KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (utladyvols.com) -- The No. 6 Tennessee softball team (35-6) can celebrate yet another milestone as Co-Head Coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly picked up their 500th win at the helm of the Lady Vol program with a 7-0 triumph over Appalachian State in front of 747 fans at the Lee Softball Stadium on Wed., April 13.
The victory pushed UT’s winning streak to seven contests and improved the Big Orange to a sterling 15-2 at its home park in 2011.
In the circle Lady Vol sophomore starter Ivy Renfroe was terrific, tying her career-high with 11 strikeouts while tossing a three-hit, complete-game shutout to improve to 12-3.
Sophomore right fielder Kat Dotson helped guide Tennessee’s 10-hit offensive attack by going 2-for-3 at the dish with a double, a triple and three RBIs. Senior center fielder Kelly Grieve was superb in her efforts in the No. 2 spot in the line-up, posting a 3-for-4 performance with a double, an RBI and a pair of steals to give her 19 thefts on the season. Junior catcher Shelby Burchell was just 1-for-3 but made that one hit count by blasting her team-leading 12th home run to begin the bottom of the second. Sophomore designated player Whitney Hammond was perfect at the plate, going 2-for-2 with a pair of runs scored.
With Appalachian State designated player Meghan Smith on base following a two-out base knock in the top of the first, Big Orange sophomore shortstop Melissa Brown made a highlight reel catch of a blooper into short left center. ASU left fielder Allie Cashion threatened to drop a hit over short but UT’s Brown made a running basket catch while facing the outfield to end the frame.
Tennessee had a golden opportunity to get on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first following bunt singles and stolen bases from sophomore left fielder Raven Chavanne and Grieve put a pair in scoring position with none retired. Unfortunately, a Dotson line drive right to a Mountaineer infielder, a groundout by junior third baseman Jessica Spigner and a long fly ball off the bat of sophomore second baseman Lauren Gibson that was caught near the warning track left the duo stranded.
After Appalachian State left a pair on base in the top of the second, Burchell broke the scoreless dead-lock in the bottom half by blasting her team-best 12th HR of 2011. The solo big fly also marked UT’s 49th as a team, moving the squad within three HR’s of the single-season school record of 52 set back in 1996 and since equaled in 2002 and 2005.
Renfroe settled in after a swinging bunt got second baseman Megan Rembielak on with one out in the ASU third. The Jackson, Tenn., native struck out five straight Mountaineers over a three-inning skein and even struck out the side during the fourth as part of a stretch where she retired seven consecutive batters.
The Big Orange blew the contest open in the bottom of the fourth by scoring four runs on three hits while getting some help from Appalachian State. A fielding error on a Burchell bouncer started the inning off on the wrong foot for the Mountaineers. Freshman pinch runner Tory Lewis swiped second and advanced to third on an infield single by rookie first baseman Melissa Davin. An air-mailed throw to center by ASU catcher Michelle Lighton on a Davin theft attempt allowed Lewis to cross with UT’s second run of the match-up. A failed pick-off throw with Davin at third marked Lighton’s second throwing miscue of the inning as the UT runner raced home to make it 3-0. After a walk by Hammond, Grieve and Dotson delivered consecutive RBI doubles to expand the advantage to 5-0.
A two-out walk issued by Renfroe to third baseman Katie Boyd broke the 6-0 right hander’s streak of seven consecutive retired in the top of the fifth. She was in firm control, however, concluding the frame by catching Rembielak watching strike three go by to register one of her seven total strikeouts looking.
Big Orange junior shortstop sub Ashley Andrews reached on a fielding error to christen the bottom of the sixth. Hammond stepped to the dish and singled on the infield as ASU eventually rushed the play and threw the ball away, marking the Mountaineers’ fifth miscue of the evening. With Lady Vols occupying second and third and two retired, Dotson drilled a triple into the corner to plate both runners and finalize UT’s offensive output at seven tallies.
From there Renfroe raced through the Appalachian State line-up in order in the top of the seventh to secure Tennessee’s 35th victory of the season.
It’s back to the road this weekend for the Tennessee softball team over April 15-17 as the Lady Vols venture to Baton Rouge, La., to battle the #19 LSU Tigers in a three-game series at Tiger Park.