AUBURN, Ala. - The first career two-HR game by sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman and the team-leading 11th big fly from junior second baseman Lauren Gibson powered the #9 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (31-9, 13-6 Southeastern Conference) to its first-ever series sweep on "the Plains" of Auburn (26-15, 5-11 SEC) with a 6-2 victory over the Tigers on Sunday at Jane B. Moore Field.
During the series the Lady Vols outscored the Tigers by a 20-6 count, posted eight extra-base hits, including five HR's, and the UT pitching staff held AU to just a .133 batting average.
Shipman led Tennessee again on Sunday with a 2-for-4, two-HR, three-RBI effort, posting a .417 batting average with a triple, four HR's and 11 RBIs during the three-contest set. Gibson was 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored, and her 11th HR. Junior third baseman Raven Chavanne was 2-for-4, junior first baseman Melissa Brown was 1-for-3 with a run, and both freshman designated player Cheyanne Tarango and rookie catcher Hannah Akamine were each credited with a RBI.
Junior pitcher Ivy Renfroe (10-6) picked up her 10th victory of the campaign, allowing two runs on four hits with a walk and five strikeouts over 6.0 innings of work. Sophomore Ellen Renfroe fired a single frame of relief, striking out the side during the seventh to finish off the triumph.
"Maddi was on today at the plate, that's for sure," Lady Vol Assistant Coach Marty McDaniel said. "It's very good to see her getting hot at the plate for us right now, especially with two HR's today and four for the weekend. Ivy threw the ball well for us in picking up her 10th win, and Ellen was terrific in relief. There are definitely no off days in the SEC, so this was a great weekend for our team in picking up a very important sweep."
The Big Orange wasted no time demonstrating its two-out hitting prowess in the top of the first, nabbing a quick 2-0 lead via the long ball. With two retired in the frame, Gibson christened the power demonstration with a solo shot, her team-leading 11th of the campaign, to put the Lady Vols on the scoreboard. Shipman followed by stepping into the batter's box and blasting a HR for the third consecutive day, her seventh of the season, as the UT advantage expanded to 2-0. The occurrence marked the first time Tennessee had posted back-to-back HR's since Gibson and Shipman turned the feat during a 10-7 victory against Illinois back on Feb. 17 in Austin, Texas.
After Ivy Renfroe worked through a quick bottom of the first, the Big Orange got another rally started as Akamine was struck by a one-out pitch from AU starter Lauren Schmalz. With two retired Chavanne blooped a single onto the outfield grass, putting two aboard. Unfortunately, a sharp grounder was corralled on a back-hand play by Auburn's Caitlin Jordan to leave the UT duo stranded on the base paths.
The Tigers got their initial base hit with one out in the bottom of the second as center fielder Branndi Melero ripped a 2-2 offering to left for a single. She promptly took off on a steal attempt, just beating Shipman's tag to reach scoring position. A base knock through the left side by third baseman Caitlin Schultze stationed AU runners at the corners with still only one down in the frame. Ivy Renfroe responded to Auburn's first big threat of the contest with a strikeout of right fielder Maris Medina and then handled a roller back to the circle from left fielder Baylee Stephens to conclude the Tiger scoring opportunity.
Gibson got another offensive outburst started for Tennessee in the top of the third with a long double to the wall at Jane B. Moore Field. That ended the stint in the circle for Auburn's Schmalz as Hilary Mavromat entered in a relief appearance for the Tigers. She was greeted rudely as Shipman hammered a towering two-run HR, her second of the match-up, as the UT advantage grew to 4-0. A walk issued to senior left fielder Shelby Burchell and back-to-back singles from Brown and Tarango loaded the bags full of Orange and ended Mavromat's time in the circle after just four batters faced. Against new Tiger hurler Jenee Loree, Akamine and sophomore center fielder Tory Lewis each contributed sacrifice flies, plating two more tallies as Tennessee's lead became six runs.
Ivy Renfroe had retired six straight Auburn batters until Jordan delivered a single to left field in the bottom of the fourth that tipped just off the edge of the glove of sliding senior outfielder Holly Baker. That was all the Tigers would get as Melero hit into a fielder's choice that cut down the lead runner, and Schultze hit a grounder to Chavanne at third as UT continued to lead, 6-0.
There was a great sign for the Big Orange in the bottom of the fifth as senior Ashley Andrews, who was injured in a huge collision at home plate on Saturday, entered the contest to play in left field. Ivy Renfroe welcomed her teammate back to the contest by retiring Auburn via back-to-back K's and inducing a fly out to right center during a quick one-two-three inning.
After a quiet fifth for the Tigers, AU got a one-out base runner in the bottom of the sixth as a grounder off the bat of Mavromat was misplayed on the Lady Vol infield. Eisterhold drove a shot down the left field line that was tracked down on the run by Andrews, and Jordan became strikeout victim number five as UT moved within three outs of a series sweep.
Down to the Orange & Blue's final chance in the bottom of the seventh, Melero gave Auburn some brief life, drawing a walk off Ivy Renfroe to christen the frame. Schultze worked the count full before breaking up the shutout on a two-run HR off the scoreboard in left center as AU's deficit was cut to 6-2. In relief Ellen Renfroe exerted her influence immediately with consecutive strikeouts of Angel Bunner, Stephens and Lathan to finish off the sweep on "the Plains."