March 5, 2011By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee baseball team saw its four-game winning streak come to an end on Saturday as Indiana (6-3) scored five runs over the final three innings to pull away from the Volunteers (6-2) and claim a 6-3 victory on a rain-soaked afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
"We didn't play a very good game," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "We had a lot of chances early, but we couldn't separate. I felt like they got some energy and momentum late in the game. They didn't do much in the first six innings, I think they only had about three hits, but the fact that we weren't able to pull away allowed them to stay in the game. We hit a lot of balls hard, but we just couldn't get that break we needed. We feel good about having Jon Reed on the mound to get us back on track tomorrow though."
The Vols weren't able to take advantage of another strong start by junior Steven Gruver, as the southpaw allowed just two runs on five hits in 6.1 frames. He struck out six and walked three as he saw his scoreless streak to start the 2011 campaign come to an end at 16.2 innings. His effort marked his third consecutive quality start of the year.
Freshman Nick Williams suffered the loss after yielding three runs, two earned, in an inning of action. Sophomore Nick Blount closed out the game with 1.2 frames of work, giving up an unearned run on two hits and striking out one.
The Vols continued to get production from the top of their lineup as senior Khayyan Norfork, fellow classmate Matt Duffy and junior Matt Ramsey each had a pair of hit and a stolen base. With his two base-knocks, Norfork has now hit safely in all eight games this season.
Tennessee had plenty of baserunners on Saturday but had trouble bringing them home, leaving 11 men on base. Much of that had to do with the fact that UT was just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, in stark contrast to the .289 it had been hitting in those situations during its four-game winning streak.
One positive to come out of the loss was the continued success of the Big Orange on the basepaths as five different players recorded stolen bases. After recording just four thefts in the first four games of the year, the Vols have 23 in 24 chances over the last four contests. They have also been successful in 14 consecutive tries.
The Big Orange was the first to crack the scoreboard on Saturday, plating a run in the bottom of the third. Freshman Andrew Toles and Norfork collected back-to-back singles before a double steal put two runners in scoring position for Liles. He would ground out to third, but it would be more than enough to bring the speedy Toles home for the first run of the game.
The Hoosiers immediately answered to tie the score in the top of the fourth with a two-out RBI single by Wes Wilson, who finished 3-for-4 in the contest. UT regained the lead just moments later, however, when sophomore Chris Fritts brought Ramsey home with a perfectly executed safety squeeze. UT would try another safety squeeze two batters later with junior Zach Osborne at the plate, but Indiana pitcher Blake Monar thwarted the attempt by flipping the ball backhanded with his glove to nab Davis Morgan sliding into the plate.
The back-and-forth affair would continue in the seventh with each team tallying a run once again. The Vols were fortunate to keep the Hoosiers to one as they loaded the bases on two occasions. After consecutive singles to start things off, Gruver made a nice play to get the lead runner at third on a failed sac bunt attempt. A passed ball would then move the runners up 90 feet before a walk loaded the bases and ended Gruver's night.
With Williams on in relief, a wild pitch brought home IU's only run of the inning. It then appeared that UT would get out of the inning with a double play as T.C. Knipp lined sharply to Norfork at second who then fired to double-up the runner at third. Although the throw clearly beat the runner to the bag, it was ruled that it pulled Duffy off the base and kept the stanza alive. Following another walk, Williams then got reining Big Ten Triple Crown winner Alex Dickerson to foul out to end the inning.
The Big Orange used a two-out rally to get the run back in the bottom of the stanza, kicked off by a Liles walk. Duffy would then single and steal second before a walk to Ramsey packed the bases. Pinch-hitter Tyler Horne then proceeded to work a 1-2 count into a walk to bring Liles in from third.
The Hoosiers kept plugging away, however, and put the only crooked number on the scoreboard for either team all day with a three-run eighth inning. With one out, Dustin DeMuth tripled off the wall in center before scoring on an error by Osborne. Micah Johnson and Matt Serfling tacked on two more runs with a run-scoring double and RBI single, respectively.
IU's final run came in the top of the ninth on a sac fly by Dickerson. The Vols, meanwhile, hit into an inning-ending double play in the bottom of the eighth before putting the tying run at the plate with two outs in the ninth. A fielder's choice off the bat of Horne brought the game to a close though.
The Volunteers will look to get back on track on the final day of the Tennessee Baseball Classic when it takes on Morehead State at 4 p.m. Redshirt freshman Jon Reed (1-0, 5.00) will get the nod on the hill for UT, while freshman southpaw Noah Smallwood (0-1, 10.45) will take the ball for the Eagles.