Big first inning carries Lady Vols past LSU, 4-2

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – With a crowd of 1,609 Orange-clad fans in attendance on a beautiful Saturday at the Lee Softball Stadium and a national television audience watching live on ESPN, junior pitcher Ivy Renfroe was solid in the circle, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning before permitting a hit as the #10 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (34-9, 15-6 Southeastern Conference) picked up its seventh-straight win and secured a series victory over #21 LSU (29-12, 11-5 SEC), 4-2.

Prior to the contest the Lady Vol senior class, consisting of Ashley Andrews, Holly Baker, Shelby Burchell and Cat Hosfield, was honored in a ceremony for their contributions to the Tennessee program.

Ivy Renfroe was very impressive in the circle while improving to 12-6 overall on the year, allowing two runs on just one hit with four walks and three strikeouts over 6.1 innings of work. The Jackson, Tenn., native took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before giving up a one-out single to pinch hitter Kailey McCasland. Sophomore Ellen Renfroe registered her third save of the season in relief, permitting just one hit with two K’s in two-thirds of a frame.

Junior second baseman Lauren Gibson led the Big Orange offense by going a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate with a run scored and her 34th RBI of the season while reaching base successfully for the 15th consecutive game. Sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman knocked in her team-leading 50th run of 2012 as part of a 1-for-3, run scored effort, while junior first baseman Melissa Brown (0-for-3) was credited with a RBI via a groundout during UT’s four-run first inning. By drawing a walk in the opening frame, junior third baseman Raven Chavanne managed to reach successfully for the 23rd straight contest dating back to March 11.

“Well today was a great day for our team,” Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Karen Weekly said. “I’m especially happy since it was our Senior Day, where we honored four seniors who have meant so much to our program and put so much blood, sweat and tears into it. We’re really happy to come out of here with a win. LSU’s a great team with very tough pitching. Ivy was strong today. She didn’t have her best stuff, it wasn’t as sharp as it sometimes is, but she did a great job of giving us 100% of what she had. To take a no-hitter into the seventh inning was just fantastic, and we played great defense behind her, which was a huge part of it. Lauren had a great day at the plate because she had really smart at-bats and did a great job of adjusting from at-bat to at-bat.”

There was a lot of action jammed into the initial two pitches of the contest as center fielder A.J. Andrews ripped the first offering of the game to third as Chavanne routinely handled a grounder and LSU right fielder Jacee Blades was hit by Ivy Renfroe’s second pitch. The Tigers boasted a pair of occupants on base with just one retired as left fielder Ashley Langoni battled to draw a walk. UT’s 6-0 hurler managed a huge swinging strikeout of shortstop Juliana Santos for a vital second out. Lady Vol first baseman Melissa Brown then corralled a sharp grounder from second baseman Allison Falcon as LSU left a pair of base runners stranded.

The Big Orange speed game got the Tennessee offense started immediately in the bottom half of the first as Chavanne drew a lead-off walk and junior right fielder Kat Dotson singled on a perfect bunt. With two on base Shipman and Gibson followed with back-to-back RBI singles through the infield as the Lady Vols raced out to a quick 2-0 lead. UT plated another tally with Brown standing at the dish as LSU starter Brittany Mack uncorked a wild pitch allowing the advantage to grow to three runs. Brown hit a shot off the pitcher that was fielded off the ricochet by shortstop Santos and tossed on to first, but it granted Gibson the opportunity to score and make it 4-0.

A string of six straight LSU batters retired by Ivy Renfroe came to an end with one out in the top of the third as Andrews walked. That was all the Bayou Bengals would get, however, as Blades grounded to third on a sacrifice bunt and Langoni routinely to short to conclude the frame.

Getting the start at designated player on her Senior Day, Hosfield registered a single to begin Tennessee’s half of the fourth. The Murfreesboro, Tenn., native would eventually end up stranded on third, however, as a sac bunt, a fly out to center and a routine grounder to first ended the inning.

Looking for anything to get their offense started, a lead-off walk from catcher Lauren Houston ended up going for naught for the Tigers in the top of the fifth. Third baseman Tammy Wray followed the free pass by flying out to center, Mack lifted a pop-up to shallow center and Andrews finished off the frame on a chopper back to the circle as Ivy Renfroe personally handled the third out via a toss to Brown.

Gibson made it a perfect 3-for-3 in the bottom of the fifth with a two-out single in the bottom of the fifth, but remained at first as Senior Day honoree Holly Baker flew out to center.

With the Tigers down to one final chance to break up the no-hitter in the top of the seventh, Ivy Renfroe started off the frame with a strikeout of Cassie Trosclair. A one-out walk to designated player Ashley Applegate gave the Tiger offense some life. That was all LSU needed as pinch hitter Kailey McCasland broke up the no-no with a clean base hit into shallow left field. That concluded Ivy Renfroe’s stint in the circle as sister Ellen came in facing a save situation. The new pitcher’s initial offering was ripped to center by Wray as the Tigers got on the board, cutting their deficit to 4-1.

The Bayou Bengals pulled off a double steal as pinch runner Simone Heyward swiped second with McCasland racing home as the ball escaped Shipman’s glove on a tag attempt to make it 4-2. Ellen Renfroe calmed things down after that, though, posting consecutive strikeouts of Pizer and Andrews to end the Tennessee triumph.


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