KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UT Release) - On Sunday afternoon in front of another ESPN national television audience and the largest crowd in Lee Softball Stadium history (1,845), the #10 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (35-9, 16-6 Southeastern Conference) erupted for back-to-back, five-run outbursts during both the fifth and sixth innings, erasing a 2-0 deficit and powering UT to a sweep over #21 LSU (29-13, 11-6 SEC), 10-2 (6 inn.).
The Big Orange offense banged out an impressive 13 hits against a Tiger pitching staff that had been allowing league opposition to hit at just a .194 clip, led by a 3-for-4 effort from junior right fielder Kat Dotson. In all 10 different Lady Vol players recorded at least one base knock in the triumph.
Senior left fielder Shelby Burchell (1-for-4, three RBIs) posted the biggest hit of the contest as her three-run double during the fifth inning completed the rally from an early deficit, giving Tennessee a 4-2 advantage. Junior second baseman Lauren Gibson was 1-for-2 with two runs scored and a RBI, junior first baseman Melissa Brown was 2-for-4 with a RBI and junior Whitney Hammond was 1-for-1 with a run scored and a RBI. Freshman pinch hitter Hannah Akamine finished the victory "walk-off-style" with a two-out, two-RBI single in the bottom of the sixth.
Lady Vol junior pitcher Ivy Renfroe (13-6) won her eighth consecutive decision in the circle, working 2.2 perfect innings of relief with three strikeouts. Sophomore starter Ellen Renfroe allowed two runs on six hits with a walk and two K's in 3.1 frames.
"I'm really, really proud of our team," Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. "Those two pitchers for LSU (Rachele Fico and Brittany Mack) are both fantastic. Our kids just were not going to be denied. LSU jumped on us early, and we had our back against the wall. Our kids just fought, fought, fought and clawed back in it, and Ivy (Renfroe) came in and shut them down."
A two-out single by left fielder Ashley Langoni granted the Tigers their initial base runner in the top of the first, but that was all LSU would get as Ellen Renfroe struck out shortstop Juliana Santos to conclude the frame.
The Big Orange got a two-out threat started in the bottom half of the first as sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman walked and swiped second, and Gibson joined her via her team-leading 36th walk of 2012. Unfortunately, the duo was stranded as a grounder to short got handled by LSU's Santos for out number three.
A long ball off the bat of second baseman Allison Falcon to begin the top of the second granted the Bayou Bengals their first lead of the series at 1-0. Designated player Ashley Applegate beat out an infield single to second, and third baseman Tammy Wray walked to continue the offensive threat with still no one retired in the frame. A pair of outs nearly kept LSU from adding anything else, but center fielder A.J. Andrews laced a little flare to left center that dropped in for a RBI as the advantage expanded to two runs.
LSU catcher Morgan Russell delivered one-out single off the wall in left field during the top of the fourth that ended Ellen Renfroe's stint in the circle as her sister Ivy came on for a relief appearance. The change worked wonders as the new 6-0 right hander induced a pop-up off the bat of first baseman Ashleigh Kuhn and got the final retirement via a grounder from Andrews.
Trying to get the Lady Vol offense untracked in the bottom of the fourth, Gibson christened the frame with a base knock and was soon joined on the base paths by Brown via a single. Unfortunately, a strikeout and a pop-up into foul territory behind the plate raised Tennessee's left-on-base total to four.
The flood gates opened for the Lady Vols in the fifth-inning. Lewis ignited the rally, just as she did against Radford earlier in the week, lacing a double to jump start the Big Orange offense. An LSU miscue allowed UT to plate its first run of the game after a Chavanne bunt was thrown over the head of the first baseman by Fico. Chavanne advanced 60 feet after a single off the bat of Dotson, which put the go-ahead runner on the base paths. A Shipman fielder's choice, her 12th steal of the year and a Gibson walk loaded the bases for Burchell. Though not a walk-off like she blasted against Kentucky two weeks ago, the senior again provided some late-inning heroics after her double into the gap cleared the bases and gave UT a 4-2 lead. The Orange and White would tack on one more during the frame to extend the advantage to three via a single by Brown that was misplayed by the right fielder, allowing her to take third and Burchell to score.
Following a pitching change, freshman designated player Cheyanne Tarango was plunked by Brittany Mack. Some heads up base running by Brown at third allowed Andrews to reach on a fielder's choice and again pack the bases full of Lady Vols. A strikeout and a groundout finally brought the frame to a close but not before Tennessee had erupted for five tallies.
With a three-run lead, the elder Renfroe would make quick work of the Bayou Bengals in the top of the sixth. She forced the first two batters to ground out then got the final out of the inning by getting Wray to swing and miss on a full count.
The onslaught continued for the Big Orange in its half of the sixth, beginning with a leadoff single from Dotson. Shipman laced a double off the outfield wall that advanced Dotson to third. A sharply hit grounder by Gibson was mishandled by the shortstop allowed the two runners to score as she slid headfirst into second, improving the score to 7-2. A fly out and a strikeout ensued, but Gibson stole third. Having been inserted into the game as a defensive replacement, Whitney Hammond came up big at the plate, doubling to push the UT lead to six at 8-2.
A single from Andrews allowed Hammond to move to third and put the potential, game-ending run on first. With Andrews on second following a stolen base, Akamine stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter for Lewis and sent the third pitch she saw into center for a two-RBI, walk-off single to finish the contest via run-rule.
Originally slated for just a single contest, Tennessee now returns to action on Tues., April 17, at 4 p.m. by hosting Memphis in a doubleheader at Lee Softball Stadium.
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