OKLAHOMA CITY — Tennessee's troubles at the Women's College World Series started and all but ended in the first innings of both games.
Both Alabama (57-7) and Oregon (45-17) got enough run support in the opening inning of their softball victories against the Lady Vols (52-14) to overcome UT's sporadic offense.
The Ducks struck for two runs against sophomore All-American Ellen Renfroe (27-5) en route to a 3-1 victory in Saturday's elimination game.
Two days earlier, Alabama put up four runs in the first off UT's WCWS veteran pitcher, junior Ivy Renfroe, and went on to a 5-3 victory.
"We gave up six runs in the first innings here against very good teams,'' UT co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "Of course you can't do that.''
The starts were uncharacteristic; the Lady Vols had given up a total of 12 runs in the first innings of their previous 64 games.
The first-inning deficits were ominous. Seven of UT's 14 losses this season came when opponents scored first.
"What made it tougher is we faced two very good down-ball pitchers who had good changeups, and we hit a lot of ground balls,'' Weekly said.
Cheek Travels: UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek made his first trip to the WCWS, accompanying former Lady Vols women's athletic director Joan Cronan.
"We made the decision to come out last week when they qualified for the world series,'' said Cheek, who flew in on Friday from the SEC spring meetings in Destin, Fla. "The first thing I've noticed is we have so many Lady Vols fans here to cheer on the team, and that shows the dedication of our fans toward our teams.
"I had the opportunity to go to a team dinner earlier this season, and our young ladies do a fantastic job representing us academically and athletically.''
Ugly Numbers: After hitting .302 this season and finishing second behind Alabama in hitting in the SEC, Tennessee hitters were 9-for-50 (.180 avg.) in two WCWS games.
Sophomore Melissa Davin had the highest batting average, going 2-for-5 including a two-run homer in the loss to the Crimson Tide. Junior Kat Dotson was 2-for-6 hitting.
UT's other five hits came from Raven Chavanne (1-for-7), Lauren Gibson (1-for-6), Melissa Brown (1-for-5), Tory Lewis (1-for-5) and Ashley Andrews (1-for-3).
The Lady Vols' team ERA of 1.51 ranked second in the SEC and 10th in the nation in the regular season, but at the WCWS, sisters Ellen Renfroe and Ivy Renfroe combined for a 3.50 ERA.
Ivy Renfroe pitched 7 2/3 innings, surrendering four earned runs, six hits and four walks. Ellen Renfroe threw 5 1/3 innings, yielding three earned runs, five hits and four walks.
Bright Spot: The Lady Vols were 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts (Madison Shipman, Lewis, Dotson and Andrews), while Andrews threw out both runners attempting to steal against Tennessee in the WCWS.