Feb. 19, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee offense was on full display on Opening Day, as the Volunteers started the 2010 campaign by pounding out 19 hits and cruising a 16-6 triumph over Xavier in front of 2,300 Orange and White-clad fans at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Friday. Junior Bryan Morgado earned the win with five solid innings of work, while six different players recorded at least two hits, led by newcomer Khayyan Norfork's four.
"Our guys came out focused today and really set the tone for the season," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "I felt like we were ready to play, but you never really know until the game starts. This win gives our team some confidence. I thought we did everything well tonight - we hit well, we pitched well and we played great defense."
Tennessee scored in seven of eight innings, including each of the first five frames. That run support helped Morgado settle into a groove on the mound, as he was tossed four hitless innings before a few tough-luck plays allowed the Musketeers to score three in the fifth. Morgado finished with six strikeouts, while allowing just four hits and two walks.
"It builds not only my confidence, but the confidence for the whole pitching staff," Morgado said. "Being a starter on Friday nights is a tough job because you set the tone for the whole weekend. Now, we got this big win and I'm confident (Steven) Gruver is going to do the same thing when he goes out there tomorrow."
The high-powered UT offense showed no signs of first-game jitters and it came out swinging early and often. Norfork topped the team with a 4-for-5 effort in his Tennessee debut, in addition to adding two runs, an RBI and a stolen base. Juniors Josh Liles and P.J. Polk each picked up three-hit games as well, and Liles tied classmates Blake Forsythe and Matt Duffy for the team-lead with three RBIs. Junior Cody Hawn was a perfect 2-for-2 with a pair of RBIs on a monstrous opposite-field home run before leaving the game in the fifth with an apparent left shoulder injury.
"(P.J. and Khayyan) can create a lot of havoc on the bases," Raleigh said. "Those two guys can really run. We like having them 9-1 and see what happens. They played outstanding and it's nice to see because they can create runs without the long ball." After a perfect top-half of the inning by Morgado in which he struck out two, the Vols struck for three quick runs in the opening frame. Polk led things off with a double to right center and moved to third on a single by Liles to left. After Hawn was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Forsythe doubled down the left-field line to plate the first two UT runs of the season. Following a fly out by freshman Cody Stubbs, Hawn scored on an error by Xavier shortstop Phil Bauer to make it 3-0 in favor of the Big Orange. That was all it could muster though as Nate Mutsch buckled down to stop the bleeding by getting back-to-back groundouts to end the inning.
Once again, Morgado sailed through his half of the inning in the second, sitting the Musketeers down in order to bring his offense back up to the plate. They rewarded his effort with two more runs as Hawn blasted a towering home run over "The Porch" in left to bring Polk home after he reached on a single up the middle.
Xavier mounted its first real threat of the game in the third stanza when Mark Elwell found himself in scoring position with just one out after being hit by a pitch and stealing second. He was a bit too greedy, however, as he was gunned down at third by Forsythe when he tried to nab another free base. The Vols continued to add to their lead in the bottom half of the frame, getting another run when another Norfork single brought Stubbs home from third.
The Musketeers finally got their first hit off Morgado in the fourth when Drew Schmidt singled down the third-base line. He was quickly erased off the basepaths, however, when a laser from Polk cut him down trying to stretch it into a double. Already up 5-0, the Orange and White added two more runs later in the inning. Polk continued his early-game offensive onslaught with his second double of the night and Liles followed with his first home run of the year, a blast to left. Although Hawn dropped a double down the left-field line and Forsythe was hit by a pitch for the first of two times to put two runners on with no outs, Tennessee was unable to capitalize and left both stranded after a pair of pop-outs and a fielder's choice.
Down by eight, Xavier cracked the scoreboard for the first time in 2010, scoring three runs with two outs in the fifth. Early on, it looked like Morgado would continue to cruise as he sat down the first two batters on a fly out and his fifth strikeout of the evening. The Musketeers continued to battle though and got two runners on with an infield single and a walk. Elwell then laced a double to left to bring one run home and John McCambridge followed with a single through the right-side to plate a second.
With runners on first and third, Morgado attempted to pick McCambridge off at first, but he was able to elude a tag by Hawn and Elwell came home to score XU's third run of the inning when Hawn went down with an injury, which forced him to leave the game. He was replaced at first by senior Matt Hamaker. Morgado was finally able to stop the bleeding by striking out Neil Lindgren to end the inning.
Despite the big inning by Xavier, the Vols answered right back with four more runs of their own to increase their lead to nine at 12-3. With Josh Deeg replacing Mutsch on the mound, Tennessee gave him a rude welcome to Knoxville. Osborne got the inning started with a leadoff HBP and advanced to second on a balk. He then came around to score on an error on the next play when Norfork beat out the throw on a grounder to third and the first baseman bobbled the ball. A wild pitch allowed Norfork to advance 90 feet just moments before a Liles' fly ball to right moved him up 90 more to third with Hamaker coming to the plate in place of Hawn. The 5-11 senior from Clarksville, Tenn., made the most of his initial plate appearance of 2010 with a line drive that just fell out of the reach of XU centerfielder McCambridge and rolled to the wall for a triple, the second of his UT career. He then came trotting home on a sacrifice fly by Forsythe.
Freshman Nick Blount came on in relief for Morgado in the top of the sixth and made quick work of the Musketeers in his collegiate debut. The 6-6 righty from Loganville, Ga., got his UT career off to a good start, striking out Xavier cleanup hitter BEN Thomas on a 1-2 changeup before inducing a ground ball to second and fly out to right to end the inning.
After Tennessee was held scoreless for the first time in 2010, Blount continued to add to his terrific debut with another perfect frame, recording a strikeout, this time on a looping curve ball that tailed away from the right-handed hitting Patrick Paligraf, and two more ground outs. Duffy added two more runs to the UT lead later in the inning by slicing an RBI single to the opposite field, following another Forsythe HBP and a double by Stubbs off the top of the wall in right.
In the eighth, sophomore Adam Adkins replaced Blount on the mound and was able to fight through a pair of one-out singles to keep Xavier off the board yet again. With runners on first and second with one out, the Goodlettsville, Tenn., native was able to send Ben Thomas back to the bench with a strikeout, but Bobby Freking singled through the left-side to load the bases. A weak grounder to short by Ryan Bellamy put an end to the threat, however.
Although it was already up by 13, Tennessee decided it needed a few more insurance runs to bump its lead up to 16-3. Norfork led off the inning with his fourth hit of the game on a single up the middle before stealing second to put a runner in scoring position for pinch-hitter freshman Chris Fritts. Although he fouled out, fellow classmate Drew Steckenrider then stepped up to the plate in place of Liles and blasted a laser down the right-field line that just had enough air to leave the ballpark for his first collegiate home run.
Xavier struck for three more runs in the ninth, taking advantage of three walks by freshman Alan Walden, but it was too little, too late as redshirt freshman Hunter Daniel came out of the pen to get the final out of the game.
Tennessee will be back in action at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Sophomore left-hander Steven Gruver will take to the hill for the Orange and White, while Xavier will send out junior lefty Tommy Shirley. The final contest of the three-game set will be played at 2 p.m. on Sunday.