KNOXVILLE (UTSports.com) -- Returning to action in the friendly confines of the Lee Softball Stadium on Thursday night for the first time following its 11-day marathon road trip, the No. 7 Tennessee softball team (15-2) started slow but poured it on down the stretch to defeat Evansville, 6-0.
Lady Vol sophomore right fielder Kat Dotson helped lead a 10-hit Big Orange offensive output by registering a 2-for-3 effort with a double and three RBIs. Senior center fielder Kelly Grieve wreaked havoc on the Purple Aces all contest long, going a perfect 4-for-4 at the dish with two doubles, a pair of runs scored and her sixth stolen base of the season. Sophomore left fielder Raven Chavanne singled and later knocked in a run via a groundout. Sophomore Whitney Hammond and freshman Melissa Davin each delivered a base hit and scored as pinch hitters during UT's three-run sixth frame.
Big Orange freshman pitcher Ellen Renfroe (8-1) picked up her team-leading eighth victory of the campaign by tossing three perfect innings of relief with six strikeouts. Sophomore Ivy Renfroe drew the start in the circle for Tennessee, allowing two hits, walking one and K'ing seven over 4.0 frames of work.
Ivy Renfroe was on her game early against the Purple Aces, rolling through the initial two innings by striking out the first six Evansville batters she faced.
Meanwhile, the Lady Vol offense was succeeding in getting base runners on but was failing to come up with the big hit necessary to bring them to pay dirt.
One of Grieve's two-baggers and a two-out walk drawn by junior first baseman Shelby Burchell went for naught in the bottom of the first as the duo was left stranded on an infield pop-up.
UT managed to get occupants as far as second and third following a Grieve double and a Dotson walk with two retired in the bottom of the third but were again denied as a long fly out off the bat of sophomore second baseman Lauren Gibson kept the contest scoreless.
Evansville second baseman Amy Gaertner managed the first hit off Ivy Renfroe with one out in the top of the fourth as her full swing resulted in a ball that checked up about two feet out in front of the plate. UT junior catcher Ashley Andrews raced out from behind the dish in an attempt to make the play, but a throw from her knees proved just a little tardy. A shot to left center by left fielder Jen Stahlhut, a sacrifice bunt by shortstop Niki Rahming and a walk issued to first baseman Alicia Betancur packed the bags for Evansville with two down. UT's 6-0 right hander managed a huge strikeout of third baseman Brianna Villanueva, however, to keep the Purple Aces from breaking in front on the scoreboard.
After reliever Ellen Renfroe worked quickly through the Evansville line-up in order in the top half of the fifth, the Tennessee offense finally got untracked in the bottom half by tallying three runs on a trio of hits while benefitting from a pair of throwing miscues.
A one-out infield single by Chavanne got Tennessee's fifth-inning outburst started and forced a pitching change as Evansville lifted starter Kendall Kautz in favor of Emily Morris. The hurler was greeted rudely by a Grieve base knock, while a throwing error by the new pitcher on the play allowed the UT duo to end up residing in scoring position. As she has done so often during her brief career in the Orange & White, Dotson came through with a clutch hit as her base knock brought home both runners for a 2-0 lead. Another Evansville miscue on a bouncer by Gibson plated another Lady Vol as the advantage expanded to three scores.
Opening the bottom of the sixth, back-to-back singles by Hammond and Davin placed UT runners at the corners. A wild pitch by Morris permitted Hammond plenty of time to score for a 4-0 lead and ended the Evansville pitcher's stay in the circle as Maggie Little was summoned into the contest. From there an RBI groundout by Chavanne and a Dotson RBI two-bagger finalized the scoring at 6-0.
The Purple Aces were retired in order in the top of the seventh as Niki Rahming struck out and pinch hitters Ashleigh Rahming and Allison Aguilera each grounded out to complete Tennessee's win.
The Lady Vols open the Tennessee Classic (March 4-6) on Fri., March 4, at 5:30 p.m. against Louisiana Monroe. The day's action begins at 3 p.m. with Furman battling Louisiana Monroe. Live stats will be available for both contests through Gametracker and periodical updates of the Tennessee games will be posted on Twitter. Live video of Tennessee's contest versus ULM is expected to be available for free through utladyvols.com. Check both http://twitter.com/LadyVol_Sftball and http://twitter.com/UTLadyVols for more information on Tennessee Lady Vol softball.
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