KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (utladyvols.com) -- No. 5 Tennessee (48-11) out-hit No. 22 Oklahoma State, 9-8, on Sat., May 21, in front of another sold-out crowd of 1,649 at the Lee Softball Stadium, but dropped a 6-1 decision to the Cowgirls to drop into the loser’s bracket in the NCAA’s Knoxville Regional.
The Lady Vols will be forced to return to action on Saturday night at approximately 7 p.m. ET against the winner of a game four match-up at 4:45 p.m. ET between Liberty and Georgia Tech.
“We’ve been here before and we are not about to quit,” Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. “I’m not going to throw people under the bus; we just didn’t play well in any phase of the game. The thing that is probably hurting us the most is the lack of RBIs in the four, five, six slots. The one, two, three players are tearing it up, and we are not getting RBIs. We had one hit today in the four, five, six, and that was with nobody on. The name of this game is RBIs, and we just didn’t get them, but we still have a very good ballclub. We are not out of this yet. We are not ready to throw up a flag or anything like that. Tip our hat to Oklahoma State. They played really good.”
The Big Orange was led offensively by senior center fielder Kelly Grieve (2-for-4), sophomore right fielder Kat Dotson (2-for-4, double, RBI) and freshman shortstop Madison Shipman (2-for-3) as each member of the trio registered a pair of UT’s nine total hits in the contest.
In the circle for the Lady Vols, freshman pitcher Ellen Renfroe suffered the defeat to fall to 26-6 on the season. The Jackson, Tenn., native permitted six runs on eight hits with six walks and six strikeouts over 6.0 innings of work. Junior Cat Hosfield tossed a perfect seventh frame of relief on just 14 total pitches.
Oklahoma State third baseman Mariah Gearhart granted the Cowgirls a lead-off base occupant on the very first pitch of the contest as Renfroe’s initial offering struck the hitter on the left elbow pad. Following a stolen base and a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner to third with one retired, second baseman Alysia Hamilton ripped a double to right that plated the first tally of the game for a 1-0 OSU advantage. A sharp liner to second was nabbed by UT sophomore Lauren Gibson and sophomore left fielder Raven Chavanne handled a roller to third to conclude the frame, but not before OSU had grabbed a quick lead.
With one retired in the bottom of the first, Tennessee’s Dotson slapped a blooping single that managed to find its way into a gap, granting the Big Orange its initial base runner of the contest. Unfortunately, a popped up bunt and a caught stealing ended the inning with no scoring.
Oklahoma State added to its advantage during the top of the second as a lead-off walk issued to left fielder Tamara Brown was cashed in with one down. Right fielder Sammy Jo Diffendaffer blooped a ball to left that dropped just in front of diving freshman Chelsea O’Connor and got away for a RBI double as Brown scampered home to make it 2-0. That’s all OSU would get in the frame, however, as Renfroe struck out center fielder Kelsey Anchors and Gearhart back-to-back.
A lead-off blooper to left center from designated player Ari Morrison, yet another sac bunt and a walk issued to first baseman Julie Ward got the Cowgirls in business with one out in the top of the third. A sharp bouncer up the line was handled by junior first baseman Shelby Burchell as the Columbia, Tenn., product routinely stepped on first for a vital second out. Brown delivered a high chopper toward short that was caught on the bounce by a quickly-charging Shipman. The Valencia, Calif, native tossed a strike across the diamond to retire the OSU side and leave a pair stranded.
A strong defensive play by Grieve in the top of the fourth kept the Cowgirls from adding another tally on the scoreboard. A lead-off miscue on the UT infield and a free pass put a pair of Oklahoma State occupants on with Morrison headed to the plate. The batter lifted a single that dropped just in front of Tennessee’s on-rushing center fielder. The Asheville, N.C., native fired an absolute strike to Andrews at the plate, however, and UT’s catcher easily tagged out pinch runner Kelsea Schultz for a impressive third out.
In the bottom of the fourth, Tennessee’s offense finally got something significant going against OSU starter Kat Espinoza as Grieve followed up her impressive defensive play by singling with one retired. She was soon joined on the base paths by Burchell via a hit by pitch. With two Lady Vols aboard, a foul-out outside of third and a strikeout looking left two more Big Orange occupants stranded.
The Cowgirls expanded their advantage to 3-0 leading-off the top of the fifth as Hamilton drove the first pitch she received from Renfroe just over the wall in right center for a solo HR.
Big Orange freshman left fielder Tory Lewis got a Lady Vol rally started in the bottom of the fifth by drawing a one-out walk off Espinoza. A crucial error at short by OSU’s Chelsea Garcia on a two-out chopper off the bat of Chavanne extended the inning for UT. Dotson quickly made the Cowgirls pay for that infield mistake with a RBI two-bagger, cutting the deficit to 3-1.
A pair of walks came back to hurt Tennessee in a major way during the top of the sixth. With two aboard via free pass and a pair of outs, Hamilton laced a single to center that proved just enough to score Anchors and again expand Oklahoma State’s lead to three tallies. Garcia followed with a two-RBI bloop hit to left center as the advantage grew to 6-1.
With time beginning to run short, UT junior designated player Jessica Spigner blasted a two-out single off the Lee Stadium wall in the bottom of the sixth. Shipman followed with a base knock into the outfield and suddenly the Big Orange had some life with two runners on base. Unfortunately, a routine fly ball to right was handled by OSU’s Diffendaffer to conclude the threat.
Tennessee reliever Cat Hosfield retired the Cowgirls in order in the top of the seventh to keep the Lady Vols within potential striking distance.
UT sophomore pinch hitter Melissa Brown attempted to get something started for the Orange & White in the bottom of the seventh with a lead-off base knock. Oklahoma State brought on relief pitcher Sarah Odom in an attempt to finish things off but the new hurler immediately permitted a base knock to Chavanne on a high-bouncer over the infield as the offense got another threat going with a pair aboard and no outs. Following a Big Orange K, Grieve delivered a single to pack the bags full of Lady Vols with one out. Unfortunately, back-to-back Lady Vol strikeouts brought an end to the final frame as Oklahoma State won to advance on to tomorrow’s 2 p.m. ET title match-up.
No. 5 Tennessee returns to action on Sat., May 21, in loser’s bracket at the Knoxville Regional by facing either #19/18 Georgia Tech or Liberty at approximately 7 p.m. ET. The contest will be shown live via ESPN3.com with Dan Parkhurst and Amanda Freed on the call, while “The Sports Animal” (99.1/99.3 FM or AM 990) will have the radio broadcast with “The Voice of the Lady Vols” Mickey Dearstone on the microphone. Check both http://twitter.com/LadyVol_Sftball and http://twitter.com/LadyVol_Sports for the most up-to-date information on Tennessee softball.
2011 Knoxville Regional
Friday, May 20
4 p.m. ET Georgia Tech vs. Oklahoma State (Oklahoma State, 2-1)
6:30 p.m. ET Liberty vs. Tennessee (Tennessee, 8-0 in 5 inn.)
Saturday, May 21
2 p.m. ET Oklahoma State vs. Tennessee (Oklahoma State, 6-1)
4:30 p.m. ET Liberty vs. Georgia Tech (Game Four)
7 p.m. ET Tennessee/Winner Game Four (Game Five)
Sunday, May 22
2 p.m. ET Winner Game Three/Winner Game Five (Game Six)
4:30 p.m. ET (if necessary) Rematch of Game Six