KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (utladyvols.com) -- It was just one of those days for No. 11 Tennessee (28-6, 6-4 Southeastern Conference) on a blustery Saturday afternoon at Lee Softball Stadium as No. 21 Auburn (29-6, 9-4 SEC) evened the two teams’ three-game weekend series with a 9-1 victory.
UT’s offense was led by junior designated player Jessica Spigner as the Santa Clarita, Calif., native went 1-for-2 at the plate while bashing her seventh home run of the season. Sophomore third baseman Raven Chavanne (1-for-3), junior first baseman Shelby Burchell (1-for-1) and freshman pinch hitter Ashley Holmes (1-for-1) also registered base knocks during the contest for the Big Orange.
In the circle sophomore Ivy Renfroe dropped to 9-3 on the season after allowing five earned runs on seven hits with three walks and four K’s over 5.2 innings of work. Junior Cat Hosfield permitted a pair of tallies on six hits with a strikeout in 1.1 frames of relief effort.
With strong wind gusts blowing out to right and right center field as strong as 25 miles per hour, defense on fly balls and pop-ups proved to be a challenge on Saturday. Just how much of a challenge it would be was discovered quickly in the top of the first as Auburn took advantage of a pair of wind-blown singles.
After first baseman Morgan Estell was hit with a Renfroe offering to start the contest, third baseman Kyndall White lifted a ball up into the stiff breeze that literally blew away from an onrushing Kelly Grieve in center for a tough single. Right fielder Amber Harrison walked to load the bases before Renfroe managed her first K of the contest by getting catcher Elizabeth Eisterhold swinging. With one down shortstop Lauren Guzman ripped a ball back up the middle to grant the Tigers a 1-0 lead. Center fielder Caitlin Stangl stepped to the dish with two retired and bounced what appeared to be a routine grounder on the infield. Unfortunately, the ball was thrown high to first for an error as two Auburn runners crossed the dish for a 3-0 advantage.
With AU hurler Lauren Schmalz having worked through the Lady Vols in order during the first, the Orange & Blue set about adding to its total on the scoreboard in the top of the second. Left fielder Katie Colton singled on a bunt back to the circle and then Estell managed a hit on another wind-blown ball to the outfield that dropped in, putting two aboard with none out. Harrison came to the plate with one retired and singled sharply to left for an RBI as the AU lead expanded to four tallies.
The Lady Vols answered back in the bottom of the second as Spigner led off the frame with a towering ball into the breeze that managed to just get over the Lee Stadium wall for a solo HR.
The Tigers got the score right back in the top of the third as a one-out double to right center by second baseman Kelsey Cartwright was cashed in via an RBI groundout by designated player Hilary Mavromat to make it 5-1.
Solid defense for Auburn was one of the day’s storylines and was perhaps best exhibited by a play during the bottom of the third. Chavanne beat out an infield single with one down in the frame. The speedster was quickly erased from the base paths, however, on a 4-3 double play as Cartwright handed a Grieve chopper, tagged the runner and threw on to first in time to finish the twin-killing.
Back-to-back two-out walks drawn by UT sophomore second baseman Lauren Gibson and Burchell put the Lady Vol offense in business in the bottom of the fourth. Freshman shortstop Madison Shipman ripped a threatening ball back up the middle, but Guzman was positioned perfectly at short, racing over to nab the ball before stepping on second to conclude the Tennessee threat.
With Schmalz limiting the UT offense from the circle, Auburn added three more tallies in the sixth on a two-RBI double by Eisterhold and a Guzman RBI single to make it 8-1.
A base knock from Colton during the top of the seventh finalized the count at 9-1 in favor of the Tigers as the Orange & Blue evened the weekend series at a game apiece.
The Big Orange concludes its series against #21 Auburn on Sunday, April 3, at 1 p.m. ET. Free live web streamed video as well as live audio via “The Sports Animal” (99.1 and 99.3 FM, AM 990) will be available for the contest through UTLadyVols.com/allaccess. Check both http://twitter.com/LadyVol_Sftball and http://twitter.com/LadyVol_Sports for the most up-to-date information on Tennessee softball.
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