LSU’s day goes to the dogs as Tennessee softball team wins 9-0

Tiger Park’s “Bark in the Park” promotion had fans combining their passions for dogs and softball, but LSU showed little bite in Sunday afternoon’s series finale against Tennessee.

Madison Shipman’s two-run home run in the first inning staked second-ranked Tennessee to an early lead, and the Volunteers went on to blank LSU 9-0 in six innings.

Tennessee pitcher Ellen Renfroe (22-2), finally looking like the ace that had won 21 consecutive games coming into this series, scattered three hits and never let LSU move a runner into scoring position.

“(Renfroe) was very different today,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “I thought from the first two or three pitches, she was sharper; she was better. That was more of what we were expecting for the entire weekend.”

Torina juggled the lineup for LSU (22-16, 4-8 Southeastern Conference) in hopes of finding a winning combination for a team that has struggled on Sundays this season. It didn’t seem to matter, as Tennessee (32-5, 9-3) jumped on the Tigers from the start.

Shipman, a 6-foot-1 shortstop who was the No. 2 overall pick earlier this week in the National Pro Fastpitch draft, finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs. It was a number matched by catcher Annie Aldrete, whose three-run homer in the sixth put the game out of reach.

“We don’t really know what it is,” LSU second baseman Allison Falcon said of the Tigers’ Sunday troubles. “We definitely know that we need to play better on Sundays — especially in the SEC, since every game is tough, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”

Second baseman Megan Geer got Tennessee started with a one-out single in the first. Shipman followed with a two-run shot over the left field wall.

In the third, Shipman came through again. This time, she lined an RBI single to center off of Ashley Czechner (7-9). The hit chased Czechner, who was lifted for freshman Baylee Corbello.

“Obviously (Shipman) is a great player,” Czechner said. “We can’t put her in situations to beat us (with runners on base). I just think she was seeing the ball really well today.”

In the fourth, Tennessee got to Corbello for three more runs — all with two outs — pushing its lead to 6-0. Two walks sandwiched around a single loaded the bases for Geer, who delivered a two-run single to left. Shaliyah Geathers came home on a wild pitch with the third run.

In the sixth, with a runner already on first, Geer walked and Shipman reached base on a fielder’s choice. Next up was Aldrete, who crushed an 0-1 pitch over the center-field wall.

LSU was unable to take advantage of A.J. Andrews’ leadoff single in the bottom of the inning as Renfroe retired the next three batters to end the game. It wasn’t enough to take all the luster off a series win for LSU.

In fact, after being swept at Alabama last weekend, putting together a series win against Tennessee in any fashion may have been just what the Tigers needed.

“Its definitely nice to win a series against someone as talented as Tennessee,” Torina said. “What a quality program they’ve built there. Its always nice to go out on a winning note, but we’ve got to keep in mind that we won the series against a quality team.”

Much like the chihuahua in the hooded lime-green pullover that was named best-dressed canine, LSU’s overall picture coming out of the weekend was pretty enough.