Tennessee improved its record to 43-9 overall and 21-6 in the SEC and guaranteed a series win over Ole Miss, which fell to 17-31 overall and 4-20 in the league.
The Lady Vols stymied themselves Friday – and still won 5-1 – but there were no signs of that Saturday as Ivy Renfroe worked quickly and efficiently in the circle before an appreciative sold-out crowd of 1,762 at Lee Softball Stadium.
The junior faced 15 batters in five innings, struck out six, walked none and allowed no hits. The defense behind her was flawless – none more so than third baseman Raven Chavanne diving to stop a grounder in the fifth inning and throwing out the runner from her knees – and Renfroe recorded the perfect game, the first in her career.
“She is a fantastic third baseman,” Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. “She gets to everything. She can make any play at that position. She gets to the ball in a hurry and gets rid of it.”
Renfroe got plenty of offensive support as Melissa Davin crushed two homers over the centerfield wall and tallied five RBIs. The sophomore was 2-2 and boosted her average to .302, an indication her earlier struggles are behind her.
“I had a plan when I went up there,” Davin said of the first shot. “I wanted to put the ball in play and have a good at-bat.”
As far as the second homer, Davin said she was seeing the ball well all day and trusted herself.
“Attack the zone, and I got the chance,” Davin said.
Weekly moved Davin to sixth in the batting order and, after Saturday’s performance, is likely to keep her there.
“Melissa Davin has worked so hard the last four weeks,” Weekly said. “She was having trouble with a couple of pitches, and we’ve thrown them at her 1,000 times in the last few weeks, and she is really looking good on every pitch right now.
“She is an amazing athlete. She is strong, she can run, she can throw people out at the plate, and she can hit the ball out of the park. I think she is going to have some great days ahead.”
All of Tennessee’s scoring came in the third and fourth innings with Davin’s bat all over the offensive output.
Chavanne singled to center and stole second, while Kat Dotson singled to third base, moving Chavanne to third, and then taking second herself, to start the third inning.
Madison Shipman lofted a ball to leftfield, and Chavanne tagged up and scored. When nobody covered third Dotson scooted to the open base. Lauren Gibson flied out to centerfield to bring home Dotson, but Tennessee wasn’t done with two scoring fly outs.
Shelby Burchell doubled to the centerfield wall and then got to trot home after Davin blasted a pitch into the parking lot for a 4-0 lead.
Tennessee erupted again in the fourth inning with Chavanne, who drew a walk, and Dotson, who was hit by a pitch, once again getting it started. Gibson singled to centerfield to bring home Chavanne for a 5-0 lead and Dotson moved to third when the outfielder bobbled the ball.
Dotson scored on a wild pitch with Shelby Burchell in the box. The throw beat Dotson to the plate, but she knocked the ball loose on the slide and was safe for a 6-0 lead. Gibson moved to third on the play and then Burchell was hit by a pitch and lifted for pinch runner Hannah Trainer.
Trainer stole second and then trotted home with Gibson after Davin sent a 3-1 changeup over the wall for a 9-0 lead.
“It was a good effort by everybody,” Weekly said. “It was a little slow getting started. We went three innings before we got it going, but I am happy with what happened in the fourth and fifth innings, and I am definitely happy with Ivy’s pitching performance.”
Ole Miss used three pitchers and struggled throughout the game. All nine runs were earned, and they hit three Lady Vol batters.
Tennessee has now won 16 consecutive games and 12 in a row in SEC play, as the Lady Vols make a case to host not just a Regional, but a Super Regional as well next month. Renfroe improved her record to 17-6 and has a win streak in the circle of 12 straight games.
“Ivy has stepped up to the challenge,” Weekly said. “We are absolutely blessed to have two sisters (along with Ellen Renfroe) with that kind of ability. They push each other.”
Ivy Renfroe saluted her defense after the game, especially Chavanne’s late play, and Weekly said what was more surprising was the fact Chavanne was out of position on two plays Friday – something that simply doesn’t happen to the All-American infielder.
“We were joking with her in the pre-game,” Weekly said. “Yesterday for the first time ever she wasn’t in position for two plays. Raven is always in position.”
One of those was when Madison Shipman had to come over and field a hopper and even with her rocket arm, the runner was safe at first.
“So yesterday when I talked about what went good, I walked about Ashley Andrews’ blocking and I talked about Madison Shipman playing short and third,” “Weekly said.
“Raven laughed. Our infielder is pretty tight. It’s the best we’ve ever had here.”
Prior to the game, longtime Women’s Athletics Director Joan Cronan, who is retiring and will be a consultant for Tennessee, was honored on the field. Cronan threw out the first pitch surrounded by her family and received a standing ovation.
The final game of the series is Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern (SportSouth or FSN has the broadcast, which can vary by region). The game is sold-out but the soccer stadium is open for fans who want to watch for free from the top row.
“There are things we need to work on, no question,” Weekly said. “But we need to be proud, and we are. As coaches we are very proud of the way they played today.”
INSIDE TENNESSEE VIDEO COVERAGE
Ivy Renfroe, Melissa Davin
UTSPORTSTV VIDEO COVERAGE
Joan Cronan honored