April 1, 2012

Baseball swept a three-game series from Alabama and women's track and field impressed a pair of Pac-12 Conference opponents in Los Angeles to highlight the Big Orange athletics weekend.

Dave Seranno's club improved to 18-10 overall and 5-4 in SEC action after a 5-0 week included the program's second sweep over Alabama since 1897. Suddenly ace reliever Nick Blount saved all five wins, including three versus the Crimson Tide as the Vols inched over the .500 mark in conference play for the first time this season.

J.J. Clark's 14th-ranked Lady Vols defeated both UCLA and Washington State in California. Senior Ellen Wortham had a hand in four victories and classmate Brittany Jones carded three -- all of them meet records. The men's team dropped both dual meets to the same opponents.

Softball won two of three against Kentucky, the last one coming in dramatic fashion on Shelby Burchell's walk-off home run. The ninth-ranked Lady Vols improved to 27-8 overall and 9-5 in the SEC.

The tennis teams split a pair of matches against Vanderbilt and Kentucky, the men beating the Commodores on Friday and the women claiming a road win over the Wildcats on Sunday.

Men's golf finished sixth at the Insperity Augusta State Invitational, beating five ranked teams in a very strong field, while rowing earned more valuable race time and claimed a number of victories at the San Diego Crew Classic.

Baseball (3-0 for the weekend)
Vols 10, Alabama 8
The 100th all-time meeting between Tennessee and Alabama was certainly an eventful one as the Volunteers rallied from a six-run deficit, exploding for four runs in both the third and eighth innings, to record a 10-8 triumph in the series opener against the Crimson Tide on Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

The Volunteer offense pulled out all the stops on Friday, scoring on a straight steal of home, a pair of wild pitches, two home runs, two groundouts, a bases-loaded walk and a single.

Down by two going into the bottom of the eighth, UT loaded the bases with nobody out after a pair of singles and a hit batter. Tide pitcher Jay Shaw was able to retire the next hitter, but Will Maddox followed with a run-scoring walk before pinch-hitter Wes Walker tied the game with a groundout to third. The Vols tacked on two more as Alabama uncorked back-to-back wild pitches to put the Big Orange ahead, 10-8.

Junior Nick Blount came on in the ninth to record the final three outs for his fourth save of the season and third in the last three games. Sophomore Carter Watson (2-0) picked up the win after striking out two in his only inning of work, while Shaw (0-1) suffered the loss, yielding two runs in a third of an inning.

Chris Pierce, Zach Osborne and Maddox each had three hits for the Orange and White, with Maddox hitting his first career home run and driving in a career-high four runs. All three players were 3-for-4 on the night with Pierce scoring three times and Osborne adding a pair of doubles.

Vols 4, Alabama 2
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Following an overnight delay after a hail storm and strong rain forced the postponement of Saturday's contest, Tennessee came out and finished the job on Sunday, clinching its first SEC series victory of the year with a 4-2 win over Alabama at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

The Volunteers (17-10, 4-4 SEC) have now won four straight games over the Crimson Tide (9-18, 1-7) including two wins in Tuscaloosa last season, marking the longest winning streak over Alabama in school history, dating back to the start of the rivalry in 1897.

After throwing 1.2 innings on Saturday, junior Drew Steckenrider came back with two more scoreless frames on Sunday to pick up his second win of the year. He finished with 3.2 shutout innings, striking out four. Fellow classmate Nick Blount recorded his fourth save in four games, leaving the tying run stranded on base in a scoreless ninth. Blount has earned a save in each of Tennessee's last five victories.

Alabama stranded a total of 14 runners in the contest, to just five for the Big Orange. UT junior Davis Morgan was a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate with a run scored and an RBI, while Chris Pierce drove in a pair of runs.

Vols 5, Alabama 3
Tennessee broke a 3-3 tie on a two-out single by Zach Osborne in the bottom of the sixth inning and Nick Blount came on in the seventh to record his second save of the day and fifth in the last five games as the Volunteers completed the series sweep of Alabama with a 5-3 win on a rainy Sunday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

"That was pretty special," UT head coach Dave Serrano said. "I am very proud of our guys. It wasn't an easy week by any stretch of the imagination, but we came out 5-0. More importantly, we were 3-0 in the SEC this weekend. We get above .500 and we are 5-4 (in the SEC) which puts us in the hunt, but we have a long way to go. We are nine games into a 30-game schedule, but I am proud of how we have continued to overcome adversity and weather and find a way to get it done."

With wins in all five of its games this week, Tennessee is now 18-10 on the season and 5-4 in SEC play. Alabama falls to 9-19 overall and 1-8 in league action.

