The Lady Vols softball team lost to Georgia in the 11th inning in the opener of a Wednesday doubleheader at the Lee Softball Stadium.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - For the second time during the 2012 campaign the #10/9 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team (27-9, 9-6 Southeastern Conference) was pushed to 11 innings and again came up on the wrong end of the marathon, dropping a 3-1 (11 inn.) decision to #9/10 Georgia (30-7, 9-4 SEC) in the opener of a Wednesday doubleheader at the Lee Softball Stadium.
Tennessee out-hit the Bulldogs by a 7-4 count and carried a 1-0 lead into the top of the seventh inning before UGA catcher Kristyn Sandberg blasted a game-tying homer.
Big Orange sophomore starter Ellen Renfroe (19-3) had a no-hitter going until permitting the two-out, seventh-inning blast, taking the tough loss after allowing three runs on four hits with four walks and nine K's over a career-high 11 innings of effort.
UT junior first baseman Melissa Brown led the Lady Vol effort at the plate, going 1-for-3 with the Big Orange's lone RBI via a fourth-inning double.
Despite a two-out walk issued to Georgia designated player Ashley Razey, Renfroe posted a quiet top of the first from the circle. UGA shortstop Paige Wilson flew out to right, second baseman Ashley Pauly chopped a routine ball to second and catcher Kristyn Sandberg grounded back to the circle.
Tennessee's Brown managed to become the Lady Vols' initial base runner in the bottom of the second, getting hit by a two-out offering from Bulldog hurler Erin Arevalo. Unfortunately, a Big Orange strikeout left the Valencia, Calif., native where she stood as the teams continued their scoreless dead-lock.
The speed game attempted to get the UT offense started with one retired in the bottom of the third as sophomore center fielder Tory Lewis and junior third baseman Raven Chavanne managed consecutive infield hits. The Tennessee left on base total grew to three through a trio of innings, however, as junior right fielder Kat Dotson lined out to second and sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman grounded routinely to short.
Meanwhile, Renfroe was rolling along by retiring 10 straight Bulldogs over a stretch from the first through the fourth innings.
Junior second baseman Lauren Gibson laced a lead-off single to start things off in promising fashion for the Big Orange in the bottom of the fourth. Following a perfect sacrifice bunt by senior designated player Shelby Burchell, Brown ripped a RBI double into the gap as Gibson raced around easily from second, granting the Lady Vols a 1-0 advantage.
UT's 6-0 right-handed hurler continued her mastery of the Bulldogs through the top of the sixth, stretching her streak of consecutive UGA batters retired to 16. It wasn't without a little scare to end the sixth, however, as a chopper back to the circle from Georgia's Wilson was bobbled briefly by Renfroe. Her throw to first was low, but Brown dug it out on a stretch to conclude the frame.
Bidding for some valuable insurance in the bottom of the sixth, the Big Orange got a pair of one-out base runners as Gibson was hit by a pitch and Burchell laced a long single into the outfield, advancing to second on UGA's relay. Georgia's Arevalo responded to the threat with consecutive strikeouts, leaving two more Lady Vols stranded.
That missed opportunity proved huge as Sandberg broke up Renfroe's no-hitter with two retired in the top of the seventh, blasting a long HR over the scoreboard in left center to tie the count at 1-1. A groundout by first baseman Tess Sito completed the inning, but not before the Bulldogs had evened the contest.
A quick one-two-three bottom of the seventh for the Lady Vols necessitated extra innings between the Lady Vols and Bulldogs. It marked the second straight game between the two squads requiring extra time after going eight frames in the SEC Tournament Championship back on May 14, 2011.
Georgia managed the first major threat of extra time in the top of the ninth as Hubbard walked to begin the frame. Razey drew a free pass with two retired, but Renfroe got Tennessee out of the inning by inducing a pop-up to first base by Sandberg.
The Bulldogs got back in business in the top of the 11th as a lead-off walk to right fielder Anna Swafford and a double to left center by Hubbard put a pair in scoring position with no outs. Wilson laced a base knock through the right side of the infield, plating Swafford for a 2-1 advantage. Dotson corralled the ball and came up throwing to the plate as senior catcher Ashley Andrews missed the first tag but got Hubbard on a second try as the UGA center fielder missed the plate. With two down after a groundout, Razey hit a ball that just eluded Shipman's valiant effort up the middle, scoring Wilson to make it 3-1.
Down to their final chance, the Lady Vols received a promising lead-off base knock from Dotson. Unfortunately, a strikeout and a double play that went 6-3 ended the contest in favor of the Bulldogs.