Behind the first two-HR effort and a career-high six RBIs from sophomore left fielder Melissa Davin, the #9 Tennessee Lady Vol softball team again rallied from a late deficit to defeat Western Michigan, 9-6, and conclude the Kajikawa Classic at 5-1 overall.
During the weekend the Big Orange defeated five 2011 NCAA Regional squads and did so without the services of injured All-American standouts Raven Chavanne and Kat Dotson.
Davin blasted a pair of three-run homers, one in the third inning and another in the sixth, as part of a 2-for-2, three-run, six RBI effort. Junior second baseman Lauren Gibson (1-for-2, run) and sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman (2-for-3, double, run) each recorded a single RBI.
In the circle for the Lady Vols, sophomore Ellen Renfroe improved to 5-0 overall, striking out 12 while allowing five earned runs on six hits during a gutsy, complete-game performance. The Jackson, Tenn., native fired 31 innings over UT's six weekend match-ups while posting a 1.13 ERA and 48 strikeouts.
After a quick one-two-three inning for the Broncos in the top of the first, Tennessee jumped in front on the scoreboard during the bottom half. With two retired in the frame, Gibson blasted a solo shot, her third homer over the opening six games of 2012, granting the Lady Vols a quick 1-0 lead. Shipman continued the assault with a double into the gap and was soon joined on the base paths by freshman first baseman Cheyanne Tarango and senior right fielder Shelby Burchell via walk to load the bags. Junior third baseman Melissa Brown fell into a 0-2 hole and battled back to a full count before grounding out to short to leave the trio stranded.
With Renfroe on cruise control early on, the Lady Vols again loaded the bases during the bottom of the second via one-out free passes issued to Davin and senior catcher Ashley Andrews and a bunt single from sophomore center fielder Tory Lewis. Unfortunately, Tennessee left the bags packed as a fielder's choice cut down the lead runner at the plate and a pop-up behind third ended the inning with no scoring.
Finally Tennessee made Western Michigan starter Meredith Whitney pay for a plethora of walks in the bottom of the third. Tarango and senior designated player Cat Hosfield drew free passes, and with freshman pinch runner Hannah Trainer stationed at second with two down, Davin crushed a three-run bomb over the temporary fencing to boost the Lady Vol lead to 4-0.
The Broncos finally got a threat going in the top of the fourth with a lot of Tennessee assistance. Renfroe struck out left fielder Courtney Rousseau to start the inning but a passed ball allowed her to reach first safely. Center fielder Jennifer Tschetter dropped a bunt out in front of the plate that was throw wide of first as WMU posted a pair on the base paths with none down. An RBI single from Whitney and an RBI two-bagger down the left field line from first baseman Tara Buchanan drew Western Michigan within a pair of scores at 4-2. Following a K third baseman Diana Patterson drove a three-run HR to left center as the Broncos nabbed their initial lead of the contest at 5-4.
A pitching change starting the bottom of the fourth failed to pay dividends for WMU as Becca Shembarger threw eight consecutive balls to Gibson and Shipman. Original starter Whitney returned immediately to the circle and retired the first two batters she faced before walking Brown. With the bases juiced, WMU's hurler uncorked a wild pitch to the backstop, allowing Shipman to score easily from third to dead-lock the contest at 5-5. That would be all, however, as a Lady Vol K left the bases loaded for the third time in four frames.
Renfroe settled back down in the top of the fifth, retiring the Broncos in order while finishing off the half-frame with her eighth strikeout of the match-up.
That set the stage for the Lady Vol offense to re-take the advantage in the bottom half of the frame. Davin managed a lead-off walk, Andrews singled and Gibson also drew a free pass to load the bases for the fourth time in five innings. Shipman lifted a tough pop-up that just fell in down the line as Davin managed to beat a throw home to give Tennessee back the lead at 6-5. As had been the theme of the day, UT suffered a 1-2-3 double play to up the UT left on base count to a staggering 11.
Patterson drove a one-out pitch to right field for her second HR of the contest in the top of the sixth as Western Michigan tied the game at 6-6.
Walks continued to haunt the Broncos in the bottom of the sixth as free passes issued to Brown and Hosfield were cashed in via Davin's second three-run shot of the contest to make it 9-6, Tennessee. In the game WMU hurlers issued an amazing 13 total walks while throwing 174 pitches.
WMU refused to go away, however, while facing its last chance in the top of the seventh as Rousseau and Tschetter christened the frame with consecutive base knocks. Renfroe responded by striking out Whitney and Buchanan before coercing a pop-up to short by Emma Bogart to conclude the victory.