ATHENS, Ga. – No. 8 Tennessee improved to 31-6 overall and 9-4 in Southeastern Conference play by sweeping a doubleheader at No. 2 Georgia, 5-1 and 9-4, in front of 1,627 fans at Jack Turner Stadium on Wednesday.
UT’s victory in the opener ended UGA’s 37-game home winning streak that started with a win against Arkansas on April 3, 2010.
Tennessee now owns victories this season against then-No. 1 Alabama (4-1), then-No. 2 and defending national champion UCLA (7-1) as well as No. 2 Georgia (5-1 and 9-4).
Sophomore second baseman Lauren Gibson and freshman designated player Melissa Davin led the Big Orange offense by going 4-for-6 in the doubleheader. Gibson posted a double, her third HR of the season and four RBI; Davin doubled, tripled, homered and knocked in three runs. Junior first baseman Shelby Burchell blasted her team-leading 11th home run during a four-run fourth inning of the finale.
In the circle, sophomore Ivy Renfroe picked up the victory in the opener, moving to 10-3 by allowing just one run and nine hits in 5.2 innings of work. Freshman Ellen Renfroe improved to 18-2 by tossing a complete game in the finale, permitting four runs on eight hits with three walks and three strikeouts. She also picked up the save in the opener by throwing a perfect 1.1 innings of relief.
The Lady Vols wasted no time jumping in front on the scoreboard against UGA freshman pitcher Morgan Montemayor, putting up a run in the top of the first on two hits. Sophomore left fielder Raven Chavanne opened the frame with a perfect high-bouncing slap single and quickly moved into scoring position via her team-best 21st stolen base of the season. With one retired sophomore right fielder Kat Dotson stepped to the dish and ripped a single just over the infield that dropped in as Chavanne raced home for a 1-0 advantage. Junior third baseman Jessica Spigner continued a theme in the opening frame of making Montemayor work, battling over an 11-pitch at-bat before striking out looking. Another K ended the inning but not before UT had forced the hurler to throw 35 pitches and grabbed a quick lead.
The advantage lasted exactly one batter into the bottom of the first as UGA lead-off hitter Taylor Schlopy drove a solo HR to center, dead-locking the count at 1-1. After inducing a pop-up to second by left fielder Megan Wiggins, third baseman Alisa Goler walked and right fielder Brianna Hesson singled the first pitch she received to center, placing a pair aboard with still only one down. Another base knock, this one to left by catcher Ashley Razey loaded the bases full of Bulldogs. First baseman Kristyn Sandberg ripped a shot to third that Spigner nabbed moving to her right. The Santa Clarita, Calif., native stepped on the third base bag, pivoted and fired across to Burchell at first for a huge, inning-ending double play.
The Big Orange missed a big scoring chance in the top of the third. Junior catcher Ashley Andrews started the inning with a lead-off walk and ended up at third with no outs via a stolen base and an errant throw to center by UGA catcher Razey. Chavanne bounced out to third and senior center fielder Kelly Grieve flew out to shallow left for two quick outs. Dotson blasted a promising shot deep to the outfield that was caught on the warning track as Andrews was left stranded 60 feet from paydirt.
The Bulldogs got the lead-off runner on in the bottom of the third as Wiggins drew a four-pitch walk. Goler popped up the first offering she received to Spigner behind third for a big initial out. Andrews gunned down Wiggins attempting to steal second in what would prove to be an important play in the frame as Hesson and Razey followed with base hits that would have likely brought home a UGA tally. Spigner handled another sharp chopper to third from Sandberg as the two teams remained knotted at 1-1 through three complete.
As happens so often a player follows a great defensive play with one at the plate as Spigner ripped a double into the gap opening the top of the fourth. After a wild pitch by Montemayor advanced sophomore pinch runner Whitney Hammond to third, Gibson blasted a double to the wall for an RBI as Tennessee moved back in front, 2-1.
The Big Orange added to its advantage in the top of the sixth as Gibson crushed a solo HR for a 3-1 advantage. Following a Burchell walk, Davin stepped to the dish with two retired and added a two-run shot to push the gap out to 5-1.
In the bottom of the sixth Georgia’s Brittney Hubbard led off the frame with a double to the wall in right center. On a liner to center by shortstop Laura Trout, Grieve made the grab as the runner tagged up and moved to third. On the play the runner was ruled to have left the base early, however, and was retired via runner left early for a huge double play. That saved a tally on the scoreboard as Pauly was hit by a pitch and Schlopy followed immediately with a base knock. Ellen Renfroe was brought on in relief and immediately struck out Wiggins to end the threat.
Renfroe set the Bulldogs down in order in the bottom of the seventh to secure the victory.
Georgia jumped in front in the bottom of first inning of game two as a one-out single through the right side by Goler was cashed in on a two-run homer to right center by Hesson.
Bidding to answer right back in the top of the second, Gibson started things off with a rocket shot off the wall for a lead-off single. Burchell drew a free pass and a sac bunt by Shipman moved both runners into scoring position with one down. An RBI single by Davin and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Andrews brought home a pair to tie the count at 2-2.
Sandberg gave the Bulldogs back the lead in the bottom of the second with a solo HR to left. Following a two-out single off the wall by Schlopy, Goler just missed a pitch, flying out very high to Dotson in right to conclude the inning.
The decisive inning proved to be Tennessee’s half of the fourth as UT tallied four runs on three hits while benefiting from a pair of UGA miscues. Grieve opened the inning by reaching on an error by Trout, then moved to second on a failed pick-off throw by the catcher Sandberg. Following a walk to Dotson, a single off the outfield wall by Gibson plated Grieve to dead-lock the count at 3-3. With two runners in scoring position, Burchell blasted a three-run shot to expand the gap to 6-3.
One of the major stories of the day proved to be Tennessee’s defense. Gibson made a great play while roaming to her right on a sharp bouncer up the middle by Pauly in the bottom of the fourth. With two outs in Georgia’s half of the fifth, a Wiggins single scored a run to make it 6-4 but a perfect relay from Grieve to Shipman to Andrews cut down Razey trying to score all the way from first to conclude a big UGA scoring chance.
The Big Orange added a tally to make it 7-4 on an RBI ground ball by Gibson in the top of the sixth.
In the top of the seventh, Davin tripled to complete her game’s effort just a HR short of the cycle. A two-bagger by Andrews and a single from Grieve each plated single runs as the advantage grew to 9-4.