In softball, a dominant pitcher can make a world of difference, and more than halfway into the season, Lady Vols ace Ellen Renfroe has been a clear difference maker in the circle.
Renfroe was named the National Collegiate Player of the Week by USA Softball following her brilliant performance during No. 2 Tennessee's three-game sweep over the No. 4 Florida Gators this past weekend.
"That was definitely just an honor," Renfroe said during Wednesday's media availability. "Credit to the Lord for giving me the talent and the strength to get through the weekend, because it was definitely a long one."
Renfroe was credited with the win in all three games over Florida, throwing 16 innings while allowing only two earned runs. She fanned 20 batters, including an 11-strikeout performance in the series finale on Sunday.
This was just the latest installment in what has been a storybook season for the senior out of Jackson, Tenn.
Renfroe has posted a record of 21-0 on the season, with a 1.29 ERA while striking out 162 batters in only 136 innings of work.
"Ellen did a great job," co-head coach Karen Weekly said. "Ellen was a warrior for us this weekend.
"She had good stuff most of the time, and the thing about Ellen is even when her stuff isn't on her 'A' level, she finds ways to win."
This marks the second time Renfroe has won the award in her career, making her only the fourth player in Tennessee history to win the award multiple times.
Focus is one thing that has really helped her throughout the season, Renfroe said, and maintaining that focus will be key for the rest of the season.
"Really, I've been trying to stay focused on the mental part of my game," she said. "The tougher games when I'm struggling to throw strikes, or the other team is just making solid contact.
"Those are the games I really need to stay even more focused mentally, to carry myself with a sense of confidence on the mound to show my team, 'Hey, I've got this.'"
Melissa Davin started off the SEC season playing arguably the best softball of her career, and not even a top-five Florida team could slow her down.
Davin is leading the SEC, batting .567 with 16 RBI in conference play. Against Florida, Davin hit .583, including two huge home runs on the second day of the series.
"Melissa is off to a great start," Weekly said. "We put her in the two spot, which is an unusual role for her, but she has embraced it and adapted to it really well and it shows in her batting average."
One the most important things Davin has been doing is simply getting on base in key moments. In conference play she has a .639 on base percentage, and she leads the conference with 15 runs scored.
"She's just getting herself on base," Weekly said. "And allowing other people to drive her in, and she has just done a fantastic job in that role."
Tennessee is a very young team, with only three seniors, forcing the squad to rely on its freshmen to give the lineup a boost.
And that is exactly what they have done thus far.
Catcher Annie Aldrete earned her second freshman of the week honors, driving in six runs on two three-run bombs in the first game of the series. After that performance, Florida pitched around her in the next two games as she drew five walks.
"(Aldrete) came up real big Friday night," Weekly said. "And then after that, Florida really didn't want to pitch to her too much and they walked her several times."
Megan Geer also had a big series for the Lady Vols, hitting a huge home run in game two of the series to draw Tennessee to within one run. She recorded five hits and three RBI from the leadoff position.
"It's really exciting for us to see their hard work pay off," Renfroe said. "With them not having as much experience, it's even more exciting for us as a team to really have young kids step up."