AUBURN, Ala. (UT Release) - In a crazy contest full of collisions and hit batters on Saturday at Jane B. Moore Field in Auburn, Ala., the #9 Tennessee Lady Vol softball squad (30-9, 12-6 Southeastern Conference) got four more RBIs from sophomore clean-up hitter Madison Shipman and stellar relief work from sophomore pitcher Ellen Renfroe in outlasting Auburn (26-14, 5-10 SEC) in a 10-inning marathon, 5-3.
The match-up was marred by a massive collision at home plate during the bottom of the third inning as Auburn's Brooke Lathan ran into senior catcher Ashley Andrews, forcing a lengthy injury delay for the UT player and the ejection of the Tiger second baseman.
Shipman led the Lady Vol offense by going 2-for-5 at the dish with two runs scored, a triple, her sixth HR of the season and four RBIs, giving her a squad-best 45 RBIs in 2012. The Valencia, Calif., native is hitting .375 during the series with a triple, two doubles and an impressive eight RBIs over two games. Junior second baseman Lauren Gibson was 2-for-3 with a pair of tallies and a stolen base, junior right fielder Kat Dotson was 1-for-5 and junior third baseman Raven Chavanne was 1-for-4 with her team-leading 18th stolen base of the campaign.
Ellen Renfroe picked up her 21st victory of the season in relief, allowing just one hit with a walk and nine strikeouts over 6.0 innings of work. Junior Ivy Renfroe permitted three runs on four hits while striking out three over 4.0 frames as the starter.
"I've been coaching softball for 25 years in college, in the Olympics and all over the world, and I've never seen a collision like that at home plate," Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. "Ashley (Andrews) is one tough player and the heart of our team, so I didn't think we played as well as the game went on. Madison (Shipman) is quickly becoming a go-to player for us, and she's definitely leading us offensively right now. I'm very proud of our kids for their effort in fighting back from a deficit and winning in 10 innings. "
Tennessee's offense managed its initial hit of the contest in the top of the first as Gibson laced a two-out single through the infield. Once again, the two-out magic made an appearance as Shipman crushed a two-run shot, her sixth HR of the season and second of the series, just over the wall at Jane B. Moore Field as the Big Orange nabbed a quick 2-0 lead. That big fly meant that all 11 of UT's tallies in the series to that point had come with two retired in a frame.
Auburn shortstop Lauren Guzman got the Tigers off to a promising start in the bottom of the first with a lead-off single just through the middle of the infield. The 6-0 right hander wasn't fazed by the opening hit, rebounding immediately to strikeout catcher Elizabeth Eisterhold. A sacrifice bunt by designated player Hilary Mavromat advanced the AU runner into scoring position, but she remained at second as Ivy Renfroe struck out Lathan to conclude the inning.
After the Lady Vols left a base runner stranded at third in the top of the second, Auburn's offense got off to a promising start in the bottom half as right fielder Amber Harrison laced the first offering she received from Ivy Renfroe through the left side of the infield. With a 2-0 count on first baseman Caitlin Jordan, Harrison swiped second to reach scoring position and was soon joined by Jordan via a hit by pitch. Following a perfect sac bunt that advanced both runners, left fielder Baylee Stephens grounded a ball to Gibson at second. The Pasadena, Md., native fired a strike to the plate as Andrews applied the tag for a big out. With a pair retired in the frame, center fielder Branndi Melero was struck by a pitch, setting the stage for a RBI single through the right side by Guzman as Auburn cut its deficit to 2-1. Eisterhold then followed by ripping a full count pitch to center, plating two more Tigers as AU nabbed its first lead of the series at 3-2.
The Lady Vols threatened again in the top of the third as Chavanne got things started with an infield single, successfully reaching base for the 19th consecutive contest. After an Andrews fielder's choice cut down the lead runner, Gibson drew her team-leading 32nd walk of the season, placing a pair on the bags with Shipman stepping to the plate. The 6-1 shortstop went after the initial offering from Lauren Schmalz, lining a shot that was caught by Caitlin Jordan. The AU first baseman turned and dove to tag the base as Gibson was retired via an inning-ending double play.
Things took an ugly turn in the bottom of the third with one retired and Tiger runners stationed at the corners. What appeared to be a missed squeeze bunt resulted in a massive collision at the plate as Lathan collided with Andrews. The play resulted in an Auburn ejection and an extended delay as UT's catcher was taken off the field for precautionary examination. With two down and attempting to re-focus, Ivy Renfroe hit Schultze with a pitch but finally ended the lengthy frame with a strikeout of Stephens as AU left two base runners stranded.
A big throwing error by Tiger starter Schmalz on a bunt back to the circle off the bat of sophomore center fielder Tory Lewis got Tennessee in business in the top of the fifth. On the bad toss to first, the Chattanooga, Tenn., native quickly raced all the way around to third with no one retired in the frame. Chavanne walked and substitute freshman catcher Hannah Akamine was struck by a pitch from new AU hurler Angel Bunner, loading the bases full of Lady Vols. With one down Shipman came through once again, lacing a RBI groundout as Lewis trotted home to dead-lock the contest at 3-3.
A two-out single from Gibson and a stolen base in the top of the seventh granted the Big Orange a runner in scoring position with the score still tied. Shipman stepped to the plate and hit a ball right on the nose, but her liner traveled right into the glove of Bunner in the circle to leave the occupant at second.
With one last chance in regulation, reliever Ellen Renfroe induced a popped-up bunt from Melero and a grounder to third by Guzman for two quick outs. The 6-0 right hander battled out of a 3-0 hole to a full count against Eisterhold before the AU catcher blasted a shot to deep right. Dotson retreated all the way back to the fence, making the catch while falling backwards into the padding to send the teams on to extra frames.
Each team's offense managed to get a runner into scoring position in the eighth inning, but no farther as both Tennessee's Ellen Renfroe and Auburn's Bunner buckled down to leave the occupants stranded.
The Big Orange finally moved back in front in the top of the 10th with the help of the middle of the Lady Vol line-up. Gibson was struck by a pitch for the third time in a five-game stretch opening the inning. Shipman delivered in the clutch once again, blasting a triple off the wall to score Gibson all the way from first to make it 4-3. An illegal pitch by Bunner then brought home Shipman from third as Tennessee's advantage expanded to a pair of runs.
With a two-tally lead in the bottom of the 10th, Ellen Renfroe didn't allow the Tigers any life. The Jackson, Tenn., native struck out Eisterhold, got Mavromat to pop-up to third and struck out Liana Wuchte swinging to end the marathon.
The #9 Tennessee Lady Vol softball squad and Auburn will wrap-up their series at Jane B. Moore Field on Sun., April 8, at 1 p.m. CT.
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