Friday March 9, 2012No. 3/4 Florida Softball Falls Short in Bottom of the Seventh at No. 9 Tennessee, 1-0
In a competitive SEC tilt that featured just eight hits, but 19 strikeouts between the Gators and Lady Vols Friday, Florida came up on the short end of a 1-0 nail biter that wasn’t decided until the bottom of the seventh in front of 1,613 fans in Knoxville. With two outs and a runner on third, Tennessee was able to scratch a run across home on a UF defensive miscue to take the series opener at Lee Stadium.
Florida moved to 21-2 on the season, 2-1 in league play, while Tennessee improved to 15-3 overall, while securing the win in its conference opener.
Tennessee’s Ellen Renfroe tallied a season-best 15 strikeouts to improve to 11-0 in the circle for the Lady Vols, while Gator sophomore hurler Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) was charged her first loss of the season to move to 11-1 in 2012. Rogers and Renfroe both went the distance, Rogers giving up five hits, just UT’s lone unearned run, while walking two and fanning four in the contest. Renfroe surrendered three Gator hits, walked one and retired 15 Florida batters by strikeout in the shutout.
It was a pitcher’s duel Friday, as both pitchers started hot. Rogers downed three Lady Vols in order in the bottom of the second, while Renfroe returned to do the same in the top of the third. Both squads left the bags loaded early on as Florida left the bases loaded in the first on a two-out rally when freshman Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) reached on a walk, while junior Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) was safe at first on a Tennessee fielding error. Next up, sophomore Cheyenne Coyle (West Hills, Calif.) delivered an infield single, but a Renfroe strikeout retired the side.
In the bottom of the third, the Lady Vols had a similar rally with a Cheyanne Tarango one-out infield base hit, while Whitney Hammond moved her to second on a sac bunt. Next up, Raven Chavanne drew a two-out walk and catcher Ashley Andrews dropped a bunt single for the Vols to load the bags. A pop-out to Coyle at short halted any potential scoring opportunities.
Renfroe retired the Gators in order in the fourth and fifth frames, as freshman Sami Fagan (Dunnellon, Fla.) laid down a bunt single to lead off the sixth, but three consecutive strikeouts for Renfroe ended the inning with Fagan on second after swiping the bag with two outs.
Likewise, Tennessee had leadoff hits in both the fourth and fifth innings, thanks to a Madison Shipman single up the middle and a Cheyanne Tarango double to left, respectively, but a strikeout and two groundouts ended the fourth, while a foul out, ground out and pop up to Coyle at short ended the fifth.
Rogers rallied to retire the Lady Vols in order in the bottom of the sixth by ground out, pop up and ground out, respectively, bringing up the seventh and final inning.
Junior Ensley Gammel (Bakersfield, Calif.) connected for a one-out single through the left side for the third of UF’s three hits on the evening, but Renfroe fanned sophomore Kasey Fagan (Dunnellon, Fla.) and freshman pinch hitter Bailey Castro (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) to get out of the top half of the stanza.
In crunch time, UT’s Shelby Burchell led off the bottom of the seventh with a single up the middle, while a Melissa Brown sac bunt moved her along to second. Next up, a Tarango groundout allowed Burchell to advance to third. The Lady Vols decided to go with pinch hitter Hannah Akamine next, who would eventually get the job done. Akamine sent a 0-2 ball just out of Rogers’ reach, while Gator second baseman Katie Medina (Downey, Calif.) backed her up and rocketed to Gammel at first, but the UF utility player couldn’t hold on to the ball as Burchell scampered home for the unearned, game-winning score.
The Gators and Vols will do it again in the second game of the series between the SEC Eastern Division rivals Saturday at 2 p.m. at Lee Stadium. For all broadcast information, visit www.GatorZone.com/softball and keep up with live, in-game updates on Twitter @GatorZoneSBall.