The sweep is just UT's second ever against Alabama in a rivalry that dates back to 1897 and is the first home sweep for the Vols since it took three from LSU in 2008. The Big Orange has now won five straight games over the Crimson Tide, the longest winning such streak in school history.

With the score deadlocked at 3-3 and a steady rain falling in the bottom of the sixth, Tennessee got a leadoff single by Davis Morgan. Pinch runner Nick Powell then swiped second, his first career stolen base, before a one-out walk and a hit batter loaded the bags for Osborne who ripped an 0-2 pitch over the shortstop to bring in the winning runs.

Next: Wednesday vs. Memphis, 7 p.m.; Friday-Sunday at South Carolilna, 7 p.m., 8 p.m., 1:30 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE

Women's Outdoor Track and Field (2-0 for the weekend)
Lady Vols 96, UCLA 67
Lady Vols 99, Washington State 63
LOS ANGELES -- The 14th-ranked Lady Vols were dominant and the Vols had some bright spots of their own on Saturday, as Tennessee took on host UCLA and Washington State in men's and women's double dual meets at Drake Stadium.

On the strength of 12 event wins and five meet records, the UT women prevailed in both duals, defeating UCLA, 96-67, and topping Washington State, 99-63.

Senior Ellen Wortham had a hand in four victories and classmate Brittany Jones carded three wins, all of them meet records, to pace the Lady Vols. Freshman Jamol James and senior Terry Benson each posted individual event victories and runner-up finishes for the Vols, and Benson contributed to a relay triumph as well.

Wortham won the 400m hurdles at this meet for the second year in a row, posting an NCAA-leading 57.27 readout and also carded a career-best 13.58 in the 100m hurdles and a leap of 19-6 in the long jump to win those events. She ended the day by joining Kianna Ruff, Chanelle Price and Martinique Octave on the 4x400m relay, which Tennessee won with a 3:41.05 clocking.

"Brittany Jones, with her win, meet records and PRs, was outstanding today," UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark said. "Ellen always puts up good efforts for us, and she always produces national-caliber marks. Today was no exception."

Next: Friday-Saturday at Stanford Invitational, Palo Alto, Calif.; Saturday vs. Tennessee Challenge // FULL SCHEDULE

Softball (2-1 for the weekend)
Kentucky 5, Lady Vols 3
An uncharacteristic three errors by UT on Friday night at the Lee Softball Stadium helped tell part of the story as the No. 9 Lady Vols also watched Kentucky's offense bang out nine hits in emerging victorious from the series opener, 5-3.

UT senior right fielder Shelby Burchell led Tennessee's eight-hit output by going 2-for-3 at the dish with two RBIs, while junior center fielder Kat Dotson was 2-for-4. Junior first baseman Melissa Brown was 1-for-4 with a RBI while extending her career-long hitting streak to eight games.

In the circle sophomore pitcher Ellen Renfroe (18-2) suffered her first defeat since March 11, allowing three earned runs on nine hits with a walk and 10 strikeouts over 6.2 innings of effort. Freshman Cheyanne Tarango was summoned into the contest in relief, permitting one tally while walking one and posting a K over one-third of a frame.

Lady Vols 8, Kentucky 0 (5 inn.)
Despite dealing with a three-hour and three-minute rain/hail delay in the top of the fourth, the No. 9 Tennessee Lady Vols struck for eight runs over the opening two frames, rebounding from a tough loss in its series opener to roll past Kentucky on Saturday at the Lee Softball Stadium, 8-0 in 5 innings.

UT junior pitcher Ivy Renfroe fired her third consecutive shutout in improving to 8-6 on the season, scattering five hits, walking none and striking out two over five innings of work.

At the plate sophomore shortstop Madison Shipman was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and three RBIs, improving her team-leading RBI total to 35. Junior third baseman Raven Chavanne was 2-for-3 with a pair of tallies, marking the Thousand Oaks, Calif., native's 14th multi-hit contest of the season. Junior right fielder Kat Dotson (1-for-1, RBI), junior second baseman Lauren Gibson (1-for-2, RBI) and junior first baseman Melissa Brown (1-for-2, RBI) each were credited with an RBI.

"The old saying between night and day," Lady Vols co-head Coach Ralph Weekly said. "I thought our team played really well against a very good Kentucky team. It seems like the last couple or three years, every time we play them it's a battle. We came out and played our game today like they played their game yesterday."

Lady Vols 4, Kentucky 2
With heavy rain just a few minutes from delaying things Sunday for the second straight afternoon at Lee Softball Stadium, senior designated player Shelby Burchell beat the weather by blasting a two-run, walk-off homer as the No. 9 Tennessee Lady Vols secured a series victory over Kentucky, 4-2.

