#2 Tennessee Softball 2014 Preview

Tennessee Volunteers

Overall Rank: #2
Conference Rank: #2 SEC
#2 Tennessee Softball 2014 Preview
Tennessee Team Page


The Volunteers’ 2013 World Series runner-up year garners them College Sports Madness’ #2 pre-season ranking this year.
Tennessee went 52-12 overall and 16-6 in the SEC to finish with the second best winning percentage behind Florida. They picked up eight regular season wins over ranked opponents, were 21-2 at home, and enjoyed a 19 game, mid-season win streak. Scoring 425 runs, the Vols earned the #2 seed at the SEC tournament, but after dispatching South Carolina, were shutout 3-0 by Missouri and made a semifinal exit. On the strength of their regular season efforts, Tennessee earned a #7 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they breezed through with three straight wins, and would await conference foe and #10 Alabama. Hard fought 3-2 and 5-3 wins in the Super Regional propelled the Vols into yet another WCWS, where they seem to have become a staple. A roller coaster ride would ensue-first dispatching conference foe and #2 seed Florida 9-2 in a laugher, then scratching out a run in the bottom half of the seventh to defeat #11 Washington. Another tough foe in #4 Texas saw Tennessee earn another tough win, hanging on to defeat the Longhorns 2-1. Entering the Championship series against the freight train that was the Oklahoma Sooners, hopes for a national title for Knoxville fans were dashed with 5-3 and 4-0 losses.

2013: 52-12, 16-6
2013 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Ralph and Karen Weekly, 13th year

Field Players:
Tennessee Volunteers, 2014-glass half full or half empty? Tennessee’s best hitter (.435) and base stealer (41/42) Raven Chavanne graduated. SEC player of the year Lauren Gibson (.401, 19 HR, 68 RBI) is gone. Graduation also claimed right fielder Kat Dotson (.333, 45 RBI) and first baseman Melissa Brown (38 RBI). And although Tory Lewis (.299) is eligible to return to center field, she will not be playing this year. The good news is that senior Madison Shipman will again anchor shortstop and will likely hit cleanup, as she represents much of the power in the line-up. Last year she drove in 63 runs on 20 doubles and 11 homers. Junior Hannah Akamine is reliable behind the dish and hit .285, and Junior Cheyanne Tarango (DP/P, .286, 51 RBI) will help Shipman in the production department. Sophomores Rainey Gaffin and Haley Tobler should see increased at-bats, and senior left fielder Melissa Davin can score some runs.

Far from decimated, the Vols retain one-half of the Renfroe sisters with senior Ellen and her 1.85 ERA in 200.2 innings pitched. Graduated sister Ivy actually had more wins last year with 22 to Ellen’s 19, but Ellen struck out 221 to her sister’s 148. She also held opposing hitters to a .183 average with seven shutouts. Erin Gabriel’s freshman season saw her get only 29 innings, but she and Junior Tarango (39 innings) should see increased time this year, looking to share the 150-200 innings that would seem to be available.

Who to Watch:
The replacements. Five starting positions and a reliable back-up in the circle are up for grabs. Every year sees a breakout freshman campaign come from somewhere-will one be wearing orange and white? Graduation claimed no less than 193 runs batted in, and 32 of a 2013 team total 65 home runs need to be accounted for. First, second and third base will see new faces this year, not to mention two-thirds of the outfield, so the returning bench, and especially the freshman, will have to grow up fast. Junior college transfer Alley Perkins was brought in for offense and speed (42 stolen bases), and top high school recruits Annie Aldrete  and Megan Geer will have opportunities to play, and early. Fellow frosh Taylor Koenig, Hannah Devotie and Shaliyah Geathers fill out the incoming players, along with Hannah MacDonald. No new pitchers were signed, leaving Gabriel and Tarango to battle each other for innings in the circle.

Final Projection:
The view from Rocky Top is far from unpleasant, but there are holes to fill. Even the Weeklys expressed a little surprise that some polls ranked them as pre-season top dog, but they do have plenty to be confident about. Renfroe and Shipman are on the Top 50 Watch List, and Davin joins her fellow seniors to provide the leadership needed for such a young team. Every really good team starts with the battery, and Renfroe and Akamine will be ready to pick up plenty of wins. In fact, expect the nucleus of the Vols’ returners to carry the team until the newer players are fully entrenched in the tradition that has seen the Weeklys lead the Orange to six College World Series in the last nine years. Count on Knoxville to be hosting a Super Regional this year, with Oklahoma City is in full view. Oh, and expect World Series appearance number seven.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Madison Shipman, SS, 210
Hits: Madison Shipman, SS, 77
Home Runs: Madison Shipman, SS, 11
RBIs: Madison Shipman, SS, 63
Runs: Madison Shipman, SS, 52
Stolen Bases: Madison Shipman, SS, 16

Wins: Ellen Renfroe, 19
Innings Pitched: Ellen Renfroe, 200.2
Strikeouts: Ellen Renfroe, 221
Saves: Ellen Renfroe, 3

Madness 2014 NPF Draft Rankings:
#2 Ellen Renfroe, P
#11 Madison Shipman, SS

Madness 2014 Softball Recruit Rankings:
#49 Annie Aldrete C/IF
#57 Megan Geer IF/OF


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