Tennessee Athletics

DELAND, Fla. – A Big Orange seven-run first inning set a powerful tone as the No. 4 Tennessee Lady Vols opened their 2011 campaign by defeating Michigan State 11-2 in five innings on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the Stetson Leadoff Classic.

The big blow of the contest for UT (1-0) came off the bat of sophomore second baseman Lauren Gibson as the Pasadena, Md., native blasted a three-run homer to left in the first frame. Junior first baseman Shelby Burchell registered a perfect 3 for 3 effort at the plate with a run scored and an RBI, sophomore left fielder Raven Chavanne was 1 for 3 with a double and three RBIs, sophomore right fielder Kat Dotson (1 for 1, two walks) knocked in a pair of tallies, while junior third baseman Jessica Spigner (1 for 4) and junior catcher Ashley Andrews (1 for 2) each posted an RBI.

In their first collegiate action in the Orange & White, shortstop Madison Shipman delivered a 2 for 3 effort with a double, two runs and a stolen base while designated player Chelsea O’Connor walked and scored twice while singling in her only official at-bat.

From the circle for the Lady Vols, sophomore Ivy Renfroe (1-0) permitted two runs on four hits with a walk and four K’s during a complete-game effort.

Tennessee is now 7-3 in season openers under the guidance of co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly and enters this afternoon’s match-up against Stetson (4 p.m.) with 699 victories in program history.

After walking the first opposing batter of the year, Renfroe settled in during the top of the first with some help from her defensive mates. Shipman made consecutive solid defensive plays, including one to cut down the lead runner at second, and then UT’s 6-0 pitcher caught designated player Lauren Kramer looking at strike three to conclude the frame.

Chavanne quickly reached scoring position for the first time in 2011 during the bottom half of the opening frame. The Thousand Oaks, Calif., native reached via a throwing error and scampered into second as the ball got away from Michigan State first baseman Heidi Purtzer.

With one out in the inning, Dotson walked, putting a pair of Lady Vols on the base paths for the clean-up hitting Spigner. The Santa Clarita, Calif., product laced a sharp single off of MSU third baseman Jayme O’Bryant’s glove and into left as Chavanne raced home with Tennessee’s first run of the year.

Gibson strode to the plate and got her new season off to a huge start by driving an offering from MSU’s Cassee Layne down the left field line to boost the Big Orange advantage to 4-0. Shipman followed by lacing her first collegiate hit to right and promptly swiped her initial career base. O’Connor drew a walk and then Burchell followed with a base knock up the middle, packing the bags for UT with still just one retired. Andrews came through with an RBI single to right as Shipman scored to make it 5-0. A two-bagger to the wall in left center off the bat of Chavanne knocked in two more Big Orange runners for a 7-0 advantage as Tennessee batted around during its initial at-bat of the 2011 season.

Despite permitting a one-out base knock in the second, Renfroe cruised into the fourth with the assistance of a pair of solid plays at third by junior Jessica Spigner. That’s when Williams managed to chip away at Michigan State’s big deficit by driving a two-run HR to center, her team-best second hit of the match-up.

MSU’s scoring appeared to re-ignite a Lady Vol offense that had left a combined three runners stranded over the second and third frames. 

Shipman continued her impressive Tennessee debut during the bottom of the fourth by blasting a one-out double to the wall in right. O’Connor followed by drawing her second walk of the day to set the stage for a Burchell RBI single back through the middle as the UT lead expanded to 8-2.

Andrews followed with yet another free pass, the fifth walk issued by MSU’s Layne, to load the bases as Michigan State coach Jacquie Joseph summoned in reliever Shelby Wise. The new pitcher struck Chavanne on the elbow to force in UT’s ninth run and with two outs on the scoreboard, Dotson guided a two-RBI single to right, finalizing the Tennessee offensive damage at 11-2.

From there it was left to Renfroe to finish the out the victory from the circle. The Jackson, Tenn., native coerced a ground ball to third and handled a sharp liner herself for two quick outs. Michigan State’s Jessica Bracamonte drove a two-out double to left, but it eventually proved harmless as Kylene Hopkins fouled out to Chavanne outside the line in left to complete the game.