For three innings the Tennessee State Tigers (11-22, 2-6 OVC) hung with the Lady Vols (31-6, 6-3 SEC) in an unseasonably cold Tuesday night game at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.
They managed to score a run in the top half of the fourth inning to reduce the Lady Vols' lead to 4-1. In the bottom of the fourth though, the Lady Vols showcased why they are ranked as the No. 6 softball team in the nation.
The Lady Vols' offense exploded in the bottom of the fourth inning for 15 runs to seize control of the game en route to an easy 19-1 dispatch of the Tigers.
"I love to win, but I hate it when games get out of hand like that," Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "We just hit the ball well tonight. I'll tell you this, that was the biggest inning we've had since I've been here."
Tennessee's offense was carried by the bats of juniors Melissa Davin and Madison Shipman. Shipman was 3-4 with six RBIs. All of her RBIs came in the Lady Vols' 15-run fourth inning when she hit two 3-run home runs.
"That's a first for me (hitting two 3-run home runs)," Shipman said. "To put up that many runs in one inning is pretty incredible."
Before Shipman hit her second home run of the inning, she had pulled a line drive down the left field line that was called foul although it appeared fair.
"Things like that happen and I kind of just try to flush it and focus on the next pitch," Shipman said. "I'm glad he called that one foul."
Davin was the other major contributor for the Lady Vols as she went 3-4 with 5 RBIs, including two 2-run home runs in the third and fourth innings. She also had an RBI single in the second inning.
"I'm just going up there waiting for the pitchers to make a mistake, I'm just going up there clear-minded and ready to attack," Davin said. "It feels awesome. It means you're seeing the ball big."
There was a little drama in the game when the Tigers loaded the bases in the top of the fourth inning after narrowing the Lady Vols' lead to 4-1, but junior Ellen Renfroe stepped into the pressure packed situation to record a save when she stranded the Tigers' tying runners on base.
Despite the Lady Vols' midweek opponents not being as heralded as their SEC opponents, Weekly still sees these games as a challenge for his team.
"The midweek games are a challenge because we go outside the SEC. I worry every time I play one, because they're coming in here and really wanting to beat us and my big job is to make sure our kids are up to play," Weekly said.
The Lady Vols next travel to Georgia for a weekend series with their SEC rival.