LEXINGTON, Ky. (utladyvols.com) -- The No. 7 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (20-3, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) flipped the script from Friday’s night league-opening loss by playing stellar defense and posting two big offensive innings to race past No. 23 Kentucky (15-4, 1-1 SEC), 10-0, on a bright and sunny Saturday afternoon in front of 1,311 fans at the UK Softball Stadium in Lexington, Ky.
The Big Orange offense exploded for 13 hits in the victory, totaling six runs in the top of the second and adding four more during the top of the seventh on the way to hitting the double-digit mark for tallies for the 11th time this season. The UT defense also managed a pair of inning-ending double plays in the contest.
“This has been a very interesting first SEC series of the season,” Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. “I don’t think Kentucky is as bad as today’s score indicated, and we aren’t as bad as we played on Friday night. The weather conditions have been a challenge for both teams with the cold last night and strong winds during each game. Kentucky is a solid ranked opponent. I know we are looking forward to what should be a great series finale on Sunday.”
Senior center fielder Kelly Grieve led the Lady Vol offensive assault by going 4-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs and a pair of stolen bases. Junior first baseman Shelby Burchell (1-for-4, two RBIs) contributed her team best eighth HR of the year by blasting a two-run shot during UT’s six-score second frame. Freshman shortstop Madison Shipman had a career-high three hits during a 3-for-4 effort with a pair of runs scored, while junior catcher Ashley Andrews (2-for-4, two runs), freshman designated player Melissa Davin (1-for-4, run) and sophomore left fielder Raven Chavanne were each credited with an RBI. Sophomore Kat Dotson made her lone hit count by knocking in a pair of tallies via an RBI single, but also had her four-game HR streak come to an end during the win over the ‘Cats.
UT sophomore starting pitcher Ivy Renfroe registered a complete-game victory to improve to 6-2 on the season by scattering six hits, walking two and striking out two.
After both teams wasted lead-off base runners during the opening frame, Tennessee broke through with a six-spot in the top of the second.
Shipman got things going in the second with a base knock and soon advanced into scoring position via a wild pitch by UK starter Lauren Cumbess. Junior third baseman Jessica Spigner battled out of a 0-2 hole to draw a walk, and then Andrews managed an infield single to pack the bags with still none out. On just five pitches Chavanne managed a run-scoring free pass to plate Shipman for a 1-0 lead. Grieve lifted a ball to the outfield that was plenty deep enough to bring home Spigner via a sacrifice fly. From there Dotson ripped a 3-2 offering for a two-RBI single to up the count to 4-0. The advantage soon expanded to a half-dozen as Burchell contributed a two-run bomb on a 0-2 pitch from Cumbess.
For the second straight frame Kentucky managed to get its lead-off batter on as Cumbess singled deep into the hole at short to open the bottom of the second. With designated player Rachel Riley at the plate, UT’s infield dropped a routine foul ball for an error to extend the at-bat. That play cost the Big Orange as Riley managed a walk to place a pair aboard with still no one retired. Following a fielder’s choice that cut down the lead runner at third, first baseman Samantha DeMartine was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Facing a huge situation, UK left fielder Annie Rowlands ripped a bouncer right back to the circle. Renfroe made the grab, tossed to Andrews at the plate and then UT’s catcher finished off a crucial, inning-ending double play with a strong throw to Burchell at first.
Tennessee’s defense again kept the ‘Cats from cutting into its advantage in the bottom of the third. Catcher Megan Yocke walked to christen the inning and eventually moved to second on a chopper back to the pitcher. With two outs in the frame, center fielder Meagan Aull ripped a base hit up the middle. Sophomore second baseman Lauren Gibson raced over and managed a solid back-handed grab on the run, deciding not to attempt to get the runner going to first. Instead, the Pasadena, Md., native spied Yocke attempting to score all the way from second and made an accurate throw to the plate to cut down the runner and conclude the inning with no damage.
The Big Orange offense let a golden opportunity slip by during the top of the fifth, however, leaving the bases loaded after UK had opened the inning with back-to-back fielding miscues.
Tennessee’s defense again flashed its leather with an impressive 5-4-3 double play to conclude the bottom half of the sixth inning.
That effort seemed to grant the Lady Vol offense a boost as UT put up four runs on five hits during the top of the seventh. Shipman laced a one-out single and Spigner immediately followed with a two-bagger, placing a pair of occupants into scoring position. Davin and Andrews managed RBI singles to improve the lead to 8-0, then Grieve added a two-run single to finalize the scoring at 10-0.
From there Renfroe finished off Kentucky in order during the bottom of the seventh as ‘Cat right fielder Macy Allen popped up to short, DeMartine grounded out to second and pinch hitter Ginny Carroll bounced back to the circle to conclude UT’s big triumph.
Tennessee softball wraps-up its series at Kentucky on Sun., March 13, at 1 p.m. ET. Live stats will be available through Gametracker, live audio via “The Sports Animal” (AM 990) will be provided through UTLadyVols.com with the “Voice of the Lady Vols” Mickey Dearstone on the call and periodical updates will be posted on Twitter. Free live video is also expected to be available for all three games in the UT-UK series at UKAthletics.com/allaccess. Check both http://twitter.com/LadyVol_Sftball and http://twitter.com/UTLadyVols for the most up-to-date information on Lady Vol softball.
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