CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. – On a cold and windy Saturday afternoon in front of approximately 1,000 fans at the Cathedral City Classic, No. 8 Tennessee jumped on No. 2 UCLA for seven runs during the first two innings and rode a sterling, complete-game pitching effort by freshman Ellen Renfroe to a commanding 7-1 victory against the defending national champion Bruins.
UT’s 6-0 right hander established a career-high with 10 strikeouts against the Blue & Gold (11-3), topping the mark of nine she set on Friday night during a 7-2 win against Loyola Marymount. In her fourth complete game of the year, the Jackson, Tenn., native permitted just one run on six hits to the powerful Bruin line-up while walking only one in a 140-pitch effort.
Renfroe improved to 7-1 overall. In four total appearances at the Cathedral City Classic, she recorded a 3-0 record with a 1.50 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 18.2 innings of work.
Lady Vol sophomore second baseman Lauren Gibson went 2 for 4 with three RBI, setting the tone offensively for the Big Orange with a three-run double in the first inning. Junior first baseman Shelby Burchell (1 for 3, two RBI) blasted her team-best fifth HR of the year, marking the first big fly allowed by a UCLA pitcher during the 2011 campaign. Senior center fielder Kelly Grieve tallied her squad-high third triple of the year to go along with an RBI, while junior third baseman Jessica Spigner was 1 for 4 at the plate with an RBI.
“We decided as a staff to put Ellen Renfroe in the circle against a very good UCLA team,” Lady Vol Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said. “Facing the defending national champions in front of 1,000-plus fans, it was definitely a great maturing situation for a young freshman. UCLA is as good a hitting team as there is in collegiate softball, and Ellen threw a great game against them today. Our hitters responded early and often and gave us a good lead that we were able to protect the whole game.”
Things didn’t look great early for the Big Orange (14-2) and Renfroe as the Bruins got a rally started with one down in the top of the first.
Right fielder B.B. Bates chopped a ball out in front of the plate for a single and was soon joined on the base paths via a knock to center by second baseman GiOnna DiSalvatore. Left fielder Andrea Harrison bounced one to Gibson at second that she corralled, attempted and failed to tag the runner going to second before throwing on for the force at first. With two down and Bruin occupants at second and third, Renfroe struck out shortstop Kellie Fox to end the threat.
An uncharacteristic five errors helped undo UCLA’s cause all contest long, the first miscue of which started a three-run bottom of the first for the Lady Vols. With one out Grieve bounced a routine ball to short that was misplayed by Fox. UT sophomore right fielder Kat Dotson and Burchell drew back-to-back walks to load the bases for Gibson. The Pasadena, Md., native stepped in and ripped a shot the other way just inside the third base bag and down the line for a double that brought home all three runners for a 3-0 advantage.
Tennessee took complete control of the contest in the bottom of the second as UT registered four runs on five hits with the benefit of an error.
Sophomore left fielder Raven Chavanne started the outburst with a base knock back to the circle with one retired. Grieve came to the plate and blasted a shot through first baseman Lindvall’s legs before she could even react for a run-scoring triple to make it 4-0.
Burchell upped the lead to a half-dozen by driving a 2-1 offering deep to center for a two-run HR despite the best efforts of center fielder Katie Schroeder, who crashed through the temporary fencing while attempting to make the catch. The homer was the first allowed by a Bruin pitcher in the early 2011 season. Gibson kept the attack going with her second two-bagger of the match-up, and then Spigner blooped a base knock to left center that dropped in as Gibson scored for a 7-0 advantage.
UCLA tried to chip away in the top of the fifth. With two outs Renfroe struck Schroeder with a pitch and it soon came back to haunt her. Bates and DiSalvatore delivered back-to-back singles to plate the runner, cutting the Bruin deficit to 7-1. Harrison walked to load the bases with Fox stepping to the plate facing a big spot that could have gotten the Blue & Gold back into the contest. Renfroe managed to induce a fly out to left as Chavanne raced in to make an inning-ending catch and leave the trio stranded.
A base knock by UCLA catcher Alyssa Tiumalu and a two-out fielding error on the Tennessee infield granted the Bruins another chance to cut into UT’s advantage in the bottom of the sixth. Renfroe responded again by catching Schroeder looking at strike three to leave two more UCLA runners where they stood.