Tennessee press conference after win over Washington
OKLAHOMA CITY — One after another, they had their shots. One after another, they whiffed or popped up or tapped out.
“It’s all about timely hitting.’’ Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly said Saturday, “and it took us a while to get that timely hit.’’
It took until two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
That’s when Tory Lewis slapped a single through the middle of the Washington infield to bring home Whitney Hammond for a 1-0 win over the Huskies in the Women’s College World Series.
Despite leaving 13 runners on base, despite stranding the go-ahead run at third base five times, despite coming up empty on three bases-loaded opportunities, the No. 7 seed Lady Vols (51-10) are 2-0 in the WCWS.
They’ll be back at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium on Sunday at 7 p.m. (TV: ESPN2) to meet the survivor of a losers’ bracket pool that includes Florida, Nebraska and Texas.
Top seed Oklahoma is 2-0 on the opposite bracket after pounding Texas 10-2.
On a clear, hot afternoon, Friday night’s tornado drama seemed all but forgotten.
“Yesterday I was pretty traumatized,’’ said shortstop Madison Shipman. “But once the game started it completely left my mind.’’
Lewis’ heroics were possible thanks to unrelenting tenacity from pitcher Ellen Renfroe (19-4) for seven innings.
Renfroe allowed a leadoff single to Victoria Hayward but then only one more single. She struck out 10, hit one batter and didn’t walk any.
Only four Huskies reached base. None touched second.
“The way Ellen was pitching, I knew she was gonna hold ’em
until we got a run,’’ Weekly said.
Possibly, sister Ivy Renfroe would have gotten the start against Washington (44-16) had Friday’s scheduled game not been postponed because of the tornado that swept through the area, leaving nine dead.
Ellen Renfroe pitched a four-hitter against Florida on Thursday. The day off left her available for Washington.
“We felt Ellen was a better match up for Washington,’’ Weekly said. “I’ve seen a lot of toughness out of Ellen.’’
He saw 11 scoreless innings out of Ellen in a 1-0 win over North Carolina State in the Knoxville regional. By comparison, Saturday was a light day.
“Same as the N.C. State game,’’ said Shipman, “we kept telling her, ‘Hold ’em, hold ’em, we’ll get one across eventually.’
“We did keep putting pressure on ‘em and eventually we did find a way.’’
Renfroe focused on her job, not her hitters’ struggles.
“Just continuing to have a presence on the mound for my team,’’ she said.
“The Washington hitters definitely made that difficult. I think after the game, I finally took a deep breath for the first time all day.’’
The Huskies hit several balls hard, sending all three of Tennessee’s outfielders to the fence to make catches.
“We had a lot of balls squared up, hit to the wall,’’ said Washington’s Hayward. “We were one ball dropping our way from winning that game.’’
The ball that finally dropped was off Lewis’ bat.
Cheyanne Tarango led off the seventh with a single off All-American Kaitlin Inglesby (23-8), then yielded to pinch-runner Hammond. Melissa Brown’s sacrifice bunt moved Hammond to second.
Pinch-hitter Rainey Gaffin walked. Hannah Akamine lined a shot back at Inglesby, who made the snag and tried to double Gaffin off first.
Gaffin was back in time, and when the throw was bobbled by first baseman Hooch Fagaly, Hammond alertly raced to third base.
Then again, the Lady Vols had been racing to third base all day.
“We had some great hitters up there with the bases loaded or runners in scoring position,’’ Weekly said, “and this game is a game of failure. If you’re successful three out of 10 times you’re a star in this game.’’
Lewis was successful, capping the first three-hit game of her career in dramatic style.
“I started celebrating,’’ she said, “before I got to first base and (first-base coach) Mark (Weekly) said, ‘Touch the base, touch the base!’
“I felt like somebody was bound to take it home for us and get that timely hit and there it was.’’
Follow Mike Strange on Twitter at Strangemike44.