published Friday, August 5th, 2011

Sister acts fill ASA event

ASA Softball Tournament Multimedia page

From administrators to coaches to players, sisterhood is a big part of this week's activity at the Amateur Softball Association 16-under fastpitch national tournament.

For instance, University of Tennessee pitchers Ivy and Ellen Renfroe are working at the Summit of Softball complex as assistants to tournament director Kim Swafford.

"We love each other," Ivy said, "but we have our times."

Although Ivy is older, she said Ellen "is more the take-charge kind." Ellen didn't disagree, noting the work involved in keeping up with a 172-team double-elimination bracket.

The Renfroes grew up in Jackson, Tenn. Their younger sister, Anna, is competing in the ASA national tournament for coach Jeremy Higdon's Tennessee Fury '94 team.

The three came through the Trinity Christian Academy system and also played basketball at various times. The two older sisters also played some volleyball and Anna ran cross country.

"It's been fun this week just being around the sport we grew up doing every summer," Ellen said. "It's allowed us to watch some of these young girls and see where we came from just a few years ago."

Sisters Irma Espinoza and Laura Espinoza-Watson are part of the first-year Arizona Thunder Cats organization and coached together this week in a national tournament for the first time. Watson's 10-under team, which includes her daughter, Kristiana, finished second last week in the ASA national in Reno, Nev., and she flew to Chattanooga to help with her sister's team afterward.

Both went to ASA 16s nationals as players -- Irma in Decatur, Texas, and Laura in Midland, Texas.

Laura, the NCAA career home run leader when she completed her University of Arizona career, coached the Arizona Alley Cats to the ASA 18-under A championship in 2001 in Roanoke, Va. Irma had been a high school coach in California before recently moving to Arizona.

"It's easy to coach with her because we have the same style of play," Laura said. "We know what the other is thinking. The disadvantage is the screaming and yelling, but we didn't have any of that."

Double twins

The High Intensity from Niceville, Fla., have two sets of twins. Jamie and Jessica Ujvari play pitcher and catcher, and Jaime and Jennifer Phillips play shortstop and third base.

Team manager Kim-Anh Brechtel, a former coach for the High Intensity, said both pairs are team leaders. The Phillipses' mother, Cheryl, said her twins like to joke that one of the Ujvaris is their actual twin.

The Ujvaris, who have about an hour commute to Niceville, are upcoming seniors at Pensacola's Tate High School. They've been linked with the High Intensity since the 14-under level, although they played for a different 16-under organization last fall because it was closer to home.

"They love it," the Ujvaris' mother, Linda, said. "It's the best team chemistry and they've had the best experience out of all the teams they've played on. Everybody supports everybody."

The Phillips girls will be seniors at Fort Walton Beach High School and have about a 20-minute drive to Niceville. They will continue their softball careers at Northwest Flordia State College in Niceville.

Coach Danny Hensley, whose daughter, Kelly, is about to be a sophomore at Florida State University, started the High Intensity organization. He was away for a while but has since returned to the dugout.

"They really enjoy this team," Cheryl said. "They were away for five years and came back three years ago. The coach was the main reason. They definitely missed it."

about Kelley Smiddie...

Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com.

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