April 21, 2012
by Koby Padgett
COLUMBIA, S.C. - An outstanding softball game went to No. 8/7 Tennessee (39-9, 18-6 SEC), as the Lady Vols squeaked by a game South Carolina (23-25, 3-18 SEC) squad 4-2 in front of a season-best 928 fans at Beckham Field on Saturday afternoon.
The Gamecocks captured a 2-0 lead in the third, with all the offense coming with two outs. Junior shortstop Samie Garcia poked one through the left side and moved to second on a wild pitch. Senior centerfielder Lauren Lackey followed with an infield single, setting up senior Kaitlin Westfall's 17th double of the year, which scored Garcia. Sophomore second baseman Dana Hathorn followed with a single to plate Lackey. A five-pitch walk to sophomore rightfielder Chelsea Hawkins loaded the bases, but Lady Vol starter Ivy Renfroe got a groundout to end the frame.
South Carolina tried to add runs later, getting leadoff runners aboard in the fourth and fifth, but could not get another runner across home. Senior Evan Childs started the fourth with a double and moved to third on senior first baseman's Molly Brossart sacrifice bunt. But Renfroe got a grounder and an infield fly to end the inning. Lackey began the fifth by beating out her second infield single and advanced to second on Westfall's sacrifice bunt. Lackey took third on an error by Tennessee's pitcher which also allowed Hathorn to reach second. But Renfroe again escaped the jam, this time with a pair of strikeouts.
Tennessee tied things in the sixth, with Tory Lewis drawing a one-out walk to begin the rally. Raven Chavanne and Kat Dotson both had bunt singles to load the bases. Madison Shipman stepped and put one deep in the hole on the left side, and the dive by the South Carolina's shortstop redirected the ball behind third, allowing two runs to score. Gamecock freshman starter Katelynn Howser got two ground balls to second to end the frame without any further damage.
The Lady Vols loaded the bases in the seventh with one out on two walks and a hit batsman. Chavanne took the 1-1 pitch to left, scoring two to give Tennessee the 4-2 advantage, much like she ended the final game of last year's series in Knoxville. An infield pop recorded the second out, and the intentional walk to Shipman loaded the bases again. This time, Howser induced a lazy fly to center, ending the frame.
The Gamecocks threatened a rally in the bottom of the seventh, getting a one-out single from Westfall ahead of Hathorn's plunking. Tennessee then brought in Ellen Renfroe, who got a grounder to third and a pop to short to end the inning to get her fourth save of the season.
Ivy Renfroe (15-6) got the win, tossing 6.1 innings and striking out five. She gave up two earned runs on two walks and nine hits. Ellen Renfroe picked up her fourth save of the year with a spotless two-thirds of an inning. Howser (8-8) took the loss, allowing four earned runs on five hits and five walks. She struck out two. Howser only issued one walk in the first five innings of the game.
South Carolina's defense made some amazing plays behind Howser in the contest. In the fourth, a perfect throw from junior catcher Shelby Gonzales to Garcia mowed down Kat Dotson on her steal attempt, the first time Dotson had been caught stealing all year. And Westfall made three catches in left, but none better than the first out of the seventh, as she jumped and crashed back-first into the wall in left center to steal an extra-base hit from Melissa Brown.
Lackey and Westfall paced the Gamecocks with three hits each, Westfall adding her SEC-best 17th double of the year, which ties her for third in a single season in Gamecock history. Childs, Garcia and Hathorn also had hits, with Westfall and Hathorn driving in the runs. Chavanne and Dotson both went 2-for-4, with Chavanne scoring once and driving in two runs. Shipman also had two RBI in a 1-for-2 day.
The 928 fans, very vocal throughout the contest, are the most for South Carolina in a home game since the season opener on Feb. 2, 2003, when 1,038 fans packed the stadium to watch the Gamecocks sweep North Carolina in a doubleheader.
South Carolina and Tennessee close the three-game series at 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoon at Beckham Field.
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