#7 Lady Vol softball loses nine inning thriller at #13 Texas, 3-2

AUSTIN, Texas (UT Release) – With the international tiebreaker in effect and the #7 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team clinging to a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday at McCombs Field in Austin, Texas, #13 Texas (8-0) was down to its final strike before getting a shocking two-out, inside-the-park home run off the bat of center fielder Brejae Washington to rally past the Lady Vols, 3-2.

Facing Texas All-American pitcher Blaire Luna, UT managed six hits, led by a 3-for-4, RBI performance from senior catcher Ashley Andrews. Junior second baseman Lauren Gibson was 1-for-2 at the plate and contributed a RBI double in the top of the fifth to grant the Big Orange its initial lead.

Sophomore pitcher Ellen Renfroe started the contest, working 8.0 innings while allowing 10 hits with one earned run, three walks (two intentional) and six strikeouts. Junior Ivy Renfroe suffered the tough defeat, falling to 1-2 on the season by giving up one run on a hit over two-thirds of a frame of relief.

The pitchers set the tone early on in a match-up of All-American hurlers Ellen Renfroe and Luna. Despite allowing a two-out walk to Gibson in the top of the first, the Texas pitcher worked quickly through the Lady Vol line-up over the opening two frames with three total strikeouts. Renfroe punched out a pair during the first as part of her own one-two-three inning.

Texas registered the initial base hit of the contest in the bottom of the second as shortstop Taylor Thom blooped the first pitch she received into short center and promptly swiped second to reach scoring position. Longhorn left fielder Torie Schmidt bounced out to sophomore Madison Shipman at short, however, leaving her teammate stranded.

The Big Orange offense got a big scoring threat going against Luna in the top of the third. A walk drawn by sophomore left fielder Melissa Davin, a perfect bunt single from Andrews and junior designated player Kat Dotson being struck by a pitch loaded the bases with just one down. Unfortunately for the Lady Vols, back-to-back fielder’s choice plays cut down runners at home plate and third, respectively, as UT left the bases loaded.

Tennessee finally managed to grab the lead in the top of the fifth following a lead-off single by Andrews and a walk to sophomore center fielder Tory Lewis as Gibson laced a clutch RBI double for a 1-0 Big Orange advantage.

The ‘Horns did record a pair of base runners against Renfroe during both the fourth and fifth innings, but couldn’t get the big hit necessary to get on the board.

Texas got something going in the bottom of the sixth via a lead-off single from second baseman Lexy Bennett. After a sac bunt advanced the runner into scoring position with one down, third baseman Nadia Taylor stepped to the dish and ripped a one-out base knock through the left side of the infield into left as senior Holly Baker came up with the ball and raced in towards the infield, preventing the runner at third from attempting to score. A sharp shot back up the middle past a diving Gibson by Thom plated Bennett as the Longhorns finally got on the board, dead-locking the count at 1-1.

Tennessee got a two-out walk from Gibson in the top of the seventh but couldn’t put a threat together. In the bottom of the frame, right fielder Taylor Hoagland lined a one-out base hit to left and advanced to second as center fielder Brejae Washington beat out a perfect bunt single. Renfroe and designated player Courtney Craig engaged in a spirited battle over 12 pitches before the batter blasted a deep drive to left that forced Baker all the way back to the wall. The Broadway, Va., native didn’t run out of room, however, making the catch with her back up against the fence to end the frame and bring the international tiebreaker into play.

With a runner placed at second to begin the top of the eighth, UT couldn’t advance Shipman from her starting spot as Luna struck out a pair of Lady Vols and got a liner to right from Brown.

The Longhorns managed to pack the bags full via the runner starting at second and a pair of intentional walks to set up the force at every base. Tennessee got a huge play as Schmidt lined a shot right at Shipman. The Valencia, Calif., native made the grab at her shoe tops, pivoted and flipped to Brown at third for a vital double play. Catcher Mandy Ogle followed with a sharp single through the left side of the infield. Baker corralled the ball and fired an absolute dart to the plate, cutting down Taylor at the dish to end the threat.

With Burchell placed at second to start the top of the ninth, Andrews delivered an RBI single through Texas’ drawn-in infield to grant the Lady Vols a 2-1 lead. Tennessee managed to load the bases as Dotson was struck by a two-out pitch and Gibson walked, but a grounder to short from Shipman left the bags packed again as UT’s base runners left on total climbed to 13.

The contest came to a stunning conclusion in the bottom of the ninth as Washington laced a two-out, two-strike pitch into the gap in right center. With the runner at third (part of the international tiebreaker) having scored on the play to tie the count, the Texas speedster took advantage of an errant relay to third to complete her circuit of the bases for the HR and 3-2 victory.

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