Two from No. 1 signing class have left Lady Vols in softball

Room for just a few of the best

Meet Tennessee's No. 1 signing class in softball

Year after year, Tennessee co-head softball coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly scour the nation in search of the top talent.

They usually get their share.

UT landed the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class in 2011 by ESPN/RISE magazine. Four of the six signees from the class are still playing a big part in the Lady Vols’ postseason plans.

Work starts today (TV: ESPNU, 2:30 p.m.) at the SEC tournament. The second-seeded Lady Vols (45-9, 22-6 SEC) play Auburn (33-20, 12-16) in the first round at Rhoades Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Recruiting has been a big reason UT is among the nation’s elite softball programs.

“I think the traditions at Tennessee of being outstanding in sports, the facilities that we’re provided, our stadium is second to none in the country, and playing in the SEC,” Ralph Weekly said this week. “I think those are the three things that really help us in recruiting.”

Sophomore pitcher Ellen Renfroe, of Jackson, was one of the key members of the No. 1-rated class.

Renfroe (13-3, 1.14 ERA) knew the expectations were high when she signed on with the Lady Vols’ top class.

“We were all really talented and competitive,” Renfroe said. “All of us wanted to play.”

Three other scholarship players from the No. 1 class with Renfroe are among the Lady Vols’ top six hitters in batting average this season.

Left fielder Melissa Davin is hitting .321 with seven homers and 26 RBIs; shortstop Madison Shipman is hitting .316 with nine homers and the team-high 58 RBIs; and center fielder Tory Lewis is hitting .311.

The two signees from the No. 1 class no longer with the Lady Vols are catcher Ashley Holmes of Whittier, Calif., and infielder Kourtny Thomas of Warner Robins, Ga. A seventh member of the class, outfielder Chelsea O’Connor of Galeton, Colo., was a walk-on.

Holmes came to UT with a shoulder injury, faced another surgery, and never played before leaving. Weekly said Holmes isn’t playing softball.

Thomas transferred to Georgia Southern for personal reasons, the coach said.

“Her mother, in her freshman year, had a medical situation,” Weekly said. “Her mom was hospitalized, she elected to be closer to home, so we released her.”

Weekly said O’Connor was free to transfer to Boston University without a release because she was a walk-on.

“Our intentions are for them to graduate (from UT),” Ralph Weekly said, “and I think we have a pretty good return rate.”

All three of UT’s No. 2 rated class from 2012 are still with the program: first baseman/designated player Cheyanne Tarango, catcher Hannah Akamine, and pitcher Haley Fagan, who is redshirting.

UT appears to have another outstanding incoming class for 2013, although no rankings have been released. Leading the group is pitcher Erin Gabriel of Poland, Ohio. Others in the class are pitcher Rainey Gaffin of Thornton, Colo., power-hitter Lexi Overstreet of Buford, Ga.; and pitcher Anna Renfroe of Jackson, younger sister of the Lady Vols’ Ellen and Ivy Renfroe.

Weekly knows you can’t compete in the SEC without the best talent.

“I think that the SEC tournament is second only to the (Women’s) College World Series for tournaments because the other major (conferences) don’t have tournaments,” he said. “We’re going head-to-head with very good teams who we’ve already gone head-to-head with three times during the season, so it’s just a huge challenge. I endorse the SEC tournament. I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for our league to showcase its softball talent on a national stage with ESPN.”

Dave Link is a freelance contributor.

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Comments » 21

Southland writes:

glad we have one great team out of all the sports teams at UT

SummittsCourt writes:

Tennessee will be the first SEC team to win a National Title in Softball and this year could be the year! Go Lady Vols!

AlexAndersonAAradio writes:

Anna Renfroe huh? I didn't know another sister was coming up. I wonder how she compares to her 2 sisters. Anyone know?

VolunteerLifer writes:

Is this article really about the two that left, or the others that stayed? And isn't this article also about the multi-year evidence of great recruiting for this program? Then why the misleading, manipulative headline?

Tennball writes:

"Two from No. 1 signing class have left Lady Vols"
.
This headline gives the appearance of problems, especially after the articles on recruiting for Lady Vols basketball. In no way does it reflect the article’s intention. I really wish KNS would not play reading games to draw in site clicks. Journalism used to be about the search for truth, not deceptive draws. My first thought, without reading the article, was the woman’s basketball team was hit again. Yes, in this case it worked for them but lost a bit more respect and trust. Sometimes you win a battle but lose the war.

