(Release and photo courtesy of Tennessee Sports Information)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– Annie Aldrete bashed two home runs and Rainey Gaffin’s drove in five runs to help No. 8 Tennessee softball erase an early six-run deficit and score 11 unanswered runs to defeat Ole Miss, 11-6, on Friday night at Lee Stadium.
The Rebels (22-29, 3-19 SEC) scored one in the first, four in the second and one in the third to take an early 6-0 lead. The Lady Vols (40-9, 15-7 SEC) answered with four in the third, one in the fourth, two in the fifth and four in the sixth for the biggest comeback in the Ralph Weekly and Karen Weekly era. The win also marked UT’s 12th-straight 40-win season and its 15th 40-win season in 19 years of program history.
Tennessee and Ole Miss will meet for game two on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET. The Lady Vols will honor their three seniors–Melissa Davin, Madison Shipman and Ellen Renfroe before the game.
Aldrete went 2-for-3 with two homers and three RBIs. Gaffin went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and five RBIs. Taylor Koenig was 3-for-4 with a double, one RBI and two runs. Melissa Davin was 2-for-4 with a solo homer and two runs.
Rainey Gaffin (6-3) earned the win after tossing 4.2 scoreless innings of one-hit ball with seven strikeouts. Ellen Renfroe started the game and issued four earned runs over 1.2 frames. Cheyanne Tarango tossed two-thirds of an inning with two unearned runs allowed.
Madi Osias (2-3) took the loss for Ole Miss after allowing seven earned runs over 3.0 innings in relief. Emily Gaitan started the game and gave up four earned runs over 2.2 innings. Shelby Jo Fenter got the final out of the sixth.
The Rebels wasted no time getting on the board. With one out and one on in the first inning, Madi Osias smacked a double to center field to bring home RT Cantillo for a 1-0 Ole Miss lead.
Ole Miss exploded for four runs in the top of the second inning. Two singles and a sacrifice bunt put two Ole Miss runners in scoring position. Cantillo knocked in one run on a sacrifice fly to center field. Culley followed with an RBI double to extend the Rebels’ lead to 3-0. Tarango relieved Renfroe in the circle. Osias ripped an RBI single to score Culley and make it 4-0. Ole Miss posted its fourth run of the inning and fifth of the game on a Tennessee errant throw from third base with bases loaded.
The Rebels added one run in the top of the third to give them a 6-0 lead. With bases loaded, Culley hit into a fielder’s choice and Melina Preciado scored from third base on an errant throw from second to home plate.
Tennessee’s offense woke up in a big way in the bottom of the third with four runs to pull the Lady Vols to within 6-4. Haley Tobler drew a leadoff walk to start the inning. After she advanced to second base on a wild pitch, Madison Shipman drove her home with an RBI single up the middle. The Lady Vols then hit back-to-back home runs to swing momentum in their favor. Aldrete smashed the first pitch she saw from Gaitan for a two-run homer to left field, her 14th blast of the year. Before the home crowd could finish celebrating Aldrete’s blast, Davin crushed the first pitch she saw for a solo homer to center field for her 13th homer of the season.
Aldrete was not done depositing softballs over the outfield walls. With two outs in the bottom of the fourth Aldrete smacked a solo shot to left field to pull the Lady Vols within one run at 6-5. The home run is number 15 on the season for Aldrete, setting a new Tennessee freshman record (old record was 14 homers by Jessica Spigner in 2009).
Tennessee seized the lead with two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Lexi Overstreet drew a one-out walk and Koenig ripped a double to center field. Gaffin followed with a two-RBI double fired up the middle to push UT in front, 7-6, and giving Tennessee in position for its biggest comeback in over a decade (possibly ever).
The Lady Vols plated four more in the bottom of the sixth to seal the win. With the bases loaded and one out, Koenig hit an RBI single to center field, scoring Davin from third base. Gaffin followed with her second-RBI double of the game, this time plating three runs with a shot to left center.
Tennessee and Ole Miss will play Game on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET. The Lady Vols will celebrate Senior Day and honor seniors Melissa Davin, Madison Shipman and Ellen Renfroebefore the game. The game will feature a live video broadcast on ESPN3 with Evan Ellis on the call and Shelby Burchell King providing analysis. Brian Rice will be on the call for the live radio broadcast on WNML 990 AM.