No. 4 Tennessee blasts Michigan State, Stetson

Game One: Lady Vols vs Michigan State

DELAND, Fla. ( -- A Big Orange seven-run first inning set a powerful tone as the No. 4 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (1-0) resoundingly opened its 2011 campaign by defeating Michigan State (2-1), 11-2 (5 inn.), on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the Stetson Leadoff Classic in DeLand, Fla.

The big blow of the contest for UT came off the bat of sophomore second baseman Lauren Gibson as the Pasadena, Md., native blasted a three-run homer to left in the first frame. Junior first baseman Shelby Burchell registered a perfect 3-for-3 effort at the plate with a run scored and an RBI, sophomore left fielder Raven Chavanne was 1-for-3 with a double and three RBIs, sophomore right fielder Kat Dotson (1-for-1, two walks) knocked in a pair of tallies, while junior third baseman Jessica Spigner (1-for-4) and junior catcher Ashley Andrews (1-for-2) each posted an RBI. In their first collegiate action in the Orange & White, shortstop Madison Shipman delivered a 2-for-3, double, two-run, stolen base effort while designated player Chelsea O’Connor walked and scored twice while singling in her only official at-bat.

From the circle for the Lady Vols, sophomore Ivy Renfroe (1-0) permitted two runs on four hits with a walk and four K’s during a complete-game effort.

Tennessee is now 7-3 in season openers under the guidance of Co-Head Coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly and enters this afternoon’s match-up against Stetson (4 p.m.) with 699 victories in program history.

Perhaps suffering from a few butterflies while walking the first opposing batter of the year, Renfroe settled in during the top of the first with some help from her defensive mates. Shipman made two straight solid defensive plays, including one to cut down the lead runner at second, and then UT’s 6-0 pitcher caught designated player Lauren Kramer looking at strike three to conclude the frame.

Chavanne quickly reached scoring position for the first time in 2011 during the bottom half of the opening frame. The Thousand Oaks, Calif., native reached via a throwing error and scampered into second as the ball got away from Michigan State first baseman Heidi Purtzer. With one out in the inning, Dotson walked, putting a pair of Lady Vols on the base paths for the clean-up hitting Spigner. The Santa Clarita, Calif., product laced a sharp single off the very edge of MSU third baseman’s Jayme O’Bryant’s glove and into left as Chavanne raced home with Tennessee’s first run of the year. Gibson strode to the plate and got her new season off to a huge start by driving an offering from MSU’s Cassee Layne down the left field line to boost the Big Orange advantage to 4-0. Shipman followed by lacing her first collegiate hit to right and promptly swiped her initial career base. O’Connor drew a walk and then Burchell followed with a base knock up the middle, packing the bags for UT with still just one retired. Andrews came through with an RBI single to right as Shipman scored to make it 5-0, Lady Vols. A two-bagger to the wall in left center off the bat of Chavanne knocked in two more Big Orange runners for a 7-0 advantage as Tennessee batted around during its initial at-bat of the 2011 season.

Despite permitting a one-out base knock in the second, Renfroe cruised into the fourth with the assistance of a pair of solid plays at third by junior Jessica Spigner. That’s when Williams managed to chip away at Michigan State’s big deficit by driving a two-run HR to center, her team-best second hit of the match-up.

MSU’s scoring appeared to re-ignite a Lady Vol offense that had left a combined three runners stranded over the second and third frames.

Shipman continued her impressive Tennessee debut during the bottom of the fourth by blasting a one-out double to the wall in right. O’Connor followed by drawing her second walk of the day to set the stage for a Burchell RBI-single back through the middle as the UT lead expanded to 8-2. Andrews followed with yet another free pass, the fifth walk issued by MSU’s Layne, to load the bases as Michigan State coach Jacquie Joseph summoned in reliever Shelby Wise. That move back-fired immediately as the new pitcher struck Chavanne on the elbow to force in UT’s ninth run. With two outs on the scoreboard, Dotson guided a two-RBI single to right, finalizing the Tennessee offensive damage at 11-2.

From there it was left to Renfroe to finish the out the victory from the circle. The Jackson, Tenn., native coerced a ground ball to third and handled a sharp liner herself for two quick outs. Michigan State’s Jessica Bracamonte drove a two-out double to left, but it eventually proved harmless as Kylene Hopkins fouled out to Chavanne outside the line in left to complete the game.
Game Two: Lady Vols vs Stetson

No. 4 Tennessee (2-0) picked up the program’s 700th all-time victory and freshman pitcher Ellen Renfroe picked up a triumph in her collegiate debut as the Lady Vols routed Stetson, 11-0 ( 5 inn.), on Saturday afternoon at the Stetson Leadoff Classic in DeLand, Fla.

