Tennessee improved its record to 44-9 overall and 22-6 in the SEC with Sunday’s 2-1 win over Ole Miss, which was swept over three games – Lady Vol basketball player Kamiko Williams had her broom out as a spectator – and fell to 17-32 overall and 4-21 in the league.
“Every win’s a good win, no question about it,” Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. “In that one we struggled a little bit, and like I told you last night I knew we would.
“Ole Miss’ Kendall Bruning threw a really good game today. Pretty good pitching, but our defense played great. Tory Lewis’ catch to end the fifth inning was phenomenal.”
Tennessee has now won 17 games in row in a sport in which it’s difficult to sweep any series and the Lady Vols did it on the road against Auburn and South Carolina and at home versus LSU and Ole Miss in SEC play with wins over Radford, Memphis and Tennessee State sprinkled in between those.
The SEC regular season is now over – the Lady Vols’ off week comes at the end of it – which makes the streak even more impressive as Tennessee has done it without rest.
“This is the first time we’ve had it,” Co-Head Coach Karen Weekly said, referring to a bye week at the end of the season. “When I originally saw the schedule I didn’t like it because you don’t have a break anywhere in SEC play.
“But now that we’ve fought our way through it and are sitting in a pretty good position, I am glad we have this coming weekend off.”
The Lady Vols will close the regular season this Wednesday against No. 9 Louisville in a non-conference game at Lee Softball Stadium at 6 p.m. Eastern, and then will be out of action until May 10 when the SEC tourney gets underway in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The midweek game against Louisville should keep the Lady Vols from getting too rusty.
“I think bringing Louisville in here on Wednesday kind of takes care of that,” Karen Weekly said. “Plus, we start finals on Tuesday so I think it will be a really good time to give our kids some time away from softball after we finish up on Wednesday and let them totally focus on their studies and also just get their minds fresh.
“I think this time of the year one of the best things you can do is get them away from the field so that they are really excited when we start postseason.”
After a 5-1 win on Friday and a 9-0 wipeout on Saturday, runs were hard to come by Sunday in a scorcher in front of 1,843 supporters who used their “K” placards as hand-operated fans.
Ivy Renfroe had to relieve her sister, Ellen Renfroe, with two out in the second inning, and the younger sister left the game flushed and drenched in sweat. Ralph Weekly said after the game that Renfroe was under the weather.
Several times early in the game Ellen Renfroe dropped her head and put her hands on her knees.
“She tried to go but just couldn’t do it,” Ralph Weekly said.
Ivy Renfroe, who pitched 2.1 innings in relief Friday and then a perfect five innings for the win Saturday, added 5.1 innings of work Sunday. She walked one and struck out three to improve her record to 18-6 and claim her 13th straight win.
Tennessee scored in the first inning after Raven Chavanne reached on an infield single. The throw was wide of the bag, and the first baseman swiped at Chavanne as she ran by with the glove hitting the speedster in the mouth and knocking her completely off her feet.
Chavanne, who wears No. 88, a football number, looked like a wide receiver getting upended over the middle on a catch. Her batting helmet flew off with the contact. Chavanne, who was bleeding from the mouth, remained face-down in the dirt for a few minutes and had to leave the game.
Hannah Trainer came in to pinch run and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Kat Dotson. Madison Shipman walked, and Lauren Gibson reached on a fielding error to load the bases. Trainer was then erased at home as Shelby Burchell reached on a fielder’s choice.
Melissa Davin singled through the left side of the infield to bring home Shipman for a 1-0 lead.
Chavanne, who got the bleeding stopped, returned to the game to play third. Before the second inning began, she sifted through the dirt around at first base and found her pearl earring, which was knocked out in the collision. Chavanne seemed uncomfortable still after the game – she made an uncharacteristic throwing error in the fifth inning – but also went 3-3 from the plate.
“I am so proud of her for her guts and her determination and stick-to-it-ness,” Ralph Weekly said.
Ole Miss tied the game in the third inning when Brittany Broome drew a walk and stole second. She moved to third when Allison Brown singled to center. Londen Ladner sent a short hopper to second and Lauren Gibson fired home to Ashley Andrews, who applied the tag and was irritated when Broome kicked at the ball as Andrews was standing up.
Brown moved to second on the play and scored when Cali Overbeck singled up the middle to tie the game at 1-1.
“I got on them a little bit at first,” Ralph Weekly said. “And finally in the fourth inning I saw that wasn’t going to work so I said, ‘Just relax.’ And that didn’t work either so I put Karen on third.”
Tennessee took the lead in the fourth inning on an odd play when Ole Miss seemed as if it intended to walk the batter but the pitcher fired close to the plate, and the ball glanced off the startled catcher’s glove and to the backstop.
Ashley Andrews had opened the inning by reaching on an error and made it to second on a bunt single by Tory Lewis and then third on a sacrifice bunt by Chavanne. Andrews scored on the passed ball with Madison Shipman at the plate to give Tennessee the 2-1 lead.
Ole Miss threatened in the fifth inning, but outfielder Tory Lewis recorded two put-outs - one a spear of a line drive to start the inning and the second a running catch at the leftfield wall that crossed up Melissa Davin to end the inning.
Lewis heard Davin call for her and used her speed to reach the ball. Lewis held
on as she slammed into the leftfield wall, and the crowd erupted in cheers. Ole Miss had a runner on base who would have easily scored but the 2-1 lead remained intact.
The score held up as Ivy Renfroe got a strikeout sandwiched between two grounders to Chavanne, who fired to first for the outs in the seventh inning.
“We seemed to hit a dozen ground balls with runners in scoring position,” Ralph Weekly said. “I’m sure there are no worms left on this infield because we beat them up, but you know those things happen.”
INSIDE TENNESSEE VIDEO COVERAGE
GAME HIGHLIGHTS FROM UTSPORTSTV