Lady Vol softball sweeps Kentucky

No. 17/21 Tennessee (23-7, 5-3 SEC) swept a double-header from Kentucky (19-12, 4-6 SEC) this week to move into second place in the SEC East standings. The first win gave Tennessee its 200th SEC win in its 15-year history, but it took 10 innings to earn it.

Two freshmen stood out for the Lady Vols, and Co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly definitely noticed.

"Kat Dotson and Raven Chavanne are two amazing freshmen," Weekly said. "First off, they're the two fastest kids on our team, and second off, they can both hit it to the fence in addition to being able to slap it, and they steal a lot of bases. They're everything you want in a young ball player."

Chavanne was 6-10 on the day with two stolen bases. Dotson was 7-8 with three swiped bags.

In the first game Kentucky scored a run in each of the first two innings while the Lady Vols kept leaving multiple runners on base. Sophomore pitcher Cat Hosfield was able to hold Kentucky, who beat No. 5 Alabama in Lexington earlier in the season, to just those two runs in her innings of work.

Tennessee's offense finally got going in the fifth inning. Dotson led off with a single, and after the Lady Vols loaded the bases with a walk and hit-by-pitch, freshman second baseman Lauren Gibson hit a sacrifice fly to center field.

A one-out triple by Chavanne got the Big Orange started in the bottom of the sixth inning. After junior center fielder Kelly Grieve struck out looking, Dotson singled in Chavanne to tie the game at two. Neither team could manage much after that until the 10th inning.

Kentucky senior shortstop Molly Johnson blasted a lead-off homer to put the Wildcats on top, 3-2, at the beginning of the 10th inning. Freshman pitcher Ivy Renfroe induced two quick fly outs, and then struck out Kentucky's final batter. Tennessee, on the verge of losing, would respond.

Senior designated player Nicole Kajitani drew a walk, sophomore shortstop Ashley Andrews put down a bunt that was mishandled by Kentucky's catcher for an error, and then Chavanne reached on another error, this time by the second baseman, to load the bases with no outs. Grieve hit a sacrifice fly to left field to tie the game at 3-3. Dotson immediately singled up the middle to send a run across the plate and give Tennessee the 4-3 win.

The situation had Weekly thinking about Tennessee's previous games with Georgia.

"Well, I was thinking that Georgia came back on us, and here's our chance to come back," Weekly said. "We challenged our kids, and they did it. They got it done."

Dotson knew she needed to step up for Tennessee and was happy she could get the win for the team.

"I was really excited and glad that I came through for my team," Dotson said. "I knew we were struggling just to finish the game with one run. I just knew that it was my time and just relaxed and trusted my hands."

In the second game, Ivy Renfroe got the start in the circle. After hitting the first batter with a pitch, she quickly got out of a jam with two Kentucky batters on base. Tennessee's Kelly Grieve sent a one-out single over the third-base line, and then easily stole second. After Dotson saw a few pitches from Kentucky's Rachel Riley, she singled through the middle into center field and put the Lady Vols up 1-0.

Kentucky made the game interesting in the top of the third inning, placing runners on first and second with only one out. However, sophomore third baseman Jessica Spigner corralled a grounder heading up the third baseline, backed up to step on her base, and threw out the runner at first for the inning-ending double play.

Chavanne singled up the middle to get Tennessee on base with no outs. Grieve then immediately singled into left field. Dotson continued her amazing hitting, singling with a bunt to load the bases. Spigner hit a grounder to the second baseman, but the Wildcat's throw home did not catch Chavanne in time.

Sophomore designated player Shelby Burchell singled over first base to allow Grieve and Dotson to score for a Tennessee 4-0 lead.

The Lady Vol offense heated up again in the fourth after Ashley Andrews singled and then reached second on an error. Raven Chavanne singled to the pitcher, putting runners on the corners, and then promptly stole second base. After Grieve grounded out to second base, Dotson continued to look unstoppable by doubling in two more runs for a 6-0 lead.

Tennessee coasted to a 7-1 win from there.

Weekly thought his club was ready and motivated to get the sweep after a tough first game.

"Well, I think that the first game was an amazing softball game that went ten innings, Weekly said. "We were fortunate to come out on top and had the motivation coming out the second game with the win under our belt. I think our kids jumped early and played well early and were able to get the sweep."

Weekly likes where the team is right now.

"I think we're about where we need to be right now," Weekly said. "We're in the upper middle half of the conference, and we're fighting for good playoff seeding." Tennessee's next outing will be against Ole Miss in Knoxville on Saturday. A double-header starts at 1 p.m. Eastern at Lee Softball Stadium.

Sunday's series finale at 1 p.m. Eastern will be broadcast live on Fox Sports South.

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