Oregon a must-win for Lady Vols, or 'no more tomorrows'

Tennessee's Ivy Renfroe pitches against Alabama during the first inning of the Lady Vols' 5-3 loss to the Crimson Tide on Thursday.

Photo by Alonzo Adams/Associated Press

Tennessee's Ivy Renfroe pitches against Alabama during the first inning of the Lady Vols' 5-3 loss to the Crimson Tide on Thursday.

UT shortstop Madison Shipman looks to Saturday

OKLAHOMA CITY — Tennessee is running out of time and excuses at the Women’s College World Series.

“There are no more tomorrows,’’ Lady Vols co-head coach Ralph Weekly said Friday. “If we’re not ready to play, the season is over.’’

Seventh-seeded Tennessee (52-13) needs to beat 11th-seeded Oregon (44-17) today (TV: ESPN2, 2:30 p.m.) to advance into an elimination game (TV: ESPN, 9:30 p.m.) against top-seeded California (57-6). Fourth-seeded Oklahoma (52-8) defeated the Bears on Friday night.

SEC champion and second-seeded Alabama dropped the Lady Vols into the losers’ bracket Thursday night, jumping to a 4-0 first-inning lead en route to a 5-3 victory.

“We had a bad first inning, and you can’t do that against a great team like Alabama,’’ Weekly said. “But we were down to our last game after losing to Miami (Ohio) in regionals, and we faced elimination against Georgia in super regionals.

“We’ve got some practice fighting, but this is a huge mountain ahead of us.’’

If Tennessee survives today, it would need to win two games in a row Sunday against Alabama (57-7) — a 2-1 winner in Friday night’s late game against third-seeded Arizona State (52-10) — in order to advance to the best-of-three championship series.

“We had to fight back in regionals and super regionals, and I think that experience will help us,’’ UT All-American second baseman Lauren Gibson said. “Last night (Thursday) against Alabama was tough, but at the world series, you have to have a short memory whether you win or lose.’’

Those who follow Lady Vols softball will remember UT has finished no lower than third place in any of their four previous WCWS appearances.

The first three trips to Oklahoma City — 2005, ’06 and ’07 — Tennessee’s elite showings were largely a result of having arguably the most dominant pitcher in NCAA softball history in Monica Abbott.

In their 2010 WCWS appearance, the Lady Vols embraced a Cinderella role as the No. 15 seed and received strong senior leadership at the plate from Erinn Webb, Tiffany Huff and Nicole Kajitani while riding the arm of then-freshman Ivy Renfroe.

This season’s team has exhibited a fluid identity.

Sisters Ellen Renfroe (27-4, 1.19 ERA) and Ivy Renfroe (25-9, 1.81 ERA) have been dominant on most, though not all, occasions.

Tennessee’s sister act gives the Lady Vols a rare 1-2 punch that provides some hope of winning four straight games over the next two days.

The Renfroes, however, combined to issue a season-high seven walks against Alabama on Thursday, and Ivy Renfroe failed to get out of the first inning of a start for the first time of her junior campaign.

The offense, featuring three All-Americans named Wednesday — Gibson, Raven Chavanne and Madison Shipman — along with Kat Dotson from a year ago, has struggled to find consistency yet managed to do just enough to reach softball’s Elite Eight.

Senior Shelby Burchell provided punch in getting UT through regionals and super regionals, but her bat cooled in clutch situations against the Tide, as she went 0-for-3 and stranded two runners.

Shipman, the only All-American to fail to get a hit against Alabama SEC Pitcher of the Year Jackie Traina on Thursday, wore a fierce expression during Friday’s practice.

“It’s my job to drive people in, and it was frustrating,’’ said Shipman, the nation’s No. 2-ranked recruit in the Class of 2011. “I’m going come out trying to win every pitch, and we have to put up some runs for Ellen and Ivy. That’s all there is to it.’’

Mike Griffith covers Tennessee athletics. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32

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Comments » 9

hcjournals#206623 writes:

Stay loose. Remember how you got here. You are as good or better than everybody you are playing against.....Hang tough...

voloffaith writes:

Actually the winner of this game has to face California.....then if win that one ...then the elephanettes twice on Sunday to fully advance to championship..

volaholic45 writes:

“There are no more tomorrows,’’ Lady Vols co-head coach Ralph Weekly said Friday. “If we’re not ready to play, the season is over.’’

Well, yeah.

Fall_Creek_Vols writes:

Climb that mountain, ladies. You have what it takes.

14th_rated_sec_coach writes:

Look this team wins and represents the univeristy well. I hope Dooley will spend some time with Weekly over the summer and learn how to motivate players and develop them...

volnalcoa writes:

Play loose, be aggressive and have some fun. The results will be positive. Good luck, Lady Vols.

arkyvol writes:

saw the california-oklahoma game yesterday. all i've got to say is that if the sooner pitcher keeps it up, the other teams may as well pack up their bats and gloves. by the fourth inning when oklahoma had a 1-0 lead, i told my wife that's all they're gonna need.

tovolny writes:

Isn't it refreshing to read an article from Mike Griffith?...KNS's two Mikes know how to write sports. John Adams would have put in some negative hearsay while insulting the fans and coaches. Thanks Griff...you and Strange help balance the scale.

ps11824 writes:

“I’m going come out trying to win every pitch, and we have to put up some runs for Ellen and Ivy. That’s all there is to it.’’ Thats so right, Ship.

Fire up those bats early and often. It's just another game... then, another and then the final game to win and go home with the prize. No sweat.

Just remember, no matter what; bammer is & always has been just a Tennessee Wannabe. They are below us. They are never beside us, & they'll never be above us.

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