KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- The #8 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (14-3) wrapped up its perfect weekend at the Tennessee Classic on Sunday night by holding off a tough challenge from in-state foe Middle Tennessee in registering a 6-3 triumph.
During the weekend the Big Orange outscored its four opponents by a 29-3 total, out-hit them by a .340-.116 clip and its pitching staff recorded a miniscule 0.56 ERA with 35 strikeouts over 25.0 innings.
Against the Blue Raiders junior third baseman Raven Chavanne helped guide the offense from her lead-off position by going 2-for-4 at the dish with her first triple of 2012 and a pair of RBIs. Junior designated player Kat Dotson knocked in a pair of tallies as part of a 1-for-2 effort, while sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman was 1-for-3 with a RBI double.
Lady Vol sophomore starter Ellen Renfroe improved to a perfect 10-0 in the circle, permitting two unearned runs on seven hits with a walk and five strikeouts over 4.2 innings of effort. Junior Ivy Renfroe fired 2.1 scoreless innings of relief in earning her first save of the season, allowing just one hit while striking out five.
“Middle Tennessee came here to beat us, and they put up a solid fight tonight,” Tennessee Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. “I think with the number of games we had this weekend, and MTSU too, with tornado warnings on Friday and snow flurries today, everyone was tired, and they jumped on us. We were able to hold them off and score an extra couple of runs to win. My hats off to them, I thought they played really well against us. I was really proud of our kids. MTSU made a run at us, and we fought them off.”
A two-out rally in the bottom of the first provided Tennessee with a quick 1-0 advantage. Following a free pass issued by Middle Tennessee hurler Caty Jutson to junior second baseman Lauren Gibson, UT’s Shipman rocketed a RBI double off the wall to plate her teammate all the way from first.
A walk by senior right fielder Shelby Burchell, who hit a staggering .667 (6-for-9) during the event, and a single through the infield from freshman first baseman Cheyanne Tarango got another Big Orange scoring outburst christened in the bottom of the second. Two quick outs threatened to de-rail the assault with no damage done, but Chavanne delivered a towering, two-RBI triple off the top of the outfield fencing to make it 3-0. Dotson followed immediately with a bloop hit into the outfield as Chavanne trotted home from 60 feet away for a four-run advantage.
A lead-off walk issued to Middle Tennessee catcher Natalie Ysais starting the top of the fourth and a fielding error on the Lady Vol infield soon came back to haunt Tennessee. Left fielder Nina Dever stepped into the batter’s box and blasted a three-run shot just over the wall in right center, cutting the Blue Raider deficit to 4-3. Back-to-back singles from center fielder Nina Davenport and second baseman Kayla Toney kept the assault going, but Renfroe handled a high chopper back to the circle from shortstop Samantha Nieves to get the Big Orange out of the frame with no further damage.
Sophomore center fielder Tory Lewis drew an important free pass starting the bottom of the fourth, moved to second on a Dotson walk and later to third on a Gibson fielder’s choice. The Chattanooga, Tenn., native soon cashed in her run on a swipe of home, her third stolen base of the season, to grant the Lady Vols a little breathing space at 5-3.
A two-out single from Blue Raider designated player Chelsea Good in the top of the fifth ended Ellen Renfroe’s stint in the circle as her sister Ivy entered in relief. The Jackson, Tenn., native performed her job perfectly, inducing a groundout to short to end the inning.
Bidding for some more insurance in the bottom of the sixth, Tennessee junior pinch hitter Whitney Hammond got things started with a lead-off infield hit. With one retired in the frame, Chavanne beat out a base knock that threatened to escape through the infield and quickly swiped a bag to put a pair of Lady Vols in scoring position. Dotson blasted a towering shot into the outfield that proved plenty deep enough to plate Hammond from third via sac fly with UT’s sixth and final tally.
With Middle Tennessee down to its final chance in the top of the seventh, the Blue Raiders suffered a pair of strikeouts before managing to get a base runner on via a two-out fielding error on the Lady Vol infield. Ivy Renfroe refused to let the miscue affect her in any way, however, responding immediately with a K of right fielder Kelsey Woodruff to complete striking out the side and finish off the victory.