The Lady Vols staved off elimination in resounding fashion with two run-rule wins over UAB and Miami…
"Ivy pitched fantastically," Tennessee Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. "When you are the No. 4 seed going against the No. 1 seed (in a regional), you come in all fired up and they played an outstanding game in every aspect.
"I thought that Ivy pitched fine. I don't know how many strikeouts she had, but you can't blame this on Ivy. We had a lot of chances. We had several All-Americans go down in critical situations.
"We didn't execute. Our game plan was to see the ball down and when you look at game film you are going to see kids swinging over their heads. Maybe what we will talk about later is being coached."
Renfroe didn't walk a batter, struck out seven and had to throw just 85 pitches. She was disappointed with her first inning in which two runners reached and one scored.
Miami right fielder Kirstie Fehrenbach slapped a single over third, and moved to third on consecutive groundouts. Third baseman Daniela Torres fought off an inside pitch and lifted the ball just over second base.
I was just trying to make good contact and put bat on the ball and hope for a good result," Torres said with a smile, when asked if the pitch had jammed her inside. "It went up the middle, so I would like to say that I saw the pitch."
The two-out single allowed Fehrenbach to score for a 1-0 lead.
"I know for me, it was my fault for just not coming out and setting the tone," Renfroe said of her first inning in the circle.
The first inning run was all that the RedHawks needed to ultimately win the game, as the Lady Vols scattered five hits and rarely threatened, though five runners were left on base. Tennessee needed a two-out hit to get a runner across the plate but wasn't able to produce one Friday.
"I know the girls were battling," Renfroe said. "They were having good at-bats and they were doing the best they could to score runs. They were battling, it just didn't come out our way."
Miami's game plan was to attack early and the dugout provided a lot of energy to counter Tennessee's home crowd of nearly 1,600 at Lee Softball Stadium.
"They were being aggressive," Renfroe said. "They came out fired up and they were doing a really good job of being aggressive and going after pitches. They did a good job of that."
Miami pitcher Jessica Simpson walked just one batter, struck out six and needed just 89 pitches to finish the game.
A pitcher's duel wasn't what either side expected in their NCAA opener.
"I sure didn't think it would be a one-nothing game," Miami Coach Kelly Kovach Shoenly said. "I give a lot of credit to our leadoff batter. She came out swinging, and part of our strategy today was to be aggressive.
"We thought that Ivy Renfroe was going to throw strikes, and so we were trying to be aggressive. I am really excited that we went with it and were able to make that work for them."
Simpson said, "Tonight, I was not expecting a pitcher's duel. Tennessee is a great hitting team, so I was anticipating them to score and then we would score. I figured it would be a hitting duel if anything.
"Once we got we a few innings in and it's still one-nothing, I realized defensively we were holding up, I need to keep throwing my pitches and getting them to pop up and ground out, and that's what happened."
Tennessee's first inning started as if a hitter's duel could happen. Raven Chavanne was called out in a close play at first, Kat Dotson reached on a single and Lauren Gibson walked.
But then Miami got a double play when the second baseman caught a liner low to the ground off the bat of Madison Shipman and threw out Dotson before she could scramble back to second. Ralph Weekly walked across the infield to protest to the umpire that the ball skipped into the fielder's glove, while Karen Weekly argued with the home plate umpire to no avail.
Tennessee's batters appeared overeager at the plate after that inning, and as the game went on, Miami seized and then kept the momentum.
"All the credit goes to Miami," Ralph Weekly said. "They beat us. They just flat beat us. We couldn't answer their pitcher. We couldn't get two hits back to back.
"They jumped on us early and got one run and that's all they needed. Hats not only off to their players but their pitcher and their coaching staff. But we aren't done yet."
Tennessee will next play UAB (37-21), which lost 4-1 to Virginia Tech (41-19) in a game delayed nearly 40 minutes by a lightning delay. With rain clouds hovering, the tarp was brought out in the sixth inning, but no precipitation fell at the stadium.
The Hokies bookended the game with two runs in the first and two in the sixth for the win. Like Miami did, the players wanted a quick start to set the tone.
"That's just been huge for us to really set the tone for us for the rest of the game," said Virginia Tech first baseman Courtney Liddle, who doubled off the left-center wall to bring in outfielder Lauren Gaskill for the game's first run.
Kelsey Mericka singled to right to push Liddle across the plate in the first inning for a 2-0 lead.
"Just for me to get it started and then for a follow-up by Kelsey Mericka was huge just for the energy of our team going into the rest of the game," Liddle said.
Virginia Tech will now face Miami in Saturday's opener at 1:30 p.m. in the winner's bracket. The winner of that game is done for the day and will wait to see who survives until Sunday.
Tennessee-UAB is set for a 4 p.m. start at Lee Softball Stadium. The loser of that game is eliminated from postseason.
The winner of Tennessee-UAB will play at 6:30 p.m. against the loser of the Virginia Tech-Miami game. The loser of that game also is eliminated from postseason.
The team that survives two games Saturday in the loser's bracket will have to win two games Sunday against the winner's bracket team to take the regional title.
"UAB is a good team and they could have won that game today, and they've got a pitcher that hasn't even thrown yet," Weekly said. "We've got Ellen (Renfroe) ready to go, and I think the way it stands now is that if we beat UAB, then we play twice tomorrow and twice on Sunday.
"That's no problem if we play well, and that's what I'm going to tell our kids. We're a good team. We just have to execute better."
PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES:
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INSIDE TENNESSEE VIDEO COVERAGE
Miami (Ohio) Coach Kelly Kovach Shoenly, Daniela Torres, Jessica Simpson
Tennessee Coach Ralph Weekly, Ivy Renfroe, Raven Chavanne
GAME HIGHLIGHTS UTSPORTSTV