Feb. 9, 2007
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Craig Cobb kept the Vols out of the cold.
The Tennessee offense returned the favor by doing just enough to get the Vols their first win of the season, edging Eastern Michigan 7-4 on a chilly Friday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Cobb struck out a career-high nine batters in eight innings of work, scattering eight hits and getting the Vols (1-3) on and off the field in quick fashion - keeping his teammates hands warm and handcuffing the Eagles (0-1) in the process.
"They definitely were appreciative," Cobb said. "It was pretty cold out there, especially for them. It's not that bad for me because I'm constantly moving, so I was definitely doing my best to keep them warm."
The rest of the Vols did all they could to get the UT right-hander his first win of the season, and a five-run fifth inning provided all the offense Cobb (1-1) and a pair of relievers would need. Cobb allowed one run - a sixth-inning solo home run by Jeff Hehr - before Zane Stone gave up three runs in the top of the ninth before Nick Hernandez came on to record the final out.
"Cobb did not have that command in stretches last week (at Florida State)," UT coach Rod Delmonico said. "He really pitched well today and got back to his old form. He was pretty sharp, and to have to pitch in that kind of weather means that he really threw well."
The Vols didn't swing the bats quite as well, but UT manufactured five runs off Eastern Michigan starter George Biddle in the fifth frame to give Cobb some breathing room. After reaching on an error, freshman Yan Gomes scored the first run of the afternoon on an RBI double by Jarred Frazier.
Frazier's double was the only hit of the inning, but the Vols took advantage of a walk and another error with an RBI fielder's choice by Danny Lima - making his first career start for UT - and sacrifice flies by Tony Delmonico and Ryan Jones.
Third baseman Cody Brown provided more insurance for the Vols in the eighth inning, leading off the frame with a solo blast to left field to make it 6-1. Freshman Jeff Lockwood closed the scoring for UT, pinch-hitting and driving in Jarred Frazier with a double to right field.
"We're always told at the end of the game not to waste an at-bat, so I was just trying to get a basehit and get us started so maybe we could score some runs," Brown said. "I got a pitch down the middle, and luckily I got a good piece of the bat on the ball and it went. It was a good feeling to get that insurance run there at the end."
The Vols were out-hit by the Eagles, but Delmonico said he was pleased with the effort at the plate.
"I don't think we've ever started right out of the blocks swinging the bats real well," he said. "But I thought we had some great approaches.
"J.P. (Arencibia) had a ball up the middle, Cody hit a ball to the opposite field and turned on one, (Shawn) Griffin hit a ball up the middle, and that's what we really need to do."
The Vols also really need Brown to continue providing a punch to the middle of the order, and his 2-for-4 performance bumped his average up to .429 through four games and showed signs of potential power for the third baseman - who hit just three home runs last season.
"(Brown) did the same thing last week," Delmonico said. "He hit balls back up the middle, and I think the one thing he's doing this year that he didn't do last year is he's staying through the ball and hitting more line drives.
"He's just trying to hit the ball up the middle, and when he turned on that ball he hit it a long way."
On the other side, Cobb wasn't letting many balls go a long way, and after allowing a couple of infield hits in the second inning the crafty senior faced just 12 batters over the next four frames before giving up the home run. And even in just his second start of the season, Cobb appeared strong late in the game, recording his eighth and career-high ninth strikeouts in his final inning of work.
"I always just try to get guys to put it in play," Cobb said. "It was good that I was able to keep my pitch count (108) down since I don't usually strike out that many people.
"I just try to get contact, but I was getting ahead in the count early and they were chasing it whenever I needed them to."
Which had the Vols chasing back to their heaters.