Strong first inning lifts Arkansas past Lady Vols, 4-1

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A four-run first inning outburst proved enough for Arkansas (18-8, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) on a St. Patrick’s Day Saturday afternoon at Bogle Park in Fayetteville, Ark., as the Razorbacks evened their three-game series against the #9 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (18-6, 2-3 SEC) with a 4-1 victory.

UT junior pitcher Ivy Renfroe (5-5) suffered the loss in the circle, allowing four tallies on five hits with a pair of walks and four strikeouts over 4.0 frames of effort.

Sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman led the Tennessee offense by going 2-for-3 at the plate with her team-leading seventh double of the season and squad-high 26th RBI. Junior right fielder Kat Dotson (run, stolen base) and junior first baseman Melissa Brown each went 1-for-3 at the dish, while senior utility player Shelby Burchell was 1-for-2.

Tennessee wasted no time getting a base runner on in the top of the first as Dotson ripped a one-out base hit through the infield. With two retired, the Savannah, Ga., native swiped her second bag of the season, putting herself in scoring position. That proved fruitful immediately as Shipman ripped a single to the outfield as Dotson raced around to grant UT a quick 1-0 lead.

The Razorbacks answered right back in the bottom half of the opening frame as left fielder Devon Wallace blasted a solo HR to center, tying the count on the scoreboard at 1-1. Third baseman Chloe Oprzedek was struck by a pitch and quickly stole second before being joined on the bags via walk by shortstop Clarisa Navarro. Following a sacrifice bunt that moved the runners into scoring position, Amanda Geile drove a three-run shot over the wall in right center as UA improved its advantage to 4-1.

After UT was retired in order in the top of the second, Arkansas again threatened by getting a pair of occupants on base via a two-out walk and single during the bottom half. Fortunately, Renfroe got out the potential jam by inducing a pop-up to second off the bat of designated player Sierra Bronkey as UA left its duo stranded.

Still trailing by three runs heading into the bottom of the third, Tennessee made a move to its bullpen, summoning in Tarango for her first career SEC relief appearance and first official circle appearance since back during the Cal game on Feb. 10. Despite walking Pearson, the Anaheim Hills, Calif., native was dominant in her effort, striking out Geile, catcher Jayme Gee and second baseman Maddie Reese to K the side.

The team-best seventh double of the season from Shipman christening the top of the fourth went for naught as Arkansas starter Chelsea Cohen retired the next three Lady Vols in order via a pair of foul pop-ups and a strikeout.

A lead-off single from Burchell failed to christen a Tennessee rally in the top half of the fifth. A walk to Arkansas’ Bronkey and a single through the left side from Geile opening the bottom half ended Tarango’s time in the circle as Renfroe entered for her second stint. The Jackson, Tenn., product’s first offering struck Pearson, packing the bags full of Razorbacks with still no one out. The 6-0 right-hander responded strongly to the adversity, however, with consecutive strikeouts of pinch hitter Jennifer Rambo and Reese before inducing a ‘can of corn’ to left that sophomore Melissa Davin caught as Arkansas missed a huge chance for insurance runs by leaving the bases loaded.

Down to the final three outs in the top of the seventh, Brown granted the UT offense some life with an infield single. Following back-to-back Big Orange strikeouts, senior pinch hitter Cat Hosfield stepped to dish and ripped a sharp liner, but right to Pearson at first as Arkansas completed its triumph.

The ninth-ranked Tennessee Lady Vol softball squad will complete its three-game series against Arkansas on Sun., March 18, at a new time of noon CT.

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