Season-ending injury to Erin Gabriel has hurt Lady Vols' pitching rotation

Freshman pitcher out for rest of season

Tennessee softball players, from left, Haley Tobler, Melissa Brown, Jennifer Burroughs, Erin Gabriel, and Whitney Hammond at the Volscars on Monday, April 15, 2013. 

(Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Photo by Saul Young, 2013 Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee softball players, from left, Haley Tobler, Melissa Brown, Jennifer Burroughs, Erin Gabriel, and Whitney Hammond at the Volscars on Monday, April 15, 2013. (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

When the Tennessee softball season began, the Lady Vols coaches found themselves in the enviable position of having four quality and dependable pitchers.

Sisters Ellen and Ivy Renfroe were expected to provide leadership again, while freshman Erin Gabriel also was being counted on to contribute some, as was sophomore infielder Cheyanne Tarango on occasion.

Although the pitching has held up well enough to give Tennessee (43-9) a No. 2 seed for the SEC tournament in Lexington, Ky., not all the pitchers and other players have, at least physically.

Gabriel (5-1, 2.66 ERA) made her last appearance on April 2. The two-time Gatorade softball player of the year in the state of Ohio suffered a torn labrum in her hip that required surgery and is out for the rest of the season. Tarango (6-1, 1.47 ERA), meanwhile, is filling in at first base because starter Melissa Davin suffered a hand injury against Missouri last weekend and is likely sidelined for the SEC tournament.

As a result, Tennessee is trying to adjust to the proverbial curveball the team has been thrown. The Lady Vols play 10th-seeded South Carolina (32-22) in the quarterfinals on Thursday (TV: ESPN, 7:30 p.m.). The Gamecocks won 6-3 on Wednesday night against seventh-seeded Kentucky (38-18).

“We planned to use at least three pitchers at the start of the year, and then Erin got hurt and that really affected us,” said co-head coach Ralph Weekly on Tuesday. “But with Davin’s injury, I had to put Cheyanne at first base, so she wasn’t available to pitch and I probably could have used her Sunday.”

The Lady Vols lost the final regular season game to Missouri, 12-8, allowing Florida to win the SEC regular season title. It was third loss in the last four games for the Lady Vols after winning 19 consecutive games.

Ivy Renfroe, a senior, is 17-3 with a 1.85 ERA. Junior Ellen Renfroe is 15-4 with a 2.03 ERA. Both also have one save each.

With some quality teams in the SEC tournament, Weekly knows the Lady Vols will have to be pitching well.

“I feel like this is a very good team, but they don’t call this game fast-hit or fast-run, they call it fast-pitch, and we have to have good pitching,” he said.

If so, Tennessee can remain focused on trying to get back to Oklahoma City for the College Softball World Series. However, first the Lady Vols have to get through a challenging SEC tournament.

“The goal has been the same since August — the goal is to win the national championship,” said senior third baseman Raven Chavanne, who was named Wednesday along with teammate Lauren Gibson as one of 10 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. “But we’re not looking ahead, not even looking to the regionals next week. We’re focused on the SEC tournament right now.”

John Shearer is a freelance contributor.

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Comments » 15

vol98champ writes:

Ole Mo has shifted sides the last 4 games. Hope we get it back this week. The last Missouri game was very perplexing.

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

I find it disappointing that after tracking Erin's performance all year and noticing that she hadn't pitched since April 2, I e-mailed someone in the Lady Vol softball office asking about her status and 5 weeks later I get the official word. I am looking forward to great things from her in the future.

SummittsCourt writes:

That explains the last game on Sunday a little bit.

The Renfro sisters are good enough to win the SEC tournament and even the NCAA tournament.

Let's go Lady Vols!

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

That explains the last game on Sunday a little bit.

The Renfro sisters are good enough to win the SEC tournament and even the NCAA tournament.

Let's go Lady Vols!

S C,

You said it...............yes, Ellen and Ivy ARE good enough to do just that, but they have to get back to form once again. ( Namely, by getting ahead on batters to prevent walking a bunch of them. )

It would be nice to not have to deal with Kentucky playing on their home field, although South South Carolina can be tough. As I write this, it's 4-1 S C right now.

