March 6, 2011
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee baseball team used a pair of four-run innings to stake claim to a six-run lead before holding off a ninth-inning rally by Morehead State to pick up a 10-8 victory on a cold Sunday evening at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
"Take away the ninth inning and I thought we played a pretty good game," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "The game is never over, obviously. I thought John Reed was OK and Carter Watson was outstanding. If we didn't have two midweek games coming up I probably would have left him in there. Matt Duffy was the difference today offensively. He got us kind of rolling with that home run.
"I was just kind of evaluating our team a little bit. We are doing some unbelievable things so far this year. Stolen base-wise has been really good and we are not striking out much. We're weren't scoring enough runs so I tried to change up a couple different things in the middle of the lineup to try and shuffle it up a little bit. It seemed to work tonight as we scored some runs."
Junior Matt Duffy continued his hot hitting at the plate, going 2-for-3 with two runs scored and his first home run of the season, a three-run shot in the third inning. He reached base a total of four times as he was also hit by a pitch and walked once. His effort on Sunday upped his average to a team-high .433 for the season.
Fellow classmates Zach Osborne, Charley Thurber and Davis Morgan each had a pair of hits for the Big Orange as well. Morgan drove in two runs with a double while Osborne and Thurber each had one RBI. Senior Khayyan Norfork's eight-game hitting streak came to an end, but he did reach base twice on a couple of walks.
Freshman Ethan Bennett made his first collegiate start behind the plate following a standout career at Farragut High School where he won three straight state titles. He finished the contest 0-for-1 but walked once and recorded his first RBI on a sacrifice fly.
"(Ethan) caught a really good game," Raleigh said. "I was really pleased with how he caught. It was tough today with it being cold, but he did a good job. He's awesome. He's an unbelievable student. He's an unbelievable kid. He is just phenomenal. I think what hurt him a little bit was he got hurt and couldn't play the first weekend. He is going to catch more as the season wears on."
After going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position against Indiana on Saturday, the Orange and White had five such hits and six two-out RBIs against the Eagles on Sunday. Much of the team's success offensively came from the fact that the leadoff hitter reached base in six of eight opportunities.
Freshman Carter Watson earned the win on the mound with 2.1innings of shutout relief. The Murfreesboro product allowed just one hit and struck out two. Junior Zack Godley came on to record the final out and earn his second save of the season. The Vols now have five saves in 2011 after recording just four in 56 games in 2011.
Tennessee got things rolling in its favor early, scoring four two-out runs in the bottom of the third. Osborne plated the first run of the game with an RBI single on a sharp line drive over the third baseman's head in to left field. Duffy followed by launching the very next pitch well over "The Porch" in left for a three-run home run, his first of the season.
Morehead State used a leadoff home run by Andrew Deeds and a sacrifice fly in the next frame to cut its deficit in half, but the Vols continued to apply the pressure, loading the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the fourth. Senior Tyler Horne and junior Charley Thurber kicked things off with back-to-back singles.
Thurber's proved quite eventful as Morehead State Head Coach Jay Sorg was ejected on the play after arguing whether the ball was caught by the centerfielder or not. Morgan was then hit by a pitch to load the bases, setting up Bennett's sacrifice fly in foul territory down the left field line. That would be all UT would get that inning, however, as the next two batters were retired.
Once again, the Eagles bounced back with a run, scoring on an RBI single by Deeds, but the Big Orange had a big answer, responding with another four spot in the bottom of the fifth. Consecutive singles by Osborne and Duffy, followed by a sac bunt by junior Matt Ramsey, put two in scoring position for Horne. He did not disappoint, bringing in a run with a single to left. After a balk gave the Vols another scoring opportunity, Morgan doubled off of the base of the wall in left to clear the bases. UT's final run of the stanza came on a throwing error by the third baseman as his throw skipped past the first baseman, allowing Morgan to score from second.
Tennessee's final run came in the seventh when a walk and a throwing error put junior Chris Pierce on second before Thurber plated him with a base-knock to right.
From there it appeared the Orange and White would cruise to victory as hit held a comfortable six-run lead. Morehead State had other ideas though, scoring five times on six hits off of UT relief pitcher Jerod Peper in the top of the ninth to make the game a little more interesting. Godley would come in and shut the door though, striking out Luke Bainer with a 1-2 curveball in the dirt to end the game.
"We tried to get (Jerod) in the pen and mix it up a little bit," Raleigh said. "When it goes, it can go bad. He is in a funk right now. He was one of our best pitchers in the fall so it is kind of hard to explain. I feel bad for him but we will continue to try and get him better."
Tennessee will be back in action in just two days when New Orleans makes the trek to Rocky Top for a two-game midweek series. The Vols will take on the Privateers at 4 p.m. on both Tuesday and Wednesday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.