Upset alert: Lady Vols walk-off winners against No. 1 Alabama
By Austin Bornheim | (email@example.com)
KNOXVILLE — In a match-up of two Southeastern Conference heavyweights, No. 8 Tennessee was able to land enough blows against No. 1 Alabama to win 4-3 Friday night at Lee Softball Stadium.
“It was a battle but we knew coming in that they were going to throw punches and that we’d have to throw punches right back,” Madison Shipman said.
Tennessee (20-3, 1-0 SEC) landed the first haymaker when Cheyanne Tarango blasted a three-run home run into left-center field in the bottom of the fourth. To that point there had been just three hits, all by Tennessee and two off the bat of Lauren Gibson.
“She (Alabama pitcher Jackie Traina) went away on the first pitch but brought it low and inside on the next, and I was able to get a hold of it,” Tarango said.
UT starting pitcher Ellen Renfroe kept the Crimson Tide (22-2, 0-1) off balance most of evening.
She retired 14-straight batters between the end of the first and into the sixth, but ran into trouble there.
Andrea Hawkins and Kayla Braud started the Bama rally while also recording the team’s first two hits.
Kaila Hunt made the most of the situation by driving in the first Alabama run of the game with a single to left field a few pitches later.
Ellen Renfro’s sister, Ivy, replaced her later in the inning and was able to get out of the jam, clinging to a 3-1 lead.
Tennessee went quietly in its half of the sixth, setting the stage for the Tide.
Alabama tallied two runs in the top of the seventh after Melissa Davin misjudged a fly ball allowing the Crimson Tide to tie the game at 3-all.
The Lady Vols were stunned, but not down for the count.
“When they came out and did that we just looked at ourselves and said ‘now it’s our turn,’” Shipman said.
Whitney Hammond led off the bottom of the frame with a walk, and was later able to advance to second on a pitch in the dirt.
Following a Raven Chavanne bunt single UT was in business, with runners on the corners and no outs.
Chavanne then stole second uncontested to put two runners in scoring position, but the stolen base had more significance than just improving Tennessee’s chances of victory.
The stolen base was the senior third baseman’s 121st of her career — giving her sole possession of the UT all-time stolen bases record.
“It’s great to even have my name in the same sentence with Lindsay Schutzler and I’m proud to have the record,” Chavanne said.
After a Kat Dotson strikeout, Alabama intentionally walked Gibson bringing Shipman to the plate. With a 2-2 count, the senior scorched a groundball down the third base line, plating the game-winning run.
“Those are situations I live for,” she said. “I was so pumped. Rounding second the whole team came out to meet me and it is a great feeling.”
Tennessee and Alabama will square off in game two of the series today at 2:30 p.m.