Renfroe strikes out 14 as Lady Vols blank Texas Tech, 1-0

TEMPE, Ariz. (release) -- The No. 9 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (2-1) got back into the win column on Friday night at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz., as junior third baseman Melissa Brown’s fifth-inning RBI double proved enough offense to back junior Ellen Renfroe’s 14-strikeout, two-hit shutout as UT topped Texas Tech (1-2), 1-0.

Brown was 1-for-3 at the dish with the RBI two-bagger, while junior second baseman Lauren Gibson (1-for-4), senior center fielder Ashley Andrews (1-for-3), sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman (1-for-3), freshman first baseman Cheyanne Tarango (1-for-2) and senior designated player Cat Hosfield (1-for-3) each posted one of UT’s six hits in the match-up.

Ellen Renfroe still hasn’t allowed a run over her first 14 innings of work in 2012 and has punched out a total of 25 hitters while permitting just three base knocks during wins over UCSB and Texas Tech.

“Ellen has 25 strikeouts already in two games, and she’s been amazing for us so far this season,” Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. “We kind of got it put to us this morning by a tough Cal team. We’re really missing our injured players Raven Chavanne and Kat Dotson at the top of our line-up. It’s amazing how much you miss All-American players like that, but other kids are stepping up for us. This win over Texas Tech was huge for us.”

Much like in Thursday night’s Lady Vol contest with UCSB, the pitchers came out and set an early tone during the opening frame. After Texas Tech’s Brittany Talley retired UT in order, Renfroe responded by striking out the Red Raider side.

Tennessee got the initial hit of the match-up with one down in the top of the second as Tarango ripped a single past the circle. Unfortunately, the Anaheim Hills, Calif., native remained right there as a foul pop-up behind the plate and a bouncer to second base ended the frame with no scoring.

The Red Raiders managed a lead-off base runner to begin the bottom of the second as designated player Adriana Perez drew a walk. A great individual play by freshman catcher Hannah Akamine helped prevent any potential threat as the Escondido, Calif., product raced out from behind the plate to snag a popped up bunt, pivoted and fired to Gibson covering first for a double play. Renfroe then recorded her fourth strikeout of the match-up by getting left fielder Melisa Ryba swinging at a third strike.

TTU second baseman Logan Hall registered the Red Raiders’ first base knock in the bottom of the third by driving a one-out pitch down the right field line for a double. Renfroe responded to her initial adversity of the contest by striking out right fielder Ashley Hamada and center fielder Mikey Kenney to leave the runner stranded in scoring position.

First baseman Sandy James battled Renfroe over a 10-pitch at-bat to draw a one-out free pass in the bottom of the fourth. She was soon joined on the base paths by Perez as her pop-up behind second fell in between a pair of Lady Vols via a miscommunication. After a wild pitch allowed the duo to advance up 60 feet into scoring position, UT’s 6-0 right-hander bared down, recording her eighth and ninth strikeouts of the contest to escape the jam with no damage done.

Sophomore left fielder Melissa Davin broke a streak of nine-straight Lady Vols that had been retired by Texas Tech hurler Tally by drawing a walk. That set the stage for Brown as the Valencia, Calif., native ripped a double into the gap. With the ball rattling around at the wall, pinch runner Holly Baker had the opportunity to scamper all the way around from first for a 1-0 lead. Hosfield kept the attack going with a two-out single, but a UT strikeout left runners at the corners.

After Renfroe set down the Red Raiders in order in the bottom of the fifth, Andrews and Shipman christened the sixth frame with back-to-back singles through the infield. Following a groundout to short from senior right fielder Shelby Burchell that advanced the runners 60 feet into scoring position, Tarango battled Talley for a walk to load the bases full of Lady Vols with still just one out. Unfortunately, the trio was left stranded as Baker popped up to short and Brown lifted a “can of corn” to center to conclude the threat.

Tennessee’s hurler finished off her strong effort from the circle by striking out the TTU side in the sixth and then finished things off with her 14th K as Ryba went down swinging in the bottom half of the seventh. Backing the seventh inning effort was an amazing shoestring catch in left field by UT’s Baker that kept the potential winning run from coming to the plate.

The Orange & White return to action on Sat., Feb. 11, in a 2 p.m. MT match-up against San Diego State before battling No. 1 Arizona State at 7 p.m. MT.

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