March 13, 2011
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A balanced offensive attack led the Tennessee baseball team (13-2) to its first four-game sweep in nearly 50 years as 11 different players had at least one hit and all nine starters scored at least one run in its 15-1 victory over Manhattan on a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
"Manhattan is a good team that is going to win a lot of games," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "I was really pleased with today. Our (batting practice) was our best this year. Sometimes that doesn't correlate (to the game) though. I've been around long enough to know it can work either way, but the thing I was most impressed with was that weren't happy with the three wins. We wanted four and we took care of that early and broke the game open. I thought we played our most complete game of the year."
The four-game sweep marks the first time the Vols have defeated one opponent in four consecutive games in a single series since it took five straight from Vanderbilt on May 7-8, 1962. The Vols have now won seven straight games, tying for the longest winning streak during Raleigh's tenure at Rocky Top.
In all, Tennessee tallied a season-high 22 hits as a team on Sunday, paced by four from freshman Ethan Bennett who launched his second home run in as many days. He also had three singles, scored three times and knocked in three more.
Bennett seems to have a penchant for home run streaks as he set a national record at Farragut High School last season by hitting at least one longball in 10 straight games last April. For the series, Bennett topped the UT squad with a .583 batting average, belted two home runs, scored six runs and had seven RBIs.
A trio of Vols added three hits each, led by senior Khayyan Norfork who also had a career high with five RBIs. The Ripley, Tenn., native picked up a pair of doubles, including one with the bases loaded, walked once and stole his SEC-leading 14th base of the year. Juniors Matt Ramsey and Chris Pierce also notched three-hit performances for the Vols.
Freshman Carter Watson picked up his third win of the season for the Big Orange with 1.1 innings of one-hit relief for fellow rookie Jon Reed who allowed just one run on five hits in 4.2 frames of work. Watson entered the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth, getting Ramon Ortega looking for a strikeout to end the jam.
UT scored early and often en route to the rout, plating the first run of the contest on a sacrifice fly by senior Josh Liles in the bottom of the first. The first big blow came in the second though when the Big Orange used some small ball and a couple of big hits to score three runs.
After a leadoff double by Ramsey and a single by Bennett put runners on the corners for the Vols, Pierce laid down an absolutely perfect bunt between the pitcher and first baseman for an infield RBI single. Junior Zach Osborne then bunted the very next pