GAINESVILLE, Fla. (release) -- Lauren Gibson hit an clutch two-run homer with two outs in the seventh to help Lady Vols rally and send the game into extra innings, but the No. 6/7 Tennessee softball team came up just short in a 6-5, eight-inning loss to No. 3/3 Florida on Friday at Pressly Stadium.
Tennessee (22-5, 2-2 SEC) and Florida (26-2, 3-1 SEC) traded scores in the first, the fourth and the sixth and the seventh in a thrilling conference matchup between two of the top teams in the nation. The Gators won the game on a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the eighth.
Gibson's monster two-run shot with two outs and UT down 5-3 was the most resounding hit of the game. Cheyanne Tarango had a two-run blast in the first that gave the Lady Vols an early 2-0 lead. Madison Shipman went a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate with two doubles and one run.
Ivy Renfroe (9-2) put forth a valiant effort in the circle, striking out five over seven frames and a back-and-forth game for both teams. Renfroe gave up six runs in the loss. Tarango entered in the bottom of the eighth and issued two walks, including Katie Medina's game-winning run with the bases juiced.
Hannah Rogers (14-2) earned the win after striking out three and throwing seven frames, re-entering late in the game after Lauren Haeger surrendered four hits and two runs in relief. Rogers gave up three runs (two earned).
Tennessee took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first when Tarango hit a two-out homer to left field to plate Shipman from second base.
Florida answered with two runs in the bottom of the first. With one out, Kelsey Horton hit an RBI single to center. Two batters later Tayler Schwarz hit an RBI single to left to tie the game at 2-2.
In the top of the fourth, Kat Dotson scored on a fielding error by the shortstop who missed a catch on a forceout at second. UT pulled ahead 3-2.
The game was knotted a 3-3 in the bottom of the fourth when Medina hit an RBI single through the right side to score Kirsti Merritt. Gibson gunned out a the next runner at home plate.
The Gators pulled ahead 5-3 in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, Jessica Damico scored from third base on a wild pitch. Two batters later, Stewart hits an RBI single to short.
Tennessee had two outs in the top of the seventh when Raven Chavanne legged out a single to short. Gibson followed with UT's biggest hit of the year, drilling a 1-1 pitch from Haeger over the wall in right to even the game at 5-5 and silence the crowd. Tennessee left the bases loaded in the top of the seventh.
UT didn't get any baserunners on in the top of the eighth.
Medina opened the bottom of the eighth with a double to right center. Tarango relieved Renfroe in the circle and Taylore Fuller followed with a single through the left side. Stewart was intentionally walked and Stephanie Tofft followed with a walk on five pitches to plate the winning run.
Tennessee and Florida will square off for Game 2 on Saturday at 11 a.m. The game will be televised on ESPNU and online on ESPN3. It will also be on WNML 990 AM with Brian Rice on the call.
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