The No. 22 LSU softball team put up two runs during the seventh inning, but lost a 4-2 decision to No. 10 Tennessee in the middle game of a SEC series Saturday as 1,609 fans gathered at Lee Stadium.
The Tigers (29-12, 11-5 SEC) were able to bring the tying run to the plate, but Tennessee's Ellen Renfroe recorded back-to-back strikeouts from the bullpen to record her third save of the game.
Ashley Applegate ignited the rally with a one-out walk followed by pinch hitter Kailey McCasland's single to left field. After the Lady Vols (34-9, 15-6 SEC) made the pitching change, Tammy Wray jumped on the first offering and cranked a RBI single to cut the LSU deficit down to 4-1.
With runners on the corners, pinch runner Simone Heyward and McCasland executed a double steal to perfection to bring LSU back to 4-2.
"Our offense did a good job of continuing to battle," head coach Beth Torina said. "I felt a lot different than I did after last Sunday's game at Alabama. I was happy that we continued to fight hard, and we showed that by scoring in the seventh inning. Alex, Kailey and Simone all did a great job of coming in off the bench and stepping up. Those kids are so anxious to get into the game when their number was called, and I was happy to see them all bring positive things to the inning. Hopefully, we'll be able to carry those things into tomorrow's game."
Ivy Renfroe fired six innings of no-hit ball and tallied three strikeouts against four walks. She improved to 12-6 on the season. Tennessee has emerged with wins during 12 of the last 15 meetings in the series with the Tigers dating back to the 2008 season.
The Lady Vols garnered all four of their runs in the first inning. Ravan Chavanne and Kat Dotson sparked the frame with a walk and a bunt single. In a matter of two pitches, Madison Shipman and Lauren Gibson smoked consecutive RBI singles through the right side to vault Tennessee to a 2-0 edge.
With runners on second and third base, the Lady Vols crossed the plate with their third run via a Brittany Mack wild pitch. Melissa Brown added a RBI ground out to make it 4-0.
Mack would settle in to post five consecutive zeroes and scatter four hits the rest of the way. The senior right-hander picked up five strikeouts versus one walk. She was dealt her third straight setback and fell to 12-7 for the season.
"I wish we would have been able to stop the bleeding earlier in that first inning," Torina said. "Brittany did an excellent job of keeping the Tennessee hitters off-balanced after the first inning, but I wish she could have made some better pitches to start the game. One-run, two-run innings we can bounce back from, but four-run innings are really hard to have an answer for. When I went out to the mound to try and change the momentum down 2-0, I felt that if someone could have stepped up at that point then we could have been in a tie ball game at the end of it."
The series finale is slated for Sunday at 3 p.m. with live audio and live stats inside the Geaux Zone on LSUsports.net. The game also will be carried live Country Legends 104.9 FM in the Baton Rouge area with Patrick Wright and Matt Dunaway set to call the action. ESPN and ESPN3.com will televise the game live with Beth Mowins and Jessica Mendoza serving as the broadcast team.