For Burchell, the homer marked her first of the campaign, as part of a 1-for-2, two-RBI effort, the 25th of her career in the Orange & White and proved remarkably similar to the walk-off blast the Columbia native registered back in the 2011 SEC Tournament championship game in Oxford, Miss.

"I just went up to the plate thinking that I needed to do my job," Burchell said. "I knew my teammates had my back, and that my teammates in front of me had posted great at-bats. I didn't want to be the weak link, so I wanted to go in there and do what I'd been doing all day. See the pitches, wait for my pitch and drive it."

Junior second baseman Lauren Gibson was 2-for-3 at the plate, scoring two runs while blasting her team-leading 10th home run of the season in the bottom of the third. Sophomore center fielder Tory Lewis was 2-for-3 overall as Tennessee (27-8, 9-5 SEC) outhit the Wildcats by an 8-5 total.

Next: Wednesday vs. Georgia (dh), 5 p.m.; Friday-Sunday at Auburn, 6 p.m., 1 p.m., 1 p.m. Central (7 p.m., 2 p.m., 2 p.m. Eastern) // FULL SCHEDULE

Men's Tennis (1-1 for the weekend)
Vols 5, Vanderbilt 2
Six hours after the scheduled start time, Tennessee finally defeated in-state rival Vanderbilt 5-2 Friday at Goodfriend Tennis Center.

After multiple rain delays at Barksdale Stadium, the match finally moved indoors where Hunter Reese, Mikelis Libietis and Bryan Swartz clinched things for the Vols.

Despite losing the doubles point for the second time in as many matches, the Vols again found a way to win. Tennessee and Vanderbilt split three of six first sets to start singles, but the Vols rallied to win five of those matches.

"We competed well on all six courts," Libietis said. "We played unbelievable. The effort was there. The crowd was there -- that helped a lot. I'm happy for the win."

Kentucky 7, Vols 0
Tennessee's four-match winning streak came to an end Sunday as the Vols dug themselves a hole and could not come back against ninth-ranked Kentucky.

The Vols (12-10, 4-4 SEC) dropped the doubles point and five of six first sets in singles, ultimately losing to Kentucky 7-0 in a match that was moved inside Goodfriend Tennis Center midway through the action.

"I think it's fair to say they were the better team today," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "They jumped on us and kept on us and you have to give them a lot of credit for that."

Next: Friday at Auburn, TBA; Sunday at Alabama, 1 p.m. Central (2 p.m. Eastern) // FULL SCHEDULE

Men's Golf (6th at Insperity Augusta State Invitational)
Insperity Augusta State Invitational (Day 1)
Tennessee's best round in 2½ years lifted the Vols into fifth place through 36 holes at the Insperity Augusta State Invitational in Georgia.

The Vols rode a low-scoring wave in Saturday's second round at Forest Hills Golf Club, carding an 11-under-par 277 to improve to 8-under 568 with 18 holes remaining. The second-round total was Tennessee's best team score since a final-round 274 capped the program's first Carpet Capital Collegiate championship in September 2009.

All five Tennessee golfers found red figures for the second 18 holes, led by Garrick Porteous' 68 and Jay Vandeventer's 69. Danny Keddie finished eagle-birdie to shoot 70, Rick Lamb birdied three of his last five holes for 70 and Darren Renwick also recorded an eagle en route to his 71.

Insperity Augusta State Invitational (Day 2)
The Masters starts Thursday, but the Insperity Augusta State Invitational provided Tennessee and the rest of a stacked collegiate field a good gauge of what upcoming NCAA regional competition might look like.

The Vols finished strong to place sixth overall, or right in the middle of 10 teams ranked among the top 50 entering the weekend. Garrick Porteous led the way with a final-round, 6-under-par 66 to tie for sixth individually.

"I struggled hitting the ball the last two tournaments," said Porteous, who finished at 9-under 207. "I worked really hard back in Knoxville and it all came together quite nicely as I hit the ball well all week."

Tennessee closed with a 2-under 286 to finish at 10-under 854 for its best scoring total of the year. The Vols trailed five ranked teams and placed ahead of five others.

Next: Saturday at Yale Spring Opener, New Haven, Conn. // FULL SCHEDULE

Women's Tennis (1-1 for the weekend)
Vanderbilt 6, Lady Vols 1
Senior Natalie Pluskota became just the eighth player in Tennessee history to reach 100 doubles wins, but the Lady Vols fell 6-1 to Vanderbilt on Friday evening at the Currey Tennis Center in Nashville.

