KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (utladyvols.com) -- The second two-HR game of sophomore second baseman Lauren Gibson’s career backed a stellar two-hit, complete-game shutout from sophomore Ivy Renfroe on Saturday night in front of 1,649 fans at Lee Softball Stadium as No. 5 Tennessee (49-11) fought off elimination and advanced to Sunday’s championship round with a commanding 7-0 victory over No. 19 Georgia Tech (45-12).
UT must now defeat #22 Oklahoma State twice on Sunday (2 p.m. & 4:30 p.m. ‘if necessary’) in order to serve as the host for next weekend’s NCAA Super Regional after No. 3-national seed Texas was eliminated from the Austin Regional.
Renfroe was incredible in the circle for the Lady Vols, improving her consecutive NCAA Tournament no-hit streak to 9.1 frames, before permitting an infield single with one out in the bottom of the fifth. The Jackson, Tenn., native allowed two hits, walked one and struck out 10 over 7.0 innings of effort in improving to 19-4 on the campaign.
The heroine of the evening for Tennessee at the plate was Gibson as the Pasadena, Md., product registered a pair of HR’s, a three-run and two-run shot, as part of a perfect 3-for-3, six-RBI night. The occurrence marked the second two-big fly performance of the season for the 5-6 second baseman as she blasted a pair of round-trippers while going 3-for-4 with a career-high seven RBIs back on April 16, during an 11-0 victory at #21 LSU.
Senior center fielder Kelly Grieve (2-for-5, run), sophomore right fielder Kat Dotson (2-for-5, two runs, two thefts) and freshman designated player Melissa Davin (2-for-3) each recorded two of UT’s 10 total hits in the match-up.
“I said earlier today that we weren't done, and we're not done,” Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. “We’ve got a very tough Oklahoma State team tomorrow, and we have to beat them twice to advance. We are going to do everything we can to accomplish that. I think we can play better than we played today, I'll tell you that. As far as this game goes, Ivy (Renfroe) was just fantastic, gave our offense a chance to get started, and they started in the early innings. Lauren (Gibson) made some great adjustments between the two games. She is just a student of the game, and we talked to her about not trying to kill the ball and just meeting the ball and not being a little bit of a contortionist when she is hitting, just stand up and drive it. She just had a fantastic game.”
The Tennessee offense wasted zero time getting off to a quick start against the Yellow Jackets as sophomore left fielder Raven Chavanne and Grieve christened the contest with back-to-back singles off Georgia Tech starter Lindsey Anderson. Dotson stepped to the plate and lifted a ball to the outfield that dropped just in front of a charging Danielle Dike, loading the bags full of Lady Vols. Junior third baseman Jessica Spigner laced a shot into foul territory that was caught on a great running, over-the-shoulder catch down the line by second baseman Ashley Thomas. On the grab Chavanne tagged up at third, scoring easily to put UT’s initial tally on the scoreboard. Following a Big Orange groundout to short, Gibson absolutely crushed a towering three-run HR well out of Lee Stadium to improve the advantage to 4-0.
Renfroe was dealing from the circle right from the start, getting Thomas on a bouncer to short and coercing a pop-up by shortstop Kelsi Weseman on just four pitches. Tech first baseman Kristine Priebe went down swinging as the Yellow Jackets went down one-two-three in the first.
Gibson continued her power show for Tennessee in the top of the third. The Pasadena, Md., native followed a lead-off walk by Spigner with a one-out, two-run bomb that rattled off the scoreboard as the advantage expanded to 6-0.
The consecutive Yellow Jacket hitters retired count grew to nine straight through three frames as Renfroe induced a groundball to short by third baseman Alysha Rudnik before posting back-to-back K’s of designated player Hope Rush and center fielder Hayley Downs.
With Dotson aboard after an infield single with one out in the top of the fourth, Gibson cashed the Savannah, Ga., native in on an RBI base knock, improving her to a perfect 3-for-3 at the dish with six RBIs.
Georgia Tech finally managed base occupants in the bottom of the fifth as catcher Kate Kuzma reached on a bouncer that tipped just off the very edge of the glove of Spigner as the fielder stretched to her left. Dike drew a walk to join her teammate on the base paths with one down. Renfroe responded to her only real trouble of the night by striking out Rudnik looking and coercing a bouncer to short off the bat of Rush as the Jackets left a pair stranded.
Looking perhaps to end the contest early, Tennessee left a pair of base runners stranded in both the sixth and seventh innings, leaving it to its 6-0 right hander to wrap up the conventional way.
Despite allowing a lead-off single to right by first baseman Kristine Priebe to begin the bottom of the seventh, Renfroe responded. She forced right fielder Caitlin Jordan to foul out, Kuzma to ground harmlessly to short and then registered her 10th and final K of the game by getting Dike swinging to end the UT victory.
No. 5 Tennessee will open “Championship Sunday” at the Knoxville Regional at 2 p.m. against #22 Oklahoma State with an “if necessary” match-up slated for approximately 4:30 p.m. ET. The contests will be shown live via ESPN3.com with Dan Parkhurst and Amanda Freed on the call, while “The Sports Animal” (99.1/99.3 FM or AM 990) will have the radio broadcasts with “The Voice of the Lady Vols” Mickey Dearstone on the microphone. Check both http://twitter.com/LadyVol_Sftball and http://twitter.com/LadyVol_Sports for the most up-to-date information on Tennessee softball.
2011 Knoxville Regional
Friday, May 20
4 p.m. ET Georgia Tech vs. Oklahoma State (Oklahoma State, 2-1)
6:30 p.m. ET Liberty vs. Tennessee (Tennessee, 8-0 in 5 inn.)
Saturday, May 21
2 p.m. ET Oklahoma State vs. Tennessee (Oklahoma State, 6-1)
4:30 p.m. ET Liberty vs. Georgia Tech (Georgia Tech, 4-3) LIBERTY ELIMINATED
7 p.m. ET Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech (Tennessee, 7-0) GEORGIA TECH ELIMINATED
Sunday, May 22
2 p.m. ET Tennessee vs. Oklahoma State (Game Six)
4:30 p.m. ET (if necessary) Rematch of Game Six