AlexAndersonAAradio writes:

Who is Dave Link anyway? He maybe a newbie cutting teeth.... I thought the same thing as most of you. I thought a couple of our best Lady Vol basketball players were leaving.

bunker_hill#300251 writes:

I agree with the previous two posts. Headline is awful!!

volstudent24 writes:

in response to AlexAndersonAAradio:

Anna Renfroe huh? I didn't know another sister was coming up. I wonder how she compares to her 2 sisters. Anyone know?

Anna pitches for JCA but she was recruited as an infielder. She comes from a family of athletes and I'm sure they will be able to use her. Possible replacement for 2B after Lauren graduates. She won't see any action in the pitching circle but still a very good softball player.

RashaadSalabeb writes:

in response to AlexAndersonAAradio:

Anna Renfroe huh? I didn't know another sister was coming up. I wonder how she compares to her 2 sisters. Anyone know?

Will probably be a utility player.

bunker_hill#300251 writes:

in response to AlexAndersonAAradio:

Who is Dave Link anyway? He maybe a newbie cutting teeth.... I thought the same thing as most of you. I thought a couple of our best Lady Vol basketball players were leaving.

He's a freelance guy that the KNS uses quite often and has covered the softball team before, so he's not foreign to the team or sport. I doubt he's the one who wrote the headline though...

Tennball writes:

“Two from No. 1 signing class have left Lady Vols in softball”
.
I really can’t believe you took the time to change the headline and all you could think of was the above. How about…
.
“Even after losing two, Lady Vols No. 1 signing class remains strong”

ModelMaker writes:

I was not much of a softball fan untill I watched the Lady Vols play. I really enjoyed watching them play. Very impressed with the players and coaches. I will be watching them play in the tournaments. Go Lady Vols.

chl1958 writes:

I guess this is the missing Link to the Negative Nellies at Knoxville News Cynical. Horrible Headline,Good Article.

voloffaith writes:

Go Lady Vols!!! Beat the tigerettes today advance one game at a time.....uhhh that's how they play them buddy one at a time.....You know I mean keep focus solely to the team in the other dugout that day...

asif (Inactive) writes:

I would like to know who "wrote" the headline. Can someone from th staff get us that information?

gwbask writes:

in response to VolunteerLifer:

Is this article really about the two that left, or the others that stayed? And isn't this article also about the multi-year evidence of great recruiting for this program? Then why the misleading, manipulative headline?

That's exactly what I thought. The coaches and players are doing a tremendous job!!

voloffaith writes:

Headlines that are controversial promote reading and responses...... or possibly that equates to $$$$......nah it isn't so in today's cyber media world....

volboy81 writes:

in response to volstudent24:

Anna pitches for JCA but she was recruited as an infielder. She comes from a family of athletes and I'm sure they will be able to use her. Possible replacement for 2B after Lauren graduates. She won't see any action in the pitching circle but still a very good softball player.

Doesn't Anna play at Trinity Christian and not Jackson Christian? I know both Ivy & Ellen were at Trinity...and does anyone know whatever happened to Megan Givens from GPS or why Jackie Baird from GPS went to ETSU after committing to UT?

AllforTenn writes:

in response to VolunteerLifer:

Is this article really about the two that left, or the others that stayed? And isn't this article also about the multi-year evidence of great recruiting for this program? Then why the misleading, manipulative headline?

Bad taste by KNS. Not unusual at all.

ps11824 writes:

AlexAndersonAAradio writes:
Who is Dave Link anyway? He maybe a newbie cutting teeth.... I thought the same thing as most of you. I thought a couple of our best Lady Vol basketball players were leaving. ]]]

Hey, hey, DO NOT for one minute think Dave Link is a 'newby. ' Dave's a very fine, competent writer. He's been around way longer than many of you have been posting. He tells it like it is AND he DOES NOT write the headers.

Reporters seldom, if ever, write the headlines. Besides, there's the facts in the article. Read it. You don't have to like the headline. It fits. So, where's the problem?

Just don't be jumping on Dave Link. He is a good guy and a good reporter.

Do you guys ever stop to think how hateful you are sounding when you unfairly condemn these people? People, just like us. Not perfect, just human.

thebadsamaritan writes:

in response to volboy81:

Doesn't Anna play at Trinity Christian and not Jackson Christian? I know both Ivy & Ellen were at Trinity...and does anyone know whatever happened to Megan Givens from GPS or why Jackie Baird from GPS went to ETSU after committing to UT?

Anna plays for Trinity Christian Academy (TCA) just like her older sisters did. All three are class acts and the TCA family is proud of all three.

Not sure what JCA is, but there is a JCS: Jackson Christian School.

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