KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- Despite dealing with a three-hour and three-minute rain/hail delay in the top of the fourth, the #9 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (26-8, 8-5 Southeastern Conference) struck for eight runs over the opening two frames, rebounding from a tough loss in its series opener to roll past Kentucky on Saturday at the Lee Softball Stadium, 8-0 (5 inn.).
UT junior pitcher Ivy Renfroe fired her third consecutive shutout in improving to 8-6 on the season, scattering five hits, walking none and striking out two over 5.0 innings of work.
At the plate sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and three RBIs, improving her team-leading RBI total to 35. Junior third baseman Raven Chavanne was 2-for-3 with a pair of tallies, marking the Thousand Oaks, Calif., native’s 14th multi-hit contest of the season. Junior right fielder Kat Dotson (1-for-1, RBI), junior second baseman Lauren Gibson (1-for-2, RBI) and junior first baseman Melissa Brown (1-for-2, RBI) each were credited with an RBI.
“The old saying between night and day,” Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. “I thought our team played really well against a very good Kentucky team. It seems like the last couple or three years, every time we play them it’s a battle. We came out and played our game today like they played their game yesterday. It should be a really good rubber match tomorrow.”
After Renfroe struck out shortstop Kara Dill for the initial out of the first inning, third baseman Brittany Cervantes lifted a little blooper that dropped just inside the right field line for a base hit. A grounder to third advanced the runner into scoring position with two outs as catcher Griffin Joiner stepped into the batter’s box. She worked the count full before lining a single through the left side of the infield. Sophomore left fielder Melissa Davin charged the ball and came up throwing to the plate as senior catcher Ashley Andrews made the tag to keep the ‘Cats off the scoreboard.
A double just off the glove of a diving outfielder by Chavanne to open the bottom of the first got a big Lady Vol scoring outburst started. Dotson was struck by a pitch, putting two on and setting the stage for a RBI single from Shipman as the Lady Vols nabbed a quick 1-0 lead. With runners stationed at second and third and just one out, Gibson hit a ground ball on the infield, but it proved enough to score Dotson from just 60 feet away for a 2-0 advantage. Shipman soon strolled home from third on a Rachel Riley wild pitch as the Big Orange’s lead expanded to a trio of tallies.
Tennessee blew the contest open in the bottom of the second as the Lady Vol offense put up five runs by virtue of three hits and a Kentucky error. Andrews got the assault started with a lead-off single through the infield. Sophomore center fielder Tory Lewis hit a shot back to the circle that was thrown away at second as no UK infielder covered the bag while trying to get the lead runner. Chavanne then contributed an infield base knock, packing the bags full of Big Orange. A walk issued to Dotson forced in UT’s fourth tally, and then Shipman blasted a two-RBI double to the Lee Stadium wall as the gap expanded to 6-0. With the bases again loaded following a free pass to Gibson, a throwing error to first on a potential double-play grounder permitted Shipman to cross with Tennessee’s seventh score. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Brown completed the five-run frame as the Lady Vols raced in front by eight tallies.
Each team went down in order during a quiet third inning before inclement weather consisting of heavy rain and marble-sized hail entered the Lee Stadium area at approximately 2:58 p.m., necessitating a three-hour and three-minute delay in action.
Following the lengthy break Renfroe picked up where she left off, getting two quick outs before allowing a single to left center by designated player Ginny Carroll. The 6-0 right hander responded to the base runner by posting her second strikeout of the contest, concluding the frame.
The Big Orange threatened to add some insurance in its portion of the frame, beginning with Dotson singling on the infield. After Shipman popped out to Dill at shortstop, Gibson ripped a shot through the infield to give the Lady Vols a pair of runners with just one out. The base runners could advance no further, however, as a pop out and a strikeout ended the fourth.
Down to UK’s final chance in the top of the fifth, first baseman Lauren Cumbess drove the first offering of the inning into right center for a single. That would be all the ‘Cats would get in the frame, though, as pinch hitter Erika Silence popped out to short, while Ellen Weaver lifted the first pitch she saw into center for the second out. With the count 2-2, Dill hit one into the ground that hit her outside of the batter’s box to end the game.