Tennessee improved its record to 42-9 overall and 20-6 in the SEC, but it was a rather uneven performance against Ole Miss (17-30, 4-19).
“I give the team an ‘A’ for effort and I give them a ‘C’ for performance,” Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said after Friday evening’s game at Lee Softball Stadium.
“We didn’t play well in all phases of the game, but we found a way to win.”
Ellen Renfroe got the win and is now 26-3 on the season, but she walked five with three free passes in the first inning.
“Ellen has been fantastic all year,” Weekly said. “She is a true All-American. She just had a start that she would like to have back. Ellen is a very good pitcher. You’ve seen it happen with every pitcher from Major League on down.”
Ole Miss’ lone run came when Renfroe fired a ball over the head of catcher Ashley Andrews in the first inning, and Corrine Doornberg scored from third.
“Ellen had a rough start, which is really uncharacteristic for her,” Co-Head Coach Karen Weekly said. “She battled through it, kept us in the game and held the score down so we could get a few runs on the board.”
Tennessee tied the game in the third inning due to the base-running of Melissa Davin and the speed of Raven Chavanne. Prior to the start of the inning, the grounds crew scooped out some damp dirt in the batter’s box and put down dry filler after players on both teams said they were slipping.
Davin chopped a single over third base and then stole second base. That was followed by back-to-back strikeouts, but Davin moved to third when the catcher dropped the ball.
Chavanne singled to the infield, and Davin scored. Kat Dotson drew a walk and then Madison Shipman doubled to the rightfield wall to bring both home for a 3-1 lead.
Renfroe still struggled at times in the circle, but also recorded eight strikeouts. Older sister Ivy Renfroe relieved in the fourth inning with two out and the bases loaded.
Ivy Renfroe’s first warm-up pitch sailed over Andrews’ head and thudded into the backstop.
“It didn’t make me feel very comfortable. It sort of reminded me of Nuke LaLoosh,” Ralph Weekly said with a smile, a reference to the iconic baseball movie, “Bull Durham.”
Ivy Renfroe managed a smile and then got a soft line-out to Lauren Gibson at second to end the inning.
“What can you say about Ivy?” Karen Weekly said. “She comes into the game with the bases loaded and their best RBI producer at the plate and gets a big out. That was huge for us to stop Ole Miss’ momentum.”
Tennessee added two more runs in the fifth inning.
Chavanne and Dotson both singled and swiped bases to place a pair of Lady Vols in scoring position. Gibson singled with a hard shot that the second baseman couldn’t handle to bring both home for a 5-1 lead.
Renfroe struck out the side in the top of the seventh to end the game.
Davin reached safely in three at-bats with the single and two of Tennessee’s five walks drawn on Ole Miss.
“Our goal was pitch selection,” Ralph Weekly said. “That was our game plan.”
Davin’s resurgence is a good sign for the Lady Vols and has been welcomed by Weekly.
“We’ve gone one on one with her for two weeks and several others, too,” he said.
A sellout crowd of 1,773 was on hand for game one of the three-game series with Saturday’s contest slated for 1 p.m. Eastern. Both weekend games are already sold out, though fans can watch for free from the top row of the soccer stadium. SportSouth has the TV broadcast.
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