KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Behind a gem of a pitching performance from sophomore Ellen Weaver and offensive firepower from junior Kara Dill and sophomore Ginny Carroll the Kentucky softball team earned a 5-3 upset of No. 9/10 Tennessee on the Lady Vols’ home field to begin a three-game series Friday night. The win marks the third upset of a top-25 ranked team in UK’s last five games and is the second consecutive week UK has earned a road victory to begin a conference series.
Weaver was outstanding in her first conference start of the season as she worked five innings. She allowed just six hits and three runs, with just one coming in as earned. She struck out three and walked just one. Senior Chanda Bell tossed two innings of relief to earn her second save of the season with a trio of strikeouts and yielding a mere two hits.
Kentucky improves to 16-17 on the season and 3-4 in Southeastern Conference action. Tennessee falls to 25-8 and 7-5 in league play. UT’s starting pitcher, Ellen Renfroe, dropped just her second loss of the season after beginning 18-1 to start the year.
Dill and Carroll led the offensive effort for the Wildcats as UK notched nine total hits in the win. Dill was 3-for-4 with a single, double and triple to mark the third time this season she has achieved that feat. Carroll was 2-for-4 with a double and a home run while driving in a run and scoring twice.
Kentucky plated three scores in the top of the third to go ahead 3-1. Carroll opened the inning by lacing a double off the glove of UT’s third baseman. Dill then smacked a single up the middle and Carroll was able to scoot all the way home for the inning’s first score. The swift base runner moved to second on the throw home to advance into scoring position.
Senior Brittany Cervantes then delivered an RBI-single into the right-center gap to give the visitor’s their first lead of the game. UK then logged its fourth consecutive hit as senior Rachel Riley placed a ball into left field and Cervantes was able to move to third when the fielder allowed the ball to roll beyond her. UK’s senior third baseman would come home when Tennessee’s pitcher, Ellen Renfroe, misplayed a grounder back to the pitching circle for the final run of the inning and a two-run edge.
Carroll stretched UK’s lead to 4-1 with her team-leading fifth home run of the season with a solo shot over the left field fence with two outs in the top of the sixth.
After Tennessee bridged the gap to just a one-run lead in the home half of the sixth, Kentucky extended the lead back to two runs with a tally in the top of the seventh. Riley led off the stanza by reaching by way of a walk. She’d move to second on a wild pitch and then come home on consecutive singles from Weaver and Krystal Smith for the 5-3 edge.
Tennessee made things interesting in the home half of the seventh in its last-ditch comeback effort. The Lady Vols loaded the bases with no outs behind an infield single and consecutive walks. Bell induced a grounder to Smith at second who smartly tossed it home and then catcher Griffin Joiner’s heads-up play enabled her to whip it to first to complete a game-changing double play. With runners in scoring position and now two outs, Bell struck out the final out for her third K of the game to escape the jam and preserve the Wildcat victory.
Dill opened the game and swung on the first pitch dipping a ball over the center fielder’s head and rounding all the way to third for a triple. Riley logged a one-out hit by pitch to place runners on the corners. A groundout back to the pitcher enabled the runners to move into scoring position, but the inning ended without UK pushing across a run with a pop-up to the pitcher.
Tennessee plated a score in the home half of the first to earn a 1-0 lead. Raven Chavanne led off the inning with a triple to right center and a two-out slow-roller along the first base line enabled the quick-footed Chavanne to come home. Weaver escaped further damage with a lineout to Kara Howard in center leaving two more Lady Vols aboard.
After the Wildcats fell in order in the top half of the second, the Lady Vols opened their half of the frame by registering a leadoff single. She’d move all the way to third, but a groundout back to Bell at first ended the inning without the home team adding to its advantage.
Weaver sat the Lady Vols down in order in the home half of the third, and Dill notched her third hit of the game in the top of the fourth this time a double into shallow center. UK would leave her stranded with a fly-out to center ending the frame.
UK’s lefty worked around a one-out single in the home half of the fourth and escaped without allowing a Lady Vol beyond first base.
Freshman Griffin Joiner reached with a one-out walk in the top of the fifth, but the Wildcats could not string together any offensive output leaving her standing at first.
Weaver again escaped a jam in the fifth with a one-out single, but the UK lefty did not allow the Lady Vols to come around and score.
The Lady Vols bridged the gap to within one with a pair of runs in the home half of the sixth. Tennessee logged a pair of hits and benefited from a Wildcat error to plate the tallies making the score 4-3 in favor of UK.
The teams will resume their three-game set with a 2 p.m. ET first pitch on Saturday.
For continuing coverage of the 2012 UK Softball Invitational and the 2012 UK softball season, log on to UKathletics.com.