After struggles, Ellen Renfroe back on track

OKLAHOMA CITY — Ellen Renfroe was stunned, taken aback, and not sure how to react.

Her drop ball against LSU on April 15 had just hit the top of the backstop, and Tennessee softball's sophomore All-American pitcher was at a loss to understand why or how that happened.

"A lot of pitching is mental, and when you start thinking too much, you get in trouble,'' Renfroe said Wednesday. "On the outside, I tried to play it off, like it was no big deal.

"But on the inside, as technical as I am, I'm thinking this has got to be fixed, and I tightened up.''

Renfroe managed just two complete games in nine starts prior to firing a three-hitter against Georgia in NCAA tournament Super Regionals last Sunday. The Bulldogs used those three hits to score a 1-0 victory, but UT rallied to win the decisive third game, 2-1.

Co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly breathed a sigh of relief; the Lady Vols (52-13) were headed their fifth Women's College World Series. Just as importantly, Ellen Renfroe had found her groove.

"We've got to have Ellen at the world series,'' Ralph Weekly said last Sunday. "Ivy is pitching fantastic, but I believe our edge is that we have two great pitchers.''

The Weeklys used both Renfroe sisters in Thursday night's 5-3 loss to second-seeded Alabama in both teams' WCWS opener at Hall of Fame Stadium.

By the time Ellen Renfroe entered in relief in the first inning, it was too late. UT was down 3-0 and runners were on first and second, and after walking two to force another run across, she retired the next eight straight.

The Tide got to Ellen Renfroe for a run in the fourth inning with a one-out double that skirted under second baseman Lauren Gibson's glove and an RBI single up the middle before the Weekly's re-entered starter Ivy Renfroe with Alabama up 5-2.

The seventh-seeded Lady Vols will play a WCWS elimination game at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday (TV: ESPN2) against 11th-seeded Oregon (44-17), a 3-1 loser against third-seeded Arizona State (52-9), needing to win four games in two days to advance to the best-of-three championship series.

Pressure has never bothered Ellen Renfroe — perfection has.

While big sister Ivy relies on her 70 mph fastball, Ellen Renfroe is a control pitcher, painting corners with a variety of pitches at varying speeds. Even with her struggles, Ellen Renfroe entered Thursday night 27-4 with a 1.18 ERA.

"Ellen can throw seven different pitches, and I mean pitches that do seven different things,'' Karen Weekly said. "Rise, changeup, knuckle, drop, curve, fastball and drop-knuckle, and she throws them all at different speeds.''

But until last Sunday's Super Regional performance against Georgia, Ellen Renfroe was off kilter.

Until, that is, she caved in and took some advice from Ivy, who had similar location issues as a sophomore last season.

"Ivy told me to just put everything out of my mind, and just be a competitor for Christ,'' Ellen Renfroe said. "Instinctively, I'd wanted everything perfect, and it was hard to take her advice knowing Ivy is a different kind a pitcher, and as a person, she's always been able to just roll with things.

"Sunday, I just stayed relaxed and kept my mind clear, and it was like, 'Ivy, you were right.' "

Ivy Renfroe was as relieved as anyone to see her younger sister back on track.

A week before, after allowing two runs over 27 innings in the regional, Ivy Renfroe sat at the victorious postgame podium wearing a blank expression.

The Lady Vols had won the regional, but Ivy was concerned for Ellen, who hadn't gone beyond the third inning in any of her regional starts.

"That's my sister, so of course I'm going to be concerned and feel for her,'' Ivy Renfroe said. "But I know Ellen, and she'll deal with it in her own way.''

As it turned out, Ellen dealt with it Ivy's way.

"The thing we noticed with them, even when they were in high school, is that they're at their best protecting one another in relief,'' Ralph Weekly said. "With sisters, it's a different dynamic, but I wouldn't trade them for anyone.''

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Comments » 9

frblalack writes:

Gotta love Ralph Weekly! He is spot on! We have the two best pitchers and finest young ladies representing Tennessee...I wouldn't trade them for anyone! Whether it's Ellen or Ivy, WE have two of the best!

All Vols - Love my Lady Vols - Believe in Victory

AlexAndersonAAradio writes:

I don't know what game Mike Griffin was watching but Ellen had trouble in the beginning, settled down, then had more problems and Ivy had to reenter. I didn't read the article so maybe there is something I'm missing to this. It was too bad, I've never seen the 2 girls struggle at the same time. The team has showed a lot of grit when they've had their backs to the wall. I don't think that will change and I think one of the girls will pitch real well next game.

AlexAndersonAAradio writes:

in response to frblalack:

Gotta love Ralph Weekly! He is spot on! We have the two best pitchers and finest young ladies representing Tennessee...I wouldn't trade them for anyone! Whether it's Ellen or Ivy, WE have two of the best!

All Vols - Love my Lady Vols - Believe in Victory

I agree. I think this girls are the heart of UT sports right now.

BambooBoy writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

voloffaith writes:

in response to BambooBoy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Wow ewe are consistent.....consistently sad....and we all know it is on purpose cos ewe need the attention...you only been born a few days as this poster child.....FYI you are going to need new material as this line of posting will get harder to come up with creative comments as you go along.....

On topic, Ivy gave the best advice for correcting daily problems....look to Jesus...

hcjournals#206623 writes:

Hang on tight.....

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to AlexAndersonAAradio:

I agree. I think this girls are the heart of UT sports right now.

One thing is for sure, the Lady Vols softball team is the only team that played or is playing for a national Championship this school year.

Go Lady Vols!

volboy81 writes:

in response to frblalack:

Gotta love Ralph Weekly! He is spot on! We have the two best pitchers and finest young ladies representing Tennessee...I wouldn't trade them for anyone! Whether it's Ellen or Ivy, WE have two of the best!

All Vols - Love my Lady Vols - Believe in Victory

Right on, Ralph! I wouldnt trade either one for anyone either. The Renfroe sisters are complete class and character. Anna is too. Cant wait to see her in orange next year. This entire team is a great group of young women who represent UT and Tennessee VERY well. All Vol fans should be proud of them.
GO LADY VOLS! BEAT OREGON!

ps11824 writes:

SummittsCourt, all our teams have competed for the prize,; we simply have not gotten there yet. BUT, that doesn't mean we are not still running toward the mark.

I believe we will eventually get there. Our University is facing firey darts from every direction these days. It almost looks as if the nation is trying to bring it down. We will endure. We will rise from the ashes. Do not count out the Tennessee Volunteers.

You know we got our nickname from the real volunteers who cleared the way for our territory in the first place. We will prevail.

Go Big Orange!!!

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