Rookie hurler Ellen Renfroe was impressive in her initial collegiate start from the circle, tossing a three-hit shutout with six strikeouts in garnering her first UT pitching victory.

The top three in the Big Orange batting order wreaked major havoc on Stetson as the trio of outfielders combined for seven of UT’s 13 hits, seven total RBIs and seven runs scored. Outfielders Kat Dotson (3-for-4, two runs, four RBIs) and Raven Chavanne (2-for-3, three runs, stolen base, three RBIs) each blasted their first HRs of the season, while Kelly Grieve posted a 2-for-4 effort with two tallies, an RBI and a steal. Freshman shortstop Madison Shipman continued her impressive career-opening day by posting a 2-for-3 performance with a pair of RBIs, as the Valencia, Calif., native hit .667 (4-for-6) over Saturday’s two contests.

On the day Dotson and junior first baseman Shelby Burchell each hit .800 (4-for-5) overall, while Dotson and Chavanne (.429 for Sat.) led the attack with six RBIs each.

For the second straight contest Tennessee wasted no time getting a lead as UT put up a two-spot with two down in the top of the first. Dotson got the inning started by blasting a solo shot to deep right field. Shipman followed with a base knock to third base and quickly swiped second. With a runner in scoring position, sophomore second baseman Lauren Gibson knocked in her fourth run combined over the two contests to plate Shipman for a 2-0 lead.

Entering the contest for her initial start, Renfroe worked to a full count against lead-off hitter center fielder Chrissy Moreno before coercing a simple bouncer back to the circle that she handled herself. The Jackson, Tenn., product got plenty of fielding practice in the first inning against Stetson as both shortstop Chelsey Trotto and designated player Chelsea Whalley also grounded back to the circle with UT’s 6-0 hurler handling all three plays.

Tennessee junior third baseman Jessica Spigner christened the top of the second inning with a single through the left side. Unfortunately, a tailor-made double play bouncer to second base cut down junior pinch runner Holly Baker via a 6-4-3 turn. Burchell followed immediately with a single to the wall in right center, her fourth hit on Saturday, but the double play took the steam out of the inning as junior catcher Ashley Andrews popped up to second to end the frame with no damage done.

An error by Stetson first baseman Katelyn Perna on a chopper off the bat of Chavanne came back to hurt the Hatters during the top of the third. The Thousand Oaks, Calif., native quickly swiped second and advanced to third via a single to right by Grieve. After Tennessee’s senior speedster joined her teammate in stealing a bag, Dotson stepped to the dish and ripped a base knock up the middle, plating both occupants for a 4-0 Lady Vol advantage.

It turned out it was former South Carolina Gamecock who managed Stetson’s first hit as transfer third baseman Jill Semento singled through the left side to begin the bottom of the third. Renfroe rebounded nicely to strikeout new pitcher Meredith Owen and left fielder Brittany Knipp consecutively. Morello reached via an absolutely perfect bunt back up the third base line, placing a pair aboard for Trotto. She got ahead in the count 3-0, but lost the battle as Renfroe coerced a bouncer that Shipman handled routinely for a fielder’s choice, leaving the Hatter duo stranded.

The Big Orange blew the contest wide open in the top of the fourth and it all started with a Stetson error on a bouncer by Burchell. With one retired Chavanne singled to third and Grieve followed with a base knock back through the middle as freshman pinch runner Tory Lewis scored the first run of her career. With Tennessee leading 5-0 Dotson knocked in a run via a single through the right side. Then Shipman delivered a base hit to plate two more setting the count in favor of the Lady Vols, 8-0.

With Renfroe cruising from the circle, Co-Head Coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly began substituting freely in the top of the fifth. Freshman first baseman Kourtny Thomas christened the frame by driving her first collegiate hit sharply through the left side of the infield. Rookie Melissa Davin reached via a fielder’s choice as a throw attempting to catch Thomas at second was thrown away for an error. That set the stage for Chavanne as she blasted a three-run shot to right.

Stetson second baseman Alyssa Oddo became Renfroe’s sixth strikeout victim starting the last of the fifth. Following a Semento single, Hatter relief pitcher Courtney Gunby laced a bouncer back to the circle. Renfroe fielded her position, pivoted quickly and tossed to Shipman covering second base. The shortstop’s throw to first proved low, but Thomas stretched out to make an amazing catch and complete the game-ending, twin killing.

The Lady Vols advance on to their final day at the Stetson Leadoff Classic on Sun., Feb. 13, against Boston College (10 a.m.) and Michigan State (12:30 p.m.). Live stats will be available through Gametracker and periodical updates will be posted on Twitter. Check both and for more information on Tennessee Lady Vol softball.

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