No. 9 Lady Vols rally to beat San Diego State, 6-5

TEMPE, Ariz.(release) -- Faced with a 4-1 deficit through four innings during Kajikawa Classic action on Saturday afternoon at Farrington Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., No. 9 Tennessee got clutch home runs from freshman first baseman Cheyanne Tarango and junior third baseman Melissa Brown to rally past San Diego State, 6-5.

Lady Vol sophomore pitcher Ellen Renfroe improved to 3-0 on the season by firing 3.0 frames of relief, allowing four hits and striking out five. The Jackson, Tenn., native still hasn’t allowed a single run over 17 total innings of work while allowing just seven base knocks and posting 30 strikeouts. Junior Ivy Renfroe got the start in the circle, permitting five runs on nine hits over four frames of effort with a walk and three K’s.

For Tarango (1-for-4, HR, two RBIs) her two-run blast during Tennessee’s four-run fifth inning marked the first big fly of her collegiate career. Brown (2-for-4, run) ended up recording the game-winning hit for the second consecutive match-up by blasting her solo HR in the top of the sixth. The Valencia, Calif., native doubled during the fifth inning on Fri., night to knock in the winning run in UT’s 1-0 triumph over Texas Tech.

Senior center fielder Ashley Andrews (1-for-3, run), junior second baseman Lauren Gibson (0-for-4, run) and sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman (1-for-3) were each credited with an RBI.

After a quick first inning for both teams, Tennessee missed a huge scoring opportunity in the bottom of the second by leaving the bases juiced. Shipman led off the frame with an infield single and was soon joined on the base paths as senior designated player Shelby Burchell and freshman catcher Hannah Akamine were hit by pitches, packing the bags with two down. Unfortunately, a swinging strikeout ended the inning with the contest still scoreless.

San Diego State wasted no time getting on the board via a power display after escaping the jam in the previous half inning. Right fielder Patrice Jackson battled to a full count before driving an offering over the wall in left center for a 1-0 lead. On the very next pitch catcher Kristin May ripped a shot just over the fence in right for back-to-back HR’s as the advantage grew to two runs. After a brief coaching visit to the circle, Renfroe got left fielder Kayla Jordan to pop-up to second. Third baseman Ashley Rose followed with a double into the gap in right center, but UT’s 6-0 right-hander responded by getting back-to-back lineouts to short and second, respectively, to end the frame with no further damage.

The Aztecs gave the Big Orange a little help starting the top of the third as a chopper back to the circle from junior right fielder Whitney Hammond was thrown wide of first for an error. Micetich’s errant toss ended up rolling down the right field line as Hammond raced all the way around to third. With one out Gibson chopped a slow roller to short that proved plenty to plate Hammond from third, cutting the Tennessee deficit to 2-1.

SDSU responded immediately to UT’s brief rally as Jackson singled and May doubled to christen a threat in the bottom of the fourth. Jordan followed by ripping the first pitch she received up the middle for an RBI as the Aztec lead grew to 3-1. A fielder’s choice to short cut down a runner at second, but permitted pinch runner Jacki Campa the opportunity to scamper home for a 4-1 advantage. An infield single from shortstop Hayley Miles loaded the bases with one out, but Renfroe struck out second baseman Katie Mathis and got a pop-up to second from center fielder Lorena Klopp to end the opportunity.

Sophomore left fielder Melissa Davin got the Lady Vol offense off and running in the top of the fifth by blasting a shot off the top of the outfield wall, resulting in one of the longest singles you’ll see. Andrews stepped up and slapped a double down the line that plated her teammate and cut the deficit to 4-2. After a wild pitch advanced Andrews up 60 feet to third, Gibson grounded a ball on the infield that should have proven a routine out. Andrews baited the fielder, however, by pretending to go home, but slid back into third as Gibson reached safely on the fielder’s choice. That set the stage for a long sacrifice fly off the bat of Shipman as Andrews crossed to cut the deficit to a single tally. Tarango stepped into the batter’s box facing a huge spot and delivered in a major way, bashing her first collegiate homer, a two-run shot, to grant Tennessee its first lead of the contest at 5-4.

The battle continued into the bottom of the fifth as back-to-back base knocks from Maeva and Jackson ended the stint in the circle for Ivy Renfroe as her sister Ellen entered in relief. The new hurler immediately struck out Kristin May, but allowed an RBI double to Jordan as pinch runner Tiffany Corder crossed to dead-lock the count at 5-5. The Jackson, Tenn., native in the circle managed to get the Big Orange out of the inning with consecutive strikeouts of Rose and pinch hitter Kamerin May.

Brown restored the Lady Vols’ advantage during the initial at-bat of the top of the sixth by driving a ball just out of Farrington Stadium for a 6-5 advantage. With one out a slap single by sophomore pinch hitter Tory Lewis, a stolen base and back-to-back walks by Hammond and Andrews loaded the bags with just one out. Unfortunately, consecutive UT strikeouts left the trio stranded on the base paths.

Things got a little concerning for the Big Orange during the bottom of the seventh as Jackson and May laced one-out base hits, putting two on for the Aztecs. Jordan ripped a base hit up the middle as Jackson roared around third on the way to the plate. Andrews fielded the ball and fired a one-hop strike home, nailing the runner by a step and preserving Tennessee’s one-run lead. A tough fielder’s choice to third was handled on a short hop by Brown. She turned quickly and stepped on the bag to end the thrilling contest.

The Orange & White are back in action later tonight at Farrington Stadium against No. 1 Arizona State at 7 p.m. MT. The contest is scheduled to be broadcast live on the web at at the link:

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