KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (utladyvols.com) -- Four extra-base hits by #5 Tennessee (42-7, 18-5 Southeastern Conference), including a walk-off three-run HR off the bat of junior third baseman Jessica Spigner, helped power the Lady Vols past Arkansas in Friday night’s series opener in front of 1,264 Orange-clad fans at Lee Softball Stadium.
UT sophomore left fielder Raven Chavanne extended her current hitting streak to a career-high 12 games by going 2-for-2 at the plate with a double, two walks, two runs scored and an RBI. During her recent dozen-contest skein, the Thousand Oaks, Calif., native is hitting .581 (25-of-43) to raise her average to a SEC-leading .463 for the season.
In the circle sophomore pitcher Ivy Renfroe improved to 16-3 overall and 8-2 in league action by allowing a single run on two hits with a pair of walks and a career-high 12 strikeouts. By permitting a third inning tally, the Jackson, Tenn., product saw her streak of consecutive innings having not allowed an earned run end at 34.1 frames. Over her last eight appearances the 6-0 right hander is a stellar 7-0 with a 0.46 ERA, four complete games and 50 strikeouts in 46 innings of work while allowing just three earned runs.
Spigner was 2-for-3 at the plate with her team-leading 13th HR of the season, while the big fly also marked the Santa Clarita, Calif., native’s sixth HR over Tennessee’s last 11 contests. Senior center fielder Kelly Grieve posted a 3-for-4 effort at the dish with a pair of RBIs while sophomore second baseman Lauren Gibson (1-for-4, run, team-leading 12th double) and freshman Madison Shipman (1-for-2) each recorded an RBI double. Rookie first baseman Melissa Davin was 1-for-2 with a walk, a run scored and an RBI.
The contest started surprisingly enough as a pitcher’s duel between Renfroe and Arkansas’ Kim Jones as neither offense could put together a sustained attack during the opening two frames. UT’s hurler even struck out the side during the top of the second, giving her four K’s over the first six batters she faced.
Tennessee finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third to nab a 1-0 lead. Chavanne started the inning with a walk, moved into scoring position on a bouncer back to the circle by sophomore right fielder Kat Dotson and raced around to the plate on a two-out RBI single off the bat of Grieve.
The Razorbacks answered right back in the top of the fourth to dead-lock the contest at 1-1. A lead-off infield single by center fielder Becca Carden, a stolen base and a walk issued to second baseman Jennifer Rambo got UA off to a promising start. Renfroe responded to the threat with back-to-back strikeouts to get within one retirement of escaping the jam. Catcher Jayme Gee wouldn’t let that happen, however, as she laced a single down the left field line to plate Carden with the tying run.
That Arkansas tally seemed to ignite the UT offense in the bottom of the fourth. Spigner drew a lead-off walk and then freshman pinch runner Tory Lewis swiped second to get the Big Orange off and running. With one down in the frame, Davin delivered an RBI single and then Shipman blasted an RBI two-bagger off the wall as the advantage expanded to 3-1. Chavanne followed soon after with a two-out, RBI base knock to improve UT’s lead to three tallies.
A lead-off single by Grieve was cashed in on a double by Gibson beginning the bottom of the fifth. Following a base hit by Spigner, Razorback starting pitcher Jones was lifted from the circle in favor of Chelsea Cohen. The new hurler was betrayed by her defensive mates as a pair of Arkansas miscues played a vital role in allowing a pair of Lady Vols to score, making it 7-1.
A Chavanne walk to christen the bottom of the sixth and another fielding error on the Hogs put runners at the corners for Tennessee with none retired. Grieve knocked in her second run of the contest via a single and set the stage for a towering walk-off, three-run bomb by Spigner as UT prevailed via run-rule, 11-1 (6 inn.).
The No. 5 Tennessee softball squad continues its series against Arkansas on Sat., April 30, at 1 p.m. ET. The radio broadcast will be provided through “The Sports Animal” (check either 99.1/99.3 FM or AM 990) with the audio feed and live video expected to be available for free 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.