KNOXVILLE, Tenn.(UTSports.com)-- On Tuesday afternoon in front of 802 fans at Lee Softball Stadium, an eight-run fifth inning that saw 13 Lady Vol hitters step to the plate helped power the #10 Tennessee softball team (32-9) from an early two-run deficit to a comeback, 8-2 victory over Radford (21-11).
Junior second baseman Lauren Gibson registered her team-leading 12th HR of the campaign, via a three-run inside-the-park homer, while going 1-for-3 with three RBIs. Freshman designated player Cheyanne Tarango blasted a three-run shot, the second HR of her collegiate career, while going 1-for-3 at the dish. Junior center fielder Tory Lewis ignited the eight-run outburst in the fifth frame with a lead-off single, one of the Chattanooga, Tenn., native's two hits in that same inning. Junior third baseman Raven Chavanne was 2-for-3 with a walk, a tally and two stolen bases, giving her a squad-high 20 thefts for the season.
Big Orange junior hurler Ivy Renfroe improved to 11-6 overall, allowing just one hit with seven strikeouts over 4.1 shutout innings of relief work. Sophomore pitcher Ellen Renfroe allowed two tallies on five hits with four K's in 2.2 frames of effort as the starter.
"Really slow start today," Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Karen Weekly said. "I didn't think we played with very much passion in the first four innings, but we finally found a way to kick it into gear. Tory Lewis ignited us in that fifth inning, and everyone else got after it and did their job. The speed game is a big part of our offense. When we get our speed players on base back-to-back-to-back, it really energizes our team. It also makes our middle of the order hitters feel an obligation to come through when those guys have given us run-scoring opportunities."
Radford wasted no time jumping in front on the scoreboard in the top of the first, nabbing a quick 1-0 lead. With one retired in the frame, designated player Micalah Sacre drove a double into the right center field gap. Third baseman Vicki Madden worked the count to 3-2 before chopping a base knock back through the middle as Sacre rolled around third to make it 1-0. Ellen Renfroe rebounded to register consecutive strikeouts of left fielder Ryndee Ruch and second baseman Jackie Warr to conclude the frame.
A two-out walk in the bottom of the first by Gibson and her 10th stolen base granted the Lady Vol offense a runner in scoring position. Unfortunately, a strikeout swinging left the runner stranded at second as the Highlanders maintained their one-run advantage.
The Radford advantage grew in the top of the third as a lead-off single by shortstop Nichole Beall, a stolen base and a two-out base knock to right center by Ruch pushed RU in front 2-0. That ended Ellen Renfroe's time in the circle as sister Ivy entered the contest in relief, inducing a routine ground ball to third by Warr to end the threat.
A walk by Chavanne and her 19th stolen base gave the Lady Vols another two-out base runner in the bottom of the third. Once again, Tennessee couldn't get the hit needed to get on the scoreboard as senior catcher Ashley Andrews slapped a routine fly ball to left.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Lady Vols again threatened as junior right fielder Kat Dotson managed a walk and her seventh steal of the campaign. Senior left fielder Shelby Burchell followed with a free pass, ending the start for Radford's Sacre as Jackie Jenkins came in for a relief appearance. The new pitcher immediately walked junior first baseman Melissa Brown on four pitches, packing the bags full of Orange & White. Unfortunately, a slow roller was corralled by Madden, and she turned and stepped on third to leave the UT trio on the base paths.
With Ivy Renfroe in firm control in the circle, the Tennessee offense finally came alive against Jenkins in the bottom of the fifth, posting a season-best eight runs in the frame on eight hits with the benefit of a pair of Highlander miscues.
Lewis began the frame with a base knock, marking UT's initial hit of the contest. Looking to advance Lewis to second, Chavanne dropped down a bunt to Jenkins, but the pitcher's throw to first was wide and rolled into right field. That miscue allowed Lewis to score the first UT tally of the game and advanced Chavanne into scoring position. Cat Hosfield entered the game to pinch hit for Andrews and reached via an error by Jackie Warr at second. That set the stage for Gibson as the Pasadena, Md., native hit the second pitch of her at-bat just under the glove of diving outfielder Morgan Eye. With the ball rolling to the fence, Gibson hustled all the way around the bases to register an inside-the-park HR as the Big Orange's advantage expanded to 4-2.
Tennessee quickly loaded the bases after sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman blasted a single that bounced off the wall, Dotson reached on a bunt single and pinch hitter Burchell walked. Brown hit a hard grounder that was simply tossed to first for a fielder's choice, registering the initial out of the inning, as Shipman touched home plate to extend the lead to 5-2. With a pair of Lady Vols in scoring position, Tarango effectively golfed the first pitch she saw from her shoe tops off of the scoreboard to make it 8-2.
Suddenly blessed with a big lead, Ivy Renfroe rolled through the sixth inning in order with two strikeouts before allowing a lead-off single to pinch hitter Meredith Moore to christen the seventh. That was all Radford could manage against the 6-0 right-hander, however, as catcher Julie Harriss struck out looking, right fielder Morgan Eye reached on a fielder's choice and Hannah Ojeda flew out to center to end the UT triumph.