Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly was glad to see his squad come out and play well against a team with a sub-par record in two games squeezed in Thursday between SEC trips. Tennessee, 31-7, won easily 14-0 and 11-0, both in five innings, against Western Carolina, 4-30.
“The mark of a good team is playing well against the teams you’re supposed to beat, and sometimes that’s been a struggle for us,” Weekly said. “We came out and were ready to go from the opening pitch. I was really proud of the way they took care of business.”
Barely after the game had started, rain forced about a 30-minute delay. The Lady Vols even had to come out of the dugout and help pull the tarp across the infield. Then it was back to work.
On the strength of seven hits, including a bases-loaded triple by sophomore shortstop Ashley Andrews, the Lady Vols tallied seven runs in the first inning to pounce early on the Catamounts.
The second inning was much the same as five Tennessee hits were converted into five runs highlighted by two homeruns, a towering solo shot by freshman outfielder Kat Dotson and a three-run blast by senior first baseman Erinn Webb.
Western Carolina had no answer as pitchers Cat Hosfield and Andi Williamson combined to only allow two Catamount hits in five innings, and Tennessee cruised to the 14-0 victory.
The second game had plenty of Tennessee offense just like the first; however, Ivy Renfroe was the highlight.
After issuing a walk in the first inning, Renfroe allowed no more Catamounts to reach safely. Did she think about the possibility of a pitching a no-hitter?
“It was like the third or fourth inning,” Renfroe said. “I tried not to think about it. Just focus. Just relax.”
Even against Western Carolina such an accomplishment is notable, because the pitcher still has to make the pitches against an opponent that doesn’t want to put a zero in the hits column. Weekly made sure to reference the team effort behind the individual achievement as well as laud the pitcher.
“You’ve still got to make the plays,” Weekly said. “Anybody could bloop something in or get a little base hit here or there. I thought Ivy pitched really well. I think Ivy’s going to be so very good by the time she’s a junior or senior. She’s really good now. This time last year she was pitching for Trinity High School in Jackson, Tennessee. I think she’s got all the tools. She just has to get more consistent.”
Late in the game a Western Carolina batter hit a scorcher down the third-base line that senior Nicole Kajitani managed to corral. Kajitani also made a nice play on a ball hammered in the dirt that died shortly past home plate by charging and firing the ball to first. Her efforts were much appreciated by Renfroe.
“Those were awesome,” Renfroe said. “You definitely need those. I was congratulating her about it.”
Tennessee’s pitching overall has improved since the beginning of the season, much to the delight of the coaching staff.
“They’ve been throwing well against good teams, and they’ve been throwing well against teams that are struggling,” Weekly said. “They’re much improved. They still need a lot of work before we go against the top five or six teams in the country, but they’re pretty good against the teams where we are right now. I’m hoping they’re going to peak at the right time right at the end of the season.”
In the meantime the rest of the Lady Vols provided Renfroe with plenty of run support, gathering 11 scores on nine hits for the 11-0 win.
Tennessee has now won 10 straight games, but the schedule gets a bit tougher this weekend at Auburn.
“I think our winning streak will help give them a little bit of confidence, but we always have tough games down at Auburn,” Weekly said. “They’re a very good team. I think our team is playing well, but in this conference it’s up one day and struggling the next. I just hope we can maintain it.”
A double-header against Auburn starts at 2 p.m. Eastern on Saturday.
The final game against the Tigers on Sunday begins at 2 p.m. Eastern and will be televised by Fox Sports South.