Go Lady Vols

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

S C,

You said it...............yes, Ellen and Ivy ARE good enough to do just that, but they have to get back to form once again. ( Namely, by getting ahead on batters to prevent walking a bunch of them. )

It would be nice to not have to deal with Kentucky playing on their home field, although South South Carolina can be tough. As I write this, it's 4-1 S C right now.

Go Lady Vols

I think it is a matter of confidence for the whole team. Somehow it has been shaken a bit, especially in the field and pitching.

It's SC tonight so lets go Lady Vols! Get the mojo back!

vol98champ writes:

in response to snowpeapod#263184:

I find it disappointing that after tracking Erin's performance all year and noticing that she hadn't pitched since April 2, I e-mailed someone in the Lady Vol softball office asking about her status and 5 weeks later I get the official word. I am looking forward to great things from her in the future.

I started to comment on Erin's injury and lack of information, but I thought that I had just missed something. A red shirt possibility?

voloffaith writes:

in response to vol98champ:

I started to comment on Erin's injury and lack of information, but I thought that I had just missed something. A red shirt possibility?

Day b4 a gentleman corrected me and said shoulder and not redshirting.

voloffaith writes:

865 it is a labrum in the hip.........now we all know correctly what the issue was/is.....not getting hammered and not shoulder.....ok Lady Vols beat the roosterettes!!!

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

in response to vol98champ:

I started to comment on Erin's injury and lack of information, but I thought that I had just missed something. A red shirt possibility?

According to someone who had spoke with Erin's mother there will be no redshirt. I think it's sad but as the saying goes, it is what it is.

Kay_Pasa writes:

Snowpeapod - Don't be offended that you didn't get a reply from the department regarding this gal. There are privacy laws in place to protect personal health information. It's not their place to respond to every inquiry that comes down the pike.

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

in response to Kay_Pasa:

Snowpeapod - Don't be offended that you didn't get a reply from the department regarding this gal. There are privacy laws in place to protect personal health information. It's not their place to respond to every inquiry that comes down the pike.

I understand that they can't respond to every email they get but a simple "No, she isn't being redshirted" wouldn't interfere with any privacy laws. I have been trying to purchase a softball press guide since early December of last year and this same contact person has provided no help. Maybe that's another reason for my irritation.

865fan writes:

in response to voloffaith:

865 it is a labrum in the hip.........now we all know correctly what the issue was/is.....not getting hammered and not shoulder.....ok Lady Vols beat the roosterettes!!!

I sit corrected also. I actually do now remember that it was in the hip, but as I typed my reply to your earlier post I somehow had shoulder on the brain.
And to SnowPea,I am not in Ohio. I saw Erin's mom in Knoxville when she came for Auburn series. I often sit with a friend who has a daughter on team. That's also how I knew about injury to Erin.

865fan writes:

SnowPeaPod,
Are you sure softball has a press guide? I ask only because I have softball season tickets as I do for football and both men and women basketball. I always get guides for those sports but have never gotten a softball guide.
I would agree that if there is not one your contact person should have at least told you that.

voloffaith writes:

in response to 865fan:

I sit corrected also. I actually do now remember that it was in the hip, but as I typed my reply to your earlier post I somehow had shoulder on the brain.
And to SnowPea,I am not in Ohio. I saw Erin's mom in Knoxville when she came for Auburn series. I often sit with a friend who has a daughter on team. That's also how I knew about injury to Erin.

Not a problem...now ladies pluck them cockettes in bluegrass state tonight and get momentum....

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

in response to 865fan:

SnowPeaPod,
Are you sure softball has a press guide? I ask only because I have softball season tickets as I do for football and both men and women basketball. I always get guides for those sports but have never gotten a softball guide.
I would agree that if there is not one your contact person should have at least told you that.

Yes, I am certain they have softball press guides as I have the 2007 and 2009 guides here in front of me in Ohio. I have others at our condo in west Knoxville. My contact person,who I will not disclose, told me they hadn't received them from the printer yet and that was when I went to his office in January. I even gave him my cell phone number to contact me when they arrived.I also have season tickets for both basketball programs

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