ST. GEORGE, Utah, Feb. 7 – Southern Utah (0-1) opened the softball season with an 18-3 loss against No. 5 Tennessee (1-0) at the Red Desert Classic on Thursday. The T-Birds kept it close early on, but the Volunteers blew up for six runs in the top of the third and then used another six-run frame to finish the game in five innings.
Melanie Brown got things going for Tennessee with a two-run blast over the right field in the second and the Vols went on to open up a 12-0 lead after putting up three runs on four hits in the top of the fourth. Starting pitcher Ivy Renfroe tossed three hitless innings before being relieved in the circle by Cheyanne Tarango.
The Thunderbirds got things going on offense after the change as senior Kelsey Bryant drove a lead off single to left field and Madison Resley drew a walk to give SUU two runners on with nobody out. Southern Utah third baseman Kadi Henderson then ripped a ball over the left field wall for a three-run home run that provided the only scores of the afternoon for the T-Birds.
The Tennessee hitters responded by adding six more runs on six hits in the following inning however, and then held SUU scoreless in the bottom half of the frame to end the game in five by a final score of 18-3.
Ariel Zimmerman (0-1) recorded four strikeouts in her first start in the circle for Southern Utah, but also gave up nine runs on 11 hits in just over three innings to take the loss. Danielle Axe and Ashley Ostler also pitched for the Thunderbirds, combining to allow nine runs while facing the final 21 batters. Renfroe (1-0) earned the win for UT after striking out five and giving up just one walk while throwing three shutout innings.
Nine different Lady Vols drove in runs in the contest, led by shortstop Madison Ship who finished 3-5 with five RBI. Henderson drove in all three of the Thunderbird runs and Bryant added Southern Utah’s only other two hits in the game.
SUU continues tournament play on Friday with meetings against Utah Valley and Arkansas. The T-Birds open up against the Wolverines at 1:30 p.m. before facing the Hogs at 4:00 p.m. Coverage of the games is available at www.suutbirds.com.