GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Considering Tennessee co-head softball coach Ralph Weekly has coached all-everything UT pitcher Monica Abbott, Olympic superstar Lisa Fernandez and many other talented pitchers, his words said a lot about Ellen Renfroe’s masterful game Saturday afternoon against Florida.
It was “one of the best pitching performances” he has ever seen, Weekly said.
In her 10th start of the season, it was clear from the outset that the movement on Renfroe’s pitches was spot on. The junior from Jackson gave up just three hits and struck out a season-high 14, including six of the first seven batters she faced, in a 3-1, eight-inning victory against the third-ranked Gators (26-3, 3-2 SEC).
Renfroe’s effort was just what the doctor ordered after the sixth-ranked Lady Vols (23-5, 3-2) lost the series opener Friday night 6-5, also in eight innings. It also was what her coach had ordered, as well; the coach sitting at home 550 miles away.
“Karen (Weekly) relayed a message to me,” said Renfroe. “She said ‘Ellen, your team needs you; needs you to go out there and be tough. You’re going to get into sticky situations.’ So that was my attitude — to be tough.”
Karen Weekly is in Knoxville recuperating from gallbladder surgery.
In the bottom half of the seventh inning with the game tied at 1-1, Renfroe got into one of those sticky situations Karen Weekly was talking about but battled her way out of it. A one-out double by the Gators’ Stephanie Tofft was followed by Renfroe hitting Taylor Schwarz with a pitch. Renfroe got the second out of the inning by striking out Taylore Fuller but walked the next batter, pinch hitter Bailey Castro, to load the bases. Renfroe then got Kelsey Stewart to pop out to send the game to extra innings.
Renfroe kept telling her teammates to just get her a run and that is exactly what they did in the eighth. With Lauren Gibson on first thanks to a fisted, one-out single off Gator starting pitcher Lauren Haeger, Cheyanne Taranago hit a 3-2 pitch for a go-ahead double. Kat Dotson then followed with another RBI double, giving Renfroe an insurance run.
Tarango finished 3-for-4 on the day. In the two games against the Gators the sophomore is 4-for-7 with a home run, a double, two singles and three RBIs.
The rubber match between Florida and Tennessee is today at 1 p.m.