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No. 4/4 Tennessee Evens Series With 11-5 Win

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Senior Jessica Offutt recorded a career-high four runs batted in and a personal-best tying three hits at No. 4/4 Tennessee on Saturday.
Photo Courtesy of Bill Simmonds

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A slugfest that featured five Tennessee home runs resulted in a Lady Vols’ 11-5 victory Saturday at Lee Stadium. Five players hit long balls for No. 4/4 Tennessee and Madison Shipman and Annie Aldrete each finished with three runs batted in to pace the offense and even the series at one game apiece.

Mississippi State (34-15, 6-11 SEC) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first and evened the game at 4-4 in the top of the second, but gave up seven unanswered runs before adding one in the top of the sixth. The Bulldogs were paced on offense by seniors Jessica Offutt, the leadoff batter, and Heidi Shape, the number-two hitter, who combined for five of MSU’s nine hits. Offutt accounted for all five runs with a personal-best four runs batted in, a career-high-tying three hits and a run scored. Shape reached base all four times with a double, single, walk and hit by pitch. She also had a run batted in.

Senior Alison Owen (16-9) took the loss for Mississippi State, throwing one-and-two-thirds innings, allowing 10 runs on eight hits and two walks. She struck out four. Senior Shana Sherrod entered for two innings and allowed a run on two hits and a walk. Sophomore Jacey Punches threw the remaining two-and-a-third frames, yielding three walks and fanning one. Tennessee’s Erin Gabriel tossed an inning-plus and gave up three runs on two hits, a walk and hit batter. Cheyanne Tarango (3-1) earned the win, throwing the next four-and-two-thirds frames. She surrendered two runs on five hits and two walks while fanning four. Rainey Gaffin pitched to one batter and walked her. Ellen Renfroe came in for the final four outs and yielded two singles and struck out three.

Mississippi State struck quickly, taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first before an out was recorded in the game. Offutt led off with an infield single and scored on a double to left center by Shape. A groundout, fly out and Shape called out for leaving early closed the inning.

Tennessee (36-7, 12-5 SEC) answered in the bottom of the first, taking a 4-1 lead. Shaliyah Geathers led off with a walk, Megan Geer bunted for a single and Shipman hit a three-run home run to left. After a strikeout, Melissa Davin hit a long ball to center for the three-run advantage. A strikeout and groundout ended the frame.

The Bulldogs immediately tied the game at 4-4 in the top of the second with a bases-clearing double from Offutt. Senior Sam Lenahan led off being hit by a pitch and junior Julia Echols walked on four pitches, forcing a pitching change as Tarango entered the circle. Tarango walked freshman Mackenzie Toler to load the bases and freshman Amanda Ivy entered to run at first for Toler. Tarango recorded back-to-back strikeouts before Offutt stroked a bases-clearing double to right center. Shape was hit by a pitch and freshman Caroline Seitz walked to reload the bases, but Tarango got a pop out to end the threat.

In the bottom of the second, three more Tennessee home runs led to a 10-4 advantage. Tarango led off with a home run. Alley Perkins followed with a single before consecutive strikeouts. Shipman walked to put two on for Aldrete, who hit a three-run home run to left that made it an 8-4 Tennessee lead. Davin singled to left center and Haley Tobler followed with a homer to center that made it a 10-4 Tennessee advantage. Sherrod entered and closed the frame with a fly out to Offutt in left.

The Lady Vols added to their lead in the bottom of the fourth with a run to go up 11-4. Geer led off with a single before two fly outs. With two down, Davin walked to put runners on first and second. Punches entered and walked Tobler and Hannah Akamine to force in Geer. A fielder’s choice left the bases loaded.

In the bottom of the fifth, Punches avoided damage as Tennessee stranded two more runners. After a groundout started the frame, pinch hitter Anna Renfroe was plunked by a Punches offering.  Punches struck out Geer, but Shipman walked to put two runners on for Aldrete. A fielder’s choice ended the inning.

After the defensive hold, Mississippi State scored once in the top of the sixth to make it an 11-5 Tennessee advantage. After a lineout to center by Echols started the frame, Toler and sophomore Kayla Winkfield hit consecutive singles to put runners on first and second. A fielder’s choice from freshman pinch hitter Katie Anne Bailey resulted in Winkfield at second and Bailey on first with two outs. Offutt singled to right center to plate Winkfield, who avoided the tag at home for the score. Gaffin entered and walked Shape to load the bases. Ellen Renfroe came to the circle for Gaffin and fanned Seitz to end the threat.

The Bulldogs got a leadoff single in the top of the seventh, but could not score. Senior Logan Foulks led off with a single and was replaced at first by redshirt freshman Olivia Golden. After consecutive strikeouts, junior Ashley Phillips lined a single into left to move Golden to second. A foul out ended the contest.

The teams finish the series Sunday with a 12:30 p.m. CT contest.

Post-Game Notes
·      Despite the setback, MSU’s 34-15 record is tied with the 2008 squad for the best 49-game mark in program history.

·      The five home runs allowed are the second most in program history, behind six to Texas A&M on Feb. 20, 2010.

·      Senior Jessica Offutt finished with a career-high four runs batted in.

·      The four RBI are tied for the fourth most in a Southeastern Conference game by any MSU player in program history.

·      Senior Alison Owen struck out four batters, increasing her career strikeout total to 447. She is just four whiffs behind Stephanie Becker (2010-13/451) for the all-time Mississippi State record.

·      Owen’s single-season strikeout total is 197, good for the third most in a year in program history.

·      Senior Heidi Shape drove in a run to increase her career total to 106, good for sole possession of 10th on the Mississippi State career chart.

·      Shape was hit by a pitch in the top of the second to increase her career total to 32, the third most in program history, just one behind Keri McCallum (1997-2000/33) for second on the list.

·      Senior Shana Sherrod threw two innings in the game, increasing her SEC innings total to four this year. In the previous three years combined, Sherrod had totaled six SEC innings.

·      This season, Sherrod has thrown 10.0 innings, her most since tossing 12.0 as a rookie in 2011.

·      Sophomore Jacey Punches threw two-and-a-third innings, increasing her season total to five-and-a-third SEC frames. She tossed four-and-two-thirds in SEC action last year.

·      Freshman Amanda Ivy has been used as a pinch runner in three of the last four games and scored a run in each contest she has entered.


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