Press conference after win over Texas
OKLAHOMA CITY — A senior’s home run, a freshman’s clutch walk, and not one, but two Renfroes. It was just enough.
Tennessee beat Texas 2-1 Sunday night to advance to the Women’s College World Series championship series for the second time in program history.
“It’s just very surreal,’’ said winning pitcher Ivy Renfroe. “Oh, my goodness — we’re going to play in the championship series.’’
The Lady Vols (52-10) started the NCAA softball bracket as the No. 7 seed among 64 teams. But now they’re in the final two.
Their opponent - No. 1 seed Oklahoma. The Sooners beat Washington 6-2 on Sunday night. The best-of-three series between Tennessee and Oklahoma will begin Monday at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.
“We’re not going to be the favorites,’’ Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “Everybody’s telling us Oklahoma is like the ‘27 Yankees. I think they’re pretty darn awesome.
“But we’re going to compete. Let’s put it that way.’’
One night after a tense 1-0 win over Washington, Tennessee found itself back in another pressure-cooker at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
Lauren Gibson, the third batter of the game, stroked a solo home run off Texas ace Blaire Luna (31-7) in the top of the first inning.
Then the Lady Vol bats went silent as Luna proved dominating. She finished with a three-hitter, striking out 12.
But the Renfroe sisters were even better.
Ivy (22-4) pitched 4 2/3 shutout innings, allowing two hits and striking out six Longhorns.
Ellen Renfroe, the winner in Tennessee’s WCWS wins Thursday and Saturday, entered in the bottom of the fifth with Longhorns and second and third and two out. She got Brejae Washington to ground out and end the threat.
Gibson’s first-inning home run grew in stature as the innings passed.
Ironically, Gibson’s first career home run in 2010 was also off Luna.
“Blaire Luna’s had a great four years,’’ Gibson said, “I was just going for something that was in my zone.’’
Her zone, it turned out, extended to the stands beyond the left-field fence.
“That was awesome,’’ Ivy Renfroe said, “because I know how good Blaire Luna is. For us to have one already on the board ... we’ve just got to do our job and hang in there.’’
They hung in there until Gibson scored in the sixth inning on a bases-loaded walk to freshman Lexi Overstreet, pinch-hitting in her WCWS debut.
Overstreet worked a full count, then got the walk — and the 2-0 lead that proved critical.
Ellen Renfroe was tough as nails in the final 2 1/3 innings, except for one mistake.
Texas (51-10) broke up the shutout on Lindsey Stephens’ towering home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning.
That roused the Texas faithful in the crowd, but to no avail.
Renfroe got the final three outs, retiring the top of Texas’ lineup to end the game and start the celebration.
The Lady Vols are in the championship series for only the second time in six WCWS appearances. They also made it in 2007, losing to Arizona in the title round.
“That was so long ago I almost can’t remember it,’’ said Ralph Weekly.
“It’ll be tremendous,’’ said Texas coach Connie Clark of the Tennessee-Oklahoma finale.
“There are a lot of great athletes on both sides. That’s what you ultimately want to see, the best two match up.
“Those two clubs, with their experience and veterans they have, that makes those two the favorites.’’
It’s the finale that the Lady Vols had in mind when they started school in August.
“In my four years,’’ Ivy Renfroe said, “we’ve had some really good teams.
“For sure, I think this is our best team. Speed, power, defense, it’s all there.’’
“This,’’ said Gibson, “is what we’ve worked for all year.
“I can’t really explain the feeling.’’