The Tennessee Lady Vols rallied from a three-run deficit to punch their sixth ticket to the Women’s College World Series with a 5-3 triumph over the Alabama Crimson Tide in front of a sold-out crowd on May 25. The Lady Vols (49-10) swept the two-game Super Regionals from the defending national champion Crimson Tide 5-3 and 3-2 (May 24).
“First of all, I’m extremely happy and extremely proud to coach the Tennessee Lady Vols,” Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Ralph Weekly said following the second game of the series. “For the seniors, to go to the World Series three out of four years they were here is a fantastic achievement. I’m just really proud of our kids. It’s all about them. Coaches, they don’t play. They don’t throw balls. They don’t hit balls. They don’t run. They just coach. These kids did all of it and all of the credit goes to them.
The Lady Vols combined for three sacrifice flies in a gritty game where five different players stepped up with key RBI knocks. Melissa Brown went 3-for-4 with one RBI and one run scored. Tory Lewis went 2-for-2 with one walk and one run.
Ivy Renfroe (21-4) earned the win after striking out four over four frames and allowed three runs. Cheyanne Tarango, pitching in a game for the first time since April 20, tossed a scoreless fifth in relief. Then Ellen Renfroe struck out three over two scoreless relief frames to earn her second save of the season.
Alabama’s Jackie Traina (19-8) tossed 5.1 innings with four runs allowed and one strikeout. Leslie Jury threw 1.2 relief frames with one earned run allowed.
The game didn’t start out very cleanly as both teams combined for four errors. Alabama, which was the designated home team, jumped ahead, 2-0, in the bottom of the first. Kayla Braud had a leadoff single down the left field line and advanced to second on a throwing error from left field and then to third on a wild pitch in the next at-bat. Haylie McCleney reached on an infield single and stole second base, giving the Crimson Tide two runners in scoring position with no outs. Two batters later, Molly Fichtner knocked a two-run single and advanced on the throw to give Alabama the lead.
In the bottom of the second, Alabama struck again. With the bases loaded and one out, McCleney reached on a fielder’s choice as center fielder Lewis lost and dropped a fly ball in the sun, but got the force out at second base. Danae Hays scored on the play and Alabama’s lead grew to 3-0.
Tennessee’s offense came to life in the top of the third. Lewis knocked a leadoff single down the left field line and Raven Chavanne reached on an sac bunt and fielding error at third. Lauren Gibson followed with a single to center to load the bases. Madison Shipman came up big with a sacrifice fly to center field that plated Lewis.
In the top of the fifth, the Lady Vols pulled ahead. Shipman hit a leadoff double to left field. Two batters later, Kat Dotson scored Shipman from third base with a sac fly to center field.
UT added one more run to give it a two-run advantage in the top of the seventh. With one out, Tarango drew a walk on eight pitches. Whitney Hammond pinch ran for Tarango and stole second base. Brown then followed with an RBI double up the middle to plate Hammond and push Tennessee’s lead to 5-3.
Braud finished her final game in a Crimson Tide uniform with a 2-for-3 effort. Haylie McCleney and Molly Fichtner also tallied two hits apiece. Fichtner added two RBI and a double.
Other series notes:
– Braud finished her All-American career as the all-time leader in batting average (.438) at Alabama. She finished ranked second in on base percentage (.512), runs (271), hits (344) and stolen bases (182).
– In game one of the series, Tennessee defeated Alabama 3-2 as the Tide stranded nine runners on base but out-hit the Lady Vols, 5-4. Tarango (1-for-3) ripped a 3-1 pitch from Traina to right center for a two-run single in the bottom of the third to give the Lady Vols a 3-1 lead.