The Newnan, Ga., native teamed with junior Kata Szekely for an 8-3 win over 27th-ranked Jackie Wu and Lauren Mira. Pluskota and Szekely, ranked 18th, have won all four of their dual matches together and are 11-1 in 2011-12.

"It's a great accomplishment," Pluskota said. "I'm excited about it and I hope to continue to add more wins. I didn't even realize it was my 100th victory, but it would've been better to celebrate it with a team win."

Now 100-32 in doubles action for her career, Pluskota joins Paula and Peta Kelly (156), Crystal Cleveland (119), Caitlin Whoriskey (113), Rosalia Alda (110), Zsofia Zubor (106) and Alison Ojeda (105) on the prestigious list.

Lady Vols 6, Kentucky 1
Sophomore Brynn Boren matched a career best with her sixth consecutive win while clinching the 19th-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols' first victory since March 11, as UT defeated Kentucky 6-1 Sunday at Lexington's Boone Tennis Complex.

"It's huge for our team because they're all working together so well," co-head coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick said. "To have a team win like this under all of the circumstances that we've been under is a great confidence booster for them."

Fielding a complete singles lineup for the first time since their last win at Mississippi State, the Lady Vols (12-9, 3-5 SEC) snapped a four-match skid with a dominating performance Sunday.

"Our team is getting healthier, but it's still a one-match at a time situation," Hahn-Patrick said. "During a season, we're always taking it one match at a time anyways. I definitely think we have good momentum for the upcoming matches, especially playing at home. It was just a great effort today."

Next: Friday vs. Auburn, 5 p.m.; Sunday vs. Alabama, 1 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE

Rowing (San Diego Crew Classic)
San Diego Crew Classic (Day 1)
Tennessee rowing's V4+ shell won its heat, finishing sixth at the San Diego Crew Classic on Mission Bay on Saturday.

The Lady Vol boat crossed the finished line in 7 minutes 42.93 seconds. UT's 2V finished eighth in 7 minutes 1.24 seconds, while the Collegiate 8 shell finished 10th in 6 minutes 57.77 seconds.

San Diego Crew Classic (Day 2)
Facing stiff competition and strong winds, the Tennessee Lady Vols rowing team closed strong Sunday at the San Diego Crew Classic on Mission Bay.

Thanks to "gutsy" racing by all three shells, UT gained valuable racing experience.

The 2V8+ got things started for the Lady Vols in the event's petite final. Racing in an outside lane and facing a strong crosswind, the shell impressively finished fifth in 7 minutes 31.62 seconds.

"The 2V8+ had some gutsy races all weekend," head coach Lisa Glenn said. "They had a gutsy piece yesterday and did well today with a significant crosswind. I'm really proud of them."

Next: April 14 at Michigan, 9 a.m. // FULL SCHEDULE

Men's Outdoor Track and Field (0-2 for the weekend)
UCLA 115, Vols 46
Washington State 92, Vols 66
LOS ANGELES -- The 14th-ranked Lady Vols were dominant and the Vols had some bright spots of their own on Saturday, as Tennessee took on host UCLA and Washington State in men's and women's double dual meets at Drake Stadium.

The Vols captured five event victories but came out on the short end of team battles with the Bruins, 115-46, and Cougars, 92-66.

James gave the UT men a 100-meter dash crown at this meet for the second-straight season, logging a 10.53 readout to do so. He nearly collected a sprint sweep, finishing second to UCLA's Karlton Rolle in the 200m by one one-hundreth of a second with a career-best of 21.25. James was a member of UT's 4x100m relay tandem, which checked in second with a 40.09 performance that stands ninth nationally. Reggie Juin, Jarael Nelvis and Arnez Hardnick joined him for that mark.

Benson posted his best time ever in the 110m hurdles, riding a wind-aided 14.05 clocking to victory and a No. 12 national ranking. His personal record 52.13 left him in second place in the 400m hurdles and unable to repeat his sweep of 2011. He did, however, assist the 4x400m relay, as it closed out the meet in winning fashion with a 3:11.94 count that was three seconds ahead of the nearest team.

"Our team is young, but we are making strides to be successful in the future," UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark said. We are whacking the bushes recruiting, and when we combine the improving talent on hand with the recruits we are adding, we are going to be in a much better position as we move forward."

Next: Friday-Saturday at Stanford Invitational, Palo Alto, Calif.; Saturday vs. Tennessee Challenge // FULL SCHEDULE

Upcoming This Week in Other UT Sports
Women's Golf at Bryan National Collegiate, Greensboro, N.C., Friday-Sunday


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