SEC East lead

OXFORD, Miss. ( -- No. 8 Tennessee (33-6, 11-4 Southeastern Conference) plated runs in four separate innings and banged out 12 total hits on a blisteringly hot Saturday afternoon in Oxford, Miss., on the way to securing an important road series win in league action with a commanding 10-3 victory over Ole Miss.

With the triumph over the Rebels and Kentucky's loss at Georgia on Saturday, Tennessee has now moved into the lead in the SEC's Eastern Division by a half-game over the Wildcats (11-5 SEC).

Lady Vol sophomore pitcher Ivy Renfroe (11-3) picked up her 11th win of the season in the circle, allowing just one earned run on five hits with a walk and five K's over 5.0 innings of effort. Freshman Ellen Renfroe was impressive in relief, striking out five of the six Rebel batters she faced in 2.0 frames.

At the plate sophomore second baseman Lauren Gibson continued her recent surge, leading the Lady Vol offense by going 3-for 4 at the plate with a pair of RBIs. The Pasadena, Md., native currently leads the SEC in batting average counting league games only at a sterling .500 (23-of-46) with 16 RBIs over just 15 conference contests. On UT's current six-day road trip, Gibson is hitting at a .667 (8-for-12) clip with a HR and seven RBIs.

UT rookie first baseman Melissa Davin was 1-for-2 with a two-RBI double during a four-run Tennessee sixth inning and is now hitting .417 with five RBIs during this recent swing through Georgia and Ole Miss. Junior third baseman Jessica Spigner went 1-for-2 while blasting her eighth HR of the season on a towering drive. Sophomore third baseman Raven Chavanne (1-for-4, two runs), junior catcher Shelby Burchell, freshman shortstop Madison Shipman (1-for-3, double, run) and freshman pinch hitter Chelsea O'Connor (1-for-1) each registered a single RBI during the match-up. Senior center fielder Kelly Grieve posted two of UT's 12 total hits and swiped one of three total stolen bases by the Big Orange.

"Lauren Gibson continued her torrid hitting," Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. "Melissa Davin, Madison Shipman and Chelsea O'Connor came up with key hits in the sixth inning to give our team a comfortable lead. I thought both Ivy and Ellen Renfroe threw well for us today. Now we'll try to get some rest and recover for what's certain to be another tough game against Ole Miss on Sunday."

Tennessee jumped right on Ole Miss starter Brittany Barnhill in the top of the first. Grieve christened the attack with an infield single. Chavanne dropped a perfect bunt out in front of the plate and eventually ended up on second with Grieve at third following a throwing error by Barnhill. With one retired UM catcher Kelly Nolan suffered a passed ball that allowed Grieve to score from 60 feet away to make it 1-0, UT. Spigner walked to put runners at the corners, setting the stage for an RBI single by Gibson that traveled through the infield as Chavanne crossed for a two-run advantage. After Burchell walked, Barnhill was relieved by Lindsey Perry, and she settled things down. The new pitcher coerced back-to-back pop-ups on the infield to limit the Lady Vol damage on the scoreboard.

With Ivy Renfroe having retired the first six Rebels she faced with a pair of K's, Spigner added to the Tennessee advantage in the top of the third with a towering solo shot to expand the lead to 3-0.

Freshman left fielder Tory Lewis got the Big Orange off to a quick start in the top of the fourth by hustling out a double on a bloop hit. Grieve walked and then Chavanne recorded an RBI single as Lewis raced home for a 4-0 advantage. With two runners in scoring position and none out, Dotson ripped a shot back to the pitcher Perry. She fired behind Grieve at third in an attempt to catch the lead runner too far off the base, got an out call by the umpire but it was soon changed to safe as third baseman Londen Ladner had dropped the ball. With one down Gibson blooped a single over a drawn-in Ole Miss infield for her 41st RBI of the campaign. The lead soon grew to six tallies on an RBI groundout by Burchell.

A Lady Vol error on a groundball off the bat of Ole Miss' Brittany Broome leading off the bottom of the fourth seemed to alter the whole flow of the contest for UT. Having cruised along by retiring the first nine she faced, Renfroe promptly followed up the infield miscue by allowing a single just inside the left field line by second baseman Cali Overbeck. Ladner was struck by a pitch and suddenly the Rebels had the bags packed and no outs. Following a pop-up by Barnhill, shortstop Natalie Nimmo laced a base knock through the right side that plated a pair to cut the UM deficit to 6-2. First baseman Erinn Jayjohn came through with an RBI single of her own with two retired to plate pinch runner Becca Wall as the UT advantage dropped to three runs.

After Ole Miss left a pair stranded in the bottom of the fifth, Tennessee put the game out of reach in the top of the sixth by registering four tallies on five hits. Dotson started things off with an infield single, swiped second and moved to third on a Gibson base knock. A double off the bat of Davin traveled all the way to the wall as both runners scored to make it 8-3. Shipman followed immediately with her own RBI two-bagger as Davin crossed with UT's ninth tally. A pinch hit RBI single from O'Connor finalized the Big Orange's offensive output at 10 runs.

Nimmo's second hit of the contest to lead-off the bottom of the sixth ended Ivy Renfroe's stay in the circle as her sister Ellen came on for a relief appearance. The 6-0 right hander took care of business with little difficulty by striking out five of the six batters she faced during the sixth and seventh frames to complete the UT victory.

Tennessee's wraps up its series versus Ole Miss at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday (April 10). The series finale is slated for live television broadcast via SportSouth with Dave Neal and Cheri Kempf on the call. The match-up is also scheduled to be radio broadcast via "The Sports Animal" on AM 990 in the local Knoxville area (and through with the "Voice of the Lady Vols" Mickey Dearstone.

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