KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (utladyvols.com) -- It was quite a rebound for the #11 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (29-6, 7-4 Southeastern Conference) on Sunday in front of a sell-out crowd of 1,649 at the Lee Softball Stadium as the Big Orange picked up a big league series win with a commanding 8-0 (6 inn.) victory over #21 Auburn (29-7, 9-5 SEC).
Freshman pitcher Ellen Renfroe continued her stellar campaign in the circle by hurling a two-hit, complete-game shutout with six strikeouts. For the year the Jackson, Tenn., native improved to 17-2 overall (4-1 in league action) and now owns 10 complete games to go along with four shutouts and a miniscule 1.22 ERA. Over the 6-0 right hander’s last eight appearances, Renfroe is 5-0 with a 0.47 ERA and 62 K’s in 45 innings while limiting opponents to a .164 average.
At the plate junior first baseman Shelby Burchell was a perfect 2-for-2 while blasting her 10th home run of the season, a three-run shot during UT’s seven-run sixth inning. Junior designated player Jessica Spigner was 1-for-2 with a sacrifice fly and a pair of RBIs, while sophomore second baseman Lauren Gibson (2-for-3, RBI) and senior center fielder Kelly Grieve (2-for-2, double, two walks, RBI) each recorded two of Tennessee’s 10 total hits in the match-up. Sophomore right fielder Kat Dotson was 1-for-3 with a run scored and a bases-loaded walk to post her team-best 52nd RBI.
“This was a great team effort today against a very solid opponent in the Auburn Tigers,” Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. “We were very aggressive at the plate and on the base paths, and it paid off for us with an important win.”
Renfroe picked up right where she left off from Friday’s night 20-strikeout effort by retiring AU in order in the top of the first with a pair of K’s.
Tennessee’s offense had a chance to nab a lead in the bottom of the frame as a Grieve single to the outfield and a Gibson hit by pitch put two on base with one down. Unfortunately, a fielder’s choice cut down a runner at second and a strikeout ended the inning with no damage.
Auburn second baseman Kelsey Cartwright singled with one down in the top of the second and reached scoring position on a fielding error as the Tiger became what would be the only AU occupant to reach scoring position in the game. Renfroe demonstrated her solid fielding skills in the circle, handling back-to-back bouncers from right fielder Amber Harrison and center fielder Caitlin Stangl to leave the occupant standing 60 feet from paydirt.
The Big Orange managed the first lead of the day in the bottom of the third as UT scratched out a run for a 1-0 lead via a pair of hits. Sophomore third baseman Raven Chavanne christened the frame with a bloop infield single. Grieve walked and then Gibson managed to bunt a ball into a clear spot on the infield to pack the bags with no one retired. Spigner stepped to the dish and ripped a shot that proved plenty deep enough to plate Chavanne via sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead.
With Renfroe cruising through the Auburn line-up, Tennessee managed runners at the corners in the bottom of the fourth with two down, but failed to add anything on the scoreboard as a Lady Vol got picked off third to end the inning.
Chavanne began the sixth by making a tremendous “web gem” play on a bouncer up the third base line off the bat of designated player Hilary Mavromat. UT’s third baseman dove fully extended to her right to corral the ball, jumped to her feet and fired in time to Burchell across the diamond for an impressive first out. With two down in the frame, a single off the glove of a diving Gibson at second by Estell broke a string of 13 consecutive Tiger batters retired by Renfroe. She didn’t let it faze her, however, by coercing a slow roller to second by third baseman Kyndall White for out number three.
Looking for some valuable insurance, Tennessee managed seven runs worth during the bottom of the sixth to end the contest via run-rule. Following Spigner and Dotson singles top start the inning, Burchell crushed a pitch from Auburn relief pitcher Lauren Schmalz well out of Lee Stadium to make it 4-0, Big Orange. Grieve and Gibson RBI singles and bases-loaded walks from Spigner and Dotson finished off the rousing victory in front of a large Orange-clad crowd.
Tennessee returns to action on the road at #2 Georgia in Athens, Ga., on April 6, for a doubleheader beginning at 4 p.m. ET. Both contests are slated for live television broadcast on Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS).