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Tennessee Finally Breaks Through on Lewis’ Walk-Off RBI Single to Down Washington at WCWS, 1-0

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – For six-plus innings on Saturday afternoon the clutch hit just wouldn’t materialize for Tennessee’s offense.

That was, however, until Tory Lewis delivered in a huge spot during the bottom of the seventh with a game-winning, two-out single to lead the Lady Vols to a 1-0 victory over Washington in winners’ bracket action at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla.

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The Orange & White entered the seventh having left an incredible 13 base runners stranded before Lewis’ heroics as part of her team-leading 3-for-4 effort at the dish. Second baseman Lauren Gibson and first baseman Cheyanne Tarango each went 2-for-3 for UT, as Tennessee’s offense out-hit the Huskies by a 9-2 count, while Ellen Renfroe picked up her 19th victory from the circle via a two-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts.

“These kids did a fantastic job, our kids,” Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “I don't care what the score ended up, I would say the same thing, our kids fought from the very beginning, and it's all about timely hitting. It took us a while to get that timely hit. But all the credit goes to the kids. They never quit. They never put their head down. They never stopped fighting.”

Kaitlin Inglesby (23-8) suffered the tough loss, scattering nine hits over 6.2 innings while allowing one run, issuing six walks and striking out three. Right fielder Victoria Hayward (1-for-3) and second baseman Kelli Suguro (1-for-2) recorded the lone base knocks for the Huskie offense.

Washington registered a pair of base runners during the top of the first against Ellen Renfroe but failed to dent the scoreboard against the junior hurler. Right fielder Victoria Hayward led off the contest with a single back through the middle, but was soon erased from the base paths on a caught stealing via a strong throw from Tennessee catcher Hannah Akamine. With two retired, Inglesby ripped a hot shot to third that eluded Chavanne for an error, allowing the Washington pitcher to reach. Center fielder Kylee Lahners became the second strikeout victim of the first, however, as the half-inning concluded with no scoring.

Chavanne christened the Lady Vol half of the first with a sharp base knock back through the middle of the infield. Following a fielder’s choice off the bat of UT right fielder Kat Dotson, Gibson ripped a single through the right side of the infield and shortstop Madison Shipman walked, loading the bases with just one retired. First baseman Cheyanne Tarango stepped to the dish facing a big early opportunity but harmlessly bounced to third as UW’s Kimberlee Souza cut down the lead runner at the plate for a vital second out. lnglesby managed to strikeout left fielder Melissa Brown swinging as Tennessee left the bags packed during an eventful opening frame for both squads.

Following a one-two-three top of the second for the Huskies, the Lady Vols threatened again during the bottom of the second with one out as Akamine walked and center fielder Tory Lewis lined a base knock to left. Chavanne slapped a ball to third that was corralled on one hop by UW’s Souza. She turned quickly and raced to step on the third base bag just ahead of UT pinch runner Jennifer Burroughs for the second out. A passed ball charged to Washington catcher Shawna Wright allowed Lewis and Chavanne to advance 60 feet. Inglesby struck Dotson with a 3-1 offering as Tennessee loaded the bases for the second consecutive frame. The outcome looked eerily similar to that of the opening inning, however, as the Lady Vols left the bags packed again as Gibson lifted a routine fly ball to right center that was squeezed by Lahners.

Huskie second baseman Kelli Suguro broke a string of five straight retired by Renfroe during the top of the third by hammering a shot that ricocheted off the hurler in the circle for a one-out single. That was all UW would get as Hayward and first baseman Hooch Fagaly each struck out swinging.

Shipman christened the bottom of the third with a leadoff walk and soon advanced into scoring position via a sacrifice bunt from Tarango. The left stranded count for Tennessee continued to expand through, reaching seven through the opening three innings, as Brown bounced out routinely to first and Inglesby struck out Davin on a 2-2 pitch.

Washington came close to breaking the scoreless deadlock during the top of the fourth as Inglesby and Souza each sent high drives to the warning track in left center and left, respectively, but each were tracked down short of the wall.

Tennessee’s Akamine granted the Lady Vols a base runner for the fourth consecutive inning by lacing a leadoff two-bagger just over the glove of leaping UW second baseman Suguro and into right center starting off the bottom of the fourth. With the Huskies employing a defensive shift that included an extra fielder on the left side of the infield and right field completely open against a slap-hitter, Lewis made it 2-for-2 on the day by ripping a single back through the middle, putting runners at the corners with still no one retired. Inglesby managed a vital first out by coercing an infield pop-up off the bat of Chavanne. Dotson stepped up and lifted what appeared to be a relatively routine fly down the line in left. Washington’s Whitney Jones charged over to make the catch near the line but dropped the ball while ruled to still be in fair territory. The UW outfielder recovered quickly from her miscue to fire an absolute strike to the plate, easily nailing Akamine while attempting to score. Gibson walked on four consecutive pitches to pack the bases against Inglesby for the third time in four frames, but once again the Huskies escaped the jam as Shipman swung and missed at strike three.

With Jones stationed at first after getting struck by a Renfroe pitch during the top of the fifth, Suguro blasted a promising shot to deep right. Tennessee’s Dotson turned and raced back to make an inning ending, over the shoulder grab just short of the track to conclude the potential threat.

Tarango became the Lady Vols’ fourth leadoff hitter to reach in five innings by christening the fifth with a bloop single to right. The runner never moved any further, however, as Inglesby got Brown to foul out to left, Davin to bounce into a fielder’s choice and Akamine to ground out to short.

After the Huskies went down in order in the top of the sixth against Renfroe, Dotson granted Tennessee some two-out life via a walk and a stolen base. Gibson ripped a liner that ricocheted off Inglesby in the circle and right to Suguro at second. The UW fielder’s throw was high, however, pulling first baseman Hooch Fagaly off the bag and placing Lady Vol occupants at the corners. Shipman stepped to the dish facing another huge opportunity to break the scoreless tie. Unfortunately for the Orange & White, her grounder up the third base line was fielded by Souza and tossed across the diamond for the final out as the UT left on base count for the match-up hit unlucky number 13.

With Renfroe cruising in the circle having retired eight straight Huskies since the fifth, Tarango opened Tennessee’s half of the seventh by reaching on a hit to deep short. Brown was called upon to drop the sacrifice bunt, and she performed her job as pinch runner Whitney Hammond moved into scoring position with one down. Following a walk issued to pinch hitter Rainey Gaffin, Akamine lined a shot back to the circle that Inglesby caught on the fly for the second out. The hurler attempted to double off the runner at first but her throw hit Gaffin and rolled away just far enough for Hammond to advance to third. That set the stage for UT heroics as Lewis slapped a walk-off RBI single to center as Tennessee prevailed, 1-0.