Wednesday, May 29, 2013

WCWS Team Profile: Tennessee Lady Vols

How they got here: The Lady Vols finished with a 43-9 regular-season record; finished 2nd in the SEC regular-season standings; lost to Missouri in the semifinals of the conference tournament; won the Knoxville regional with a perfect 3-0 record; and beat Alabama 2-0 in the Knoxville Super regional.

Starting Nine: Tennessee’s line up consists of a combination of speedy slap-hitters and big power bats.

Raven Chavanne, 3B (One of, if not the fastest active players; also can hit for power when necessary; a terror on the base paths, successful in thirty-nine of forty stolen base chances this year; not a National Player of the Year finalist for nothing.)
Lauren Gibson, 2B (SEC Player of the Year; extremely powerful bat; opposing pitchers often choose to simply walk her instead of risk making a mistake and paying greatly for it.)
Madison Shipman, SS (Another extremely powerful bat; has a tendency to hit big or not at all; home runs and at-the-wall doubles are her specialty; needs to capitalize on the opportunities given after intentional walks to Gibson.)
Cheyanne Tarango, DP (Really came into her own this season; one of the most consistent and “hottest” hitters on the Tennessee squad all season long; hits for good power; can also spell Brown at first base or even pitch when needed.)
Kat Dotson, RF (Moved down from #2 in the lineup, and seems to be adjusting well; power numbers somewhat dropped off from years prior, but still made all-SEC for consistent, for-average hitting; don’t be fooled by a nagging knee injury- she can kill you with her bat and with her speed on the basepaths.)
Melissa Brown, 1B (Very good defensively; also very good at getting base when needed or to extend an inning; can also drive the ball over or to the fence; probably a 3-RBI double threat more than a home run threat, but can easily play the long-ball game.)
Hannah Akamine, C (Showed some good power with a solo home run in Supers; more of a hitter-for-average than a power bat, though; starting catcher as a sophomore; sharp defensively and very good behind the plate.)
Rainey Gaffin, LF (The epitome of “clutch”; has come up big multiple times for Tennessee; took over for Melissa Davin in left field after an injury and has made the most of the opportunity presented to her; can hit for power and average.)
Tory Lewis, CF (In the lineup for her defensive skills; not the greatest hitter, and probably the least amount of home-run power in the starting lineup; nevertheless, a solid hitter and a good tablesetter in middle innings before Chavanne, Gibson, etc.)

What I see: After Oklahoma, Tennessee has the best team, talent-wise. Great pitching from both Renfroe sisters (and Tarango for a surprise appearance in the Supers), and solid hitting. The Lady Vols are going to need to have more of a consistent offensive game if they are to avoid an early 0-2 elimination, like last season. Davin may or may not return from the DL in time to play, but if she does, look for her to take over in left field and the six- or seven-hole in the lineup, as another power hitter.

X-Factor: I’m gonna go with Shipman here. She’s one of the best power hitters in the country, but isn’t horribly consistent. If Tennessee is to advance past Friday, she’ll need to be more selective about the pitches she swings at and take full advantage of the opportunities presented to her if/when the opposing team elects to walk Gibson. She does, Tennessee could go far. She doesn’t, and they could easily be looking at another premature exit.

Who’s up first: The Lady Vols take on Florida on Thursday afternoon in an all-SEC matchup. The Gators won the season series 2-1.

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