Feb. 14, 2010

Courtesy of Tennessee

CLERMONT, Fla. - On a bright but chilly Sunday morning at the NTC Division I Elite Invitational in Clermont, Fla., No. 16 Tennessee (1-2) got into the win column for the first time in 2010 by racing past No. 10 Oklahoma (2-1), 4-2. The victory marked the third straight in the series for UT against the Sooners, sweeping OU last season in a pair of match-ups at "The Preview" presented by WORTH in Norman and Oklahoma City, Okla.

The big blow of Sunday's game came on the first career grand slam from sophomore third baseman Jessica Spigner. The Santa Clarita, Calif., native drove a 3-1 pitch from OU starter Keilani Ricketts over the wall in deep center as part of a 1-for-3 effort at the dish. Senior first baseman Erinn Webb was 2-for-3, while freshmen Megan Givens and Kat Dotson recorded their initial career base hits as part of Tennessee's eight-hit offensive output.

Freshman right-hander Ivy Renfroe was solid in the circle, picking up her first career pitching victory by allowing just four hits and striking out five over four innings. Sophomore Cat Hosfield permitted two runs on three hits with three K's over three frames of relief work in recording her initial save of 2010.

After a quick one-two-three inning for the Lady Vols in the top of the first, Oklahoma christened its half inning as right fielder Haley Nix drew a lead-off walk. Renfroe rebounded immediately, however, by striking out center fielder Krystle Huey, forcing a fly ball to left from dangerous senior second baseman Amber Flores and catching pitcher Keilani Ricketts swinging for strike three to leave the runner stranded.

Senior catcher Tiffany Huff opened the top of the second by drawing a lead-off free pass to grant the Lady Vols their initial base runner of the contest. Spigner made solid contact by ripping a liner to left but it traveled right to Oklahoma outfielder Chana'e Jones for the initial out. Webb followed with a high chopper out in front of the plate that bounced a good 30 feet in the air, allowing the Hemet, Calif., native to reach safely. Sophomore designated player Shelby Burchell delivered a single through the left side of the infield and suddenly the bases were juiced with just one out. Unfortunately sophomore shortstop Ashley Andrews hit into a fielder's choice that cut down a runner at the plate, and senior second baseman Nicole Kajitani rolled out routinely to third, leaving the bags packed full of Lady Vols.

Renfroe was rolling through the Oklahoma half of the second until Jones blooped a two-out single that dropped on the chalk line in left. Designated player Katie Norris drove the very next pitch to the wall in right center, placing Sooners at second and third. With a 1-1 count, first baseman Dani Dobbs was hit in the helmet by a Renfroe offering to load the bases for Nix. Fortunately she popped up to freshman Raven Chavanne in left as OU joined the Big Orange in leaving the bags juiced during the second frame.

Grieve started what turned out to be the key Tennessee rally in the top of the third by beating out an infield single to short. Dotson followed with her first collegiate base hit through Ricketts' legs and back up the middle. Huff hit one off the end of the bat that rolled slowly between the circle and first. Through some miscommunication, Oklahoma's defense failed to make a play as Huff reached successfully to load the bases for the second consecutive inning. Spigner made them pay by driving a 3-1 offering to deep center for her first career grand slam as the Big Orange grabbed a huge 4-0 lead.

Givens achieved her personal milestone by recording her first career hit while clad in the Orange & White with one out in the top of the fifth.

Renfroe was cruising entering the bottom of the fifth having struck out five Sooners, including two in a row to wrap up the bottom of the fourth. Unfortunately, Nix opened the new frame by greeting the Humboldt, Tenn., product with a lead-off double down the line in right. That ended the 5-10 right-hander's day in the circle as Hosfield entered in relief. The 5-9 righty announced her presence immediately by inducing a foul pop-up by pinch hitter Haley Anderson and striking out Flores and Ricketts back-to-back to conclude the inning with zero damage.

The Sooners managed a base runner via a one-out walk by Long in the bottom of the sixth, but saw a potential single up the middle stolen away on an outstanding diving stop by Kajitani. After smothering the bouncer, she pivoted and threw to Andrews covering second for an impressive out. That took any possible steam out of an OU threat as Norris bounced routinely to short for out number three.

With Tennessee looking for more on the scoreboard, Chavanne led off the top of the seventh by drawing a walk. The threat wouldn't materialize, however, as Grieve hit into a fielder's choice back to the circle and two Lady Vols struck out to bring the Sooners up facing their final offensive chance in regulation.

Oklahoma pinch hitter Evan Sallis started the bottom of the seventh by slapping a single the other way down the left field line. Hosfield induced a routine grounder up the first base line off the bat of Nix that Webb handled herself for the initial retirement. With Sallis standing in scoring position, Huey became Hosfield's third strikeout victim of the contest, bringing UT within one out of the squad's first win of the 2010 season. On a tight, inside pitch Flores was hit, placing runners at first and second with clean-up hitter Ricketts stepping to the plate in a huge spot. She came through with a bouncer back up the middle, plating Sallis to cut Tennessee's lead to 4-1. That brought catcher Jessica Shults to the plate as the potential tying run. She lined an RBI single to center that dropped in front of Grieve. Unfortunately for the Sooners, Ricketts got caught in a rundown between second and third and was tagged out to end the 4-2 Tennessee triumph.

No. 16 Tennessee wraps up its final day of the NTC Division I Elite Invitational on Sunday at approximately 1 p.m. ET in a re-scheduled match-up against No. 3 Michigan. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com via Gametracker while periodic updated will be posted the www.Twitter.com/UTLadyVols.