Tennessee's Ralph Weekly talks about Ivy and Ellen Renfroe's pitching
Saturday, it took three hours and 23 minutes before the 41st Tennessee batter of the day finally scored off North Carolina State ace Emily Weiman.
Sunday, in a matter of minutes, the very first Lady Vol batter of the game touched home plate. And the second wasn’t far behind her.
What a difference a tournament day makes.
The Lady Vols struck hard and fast in overpowering N.C. State 7-0 to advance to the NCAA softball tournament Super Regional round for the second consecutive year and sixth time in program history.
UT (47-10) will be back at Lee Stadium to face defending national champion Alabama (44-13) in a best-of-three series next weekend. At stake is a berth at the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
Dates and times will be announced Monday.
Less than 24 hours after outlasting the Wolfpack (35-20-1) and Weiman 1-0 in 11 innings, Tennessee came out the aggressor.
While the Lady Vols were recuperating, Weiman threw 111 more pitches in a 6-4 victory over James Madison that began Saturday night, was suspended by rain and finished Sunday morning.
“Our plan today,’’ said UT co-head coach Ralph Weekly, “was to make her throw as many pitches as she could in the first and second inning.
“We were also going to run more today and make things happen, instead of watching things happen.’’
Batting first as the visiting team, Raven Chavanne led off with a single, advanced on Madison Shipman’s single and scored on Kat Dotson’s single.
Shipman then stole home on the back end of Dotson’s stealing second base.
The lead soon doubled to 4-0 in the second when Chavanne doubled and Shipman ripped her 10th home run over the fence in right-center.
It was clear Weiman (33-18) didn’t have her Saturday mastery. It was equally clear the Lady Vols were on the attack, particularly at the top of the batting order.
Chavanne had two hits and scored twice to become UT’s career leader with 241 runs.
Shipman went 3-for-4, lacking only a triple to hit for the cycle, and drove in three runs.
Lauren Gibson also had her first hit of the series. UT’s leading hitter had been walked four times and hit by a pitch in the previous two regional games.
“We knew the top of our lineup didn’t do the greatest that it could (Friday or Saturday),’’ said Shipman, “so we came out ready to attack today.
“As batters we were more patient. (Weiman) puts the ball in great spots all over the place and we got ourselves into holes by swinging at her pitches.
“Today, we were more patient.’’
After Saturday’s marathon, N.C. State coach Shawn Rychcik called the top of UT’s order Murderers’ Row.
“They did some murdering today,’’ he added Sunday.
“When Raven gets on ... a ground ball off a glove and she’s on second base, and then it just starts.’’
Cheyanne Tarango also added two hits and drove in a pair of runs.
Tennessee pounded 10 hits, which was nine more than Ivy Renfroe (19-4) allowed in yet another near-flawless performance.
Friday, Renfroe shut out Longwood. Saturday, Ellen Renfroe was brilliant in 11 shutout innings. Back to Ivy on Sunday for another tour de force.
“I think they felt they had a statement to make,’’ Weekly said, “and they came out and made it.’’
Now they have to do it again to maintain a trend. Tennessee has won all five Super Regionals in which it has appeared, including two of the past three seasons.
Last year, it was SEC rival Georgia in UT’s path. This time, another familiar face.
Gibson, a senior, has played 11 games against the Tide in her career.
“Everyone knows each other’s weaknesses, their strengths, and everyone knows each other’s hitting and pitching,” she said.
“It’s a challenge. That’s for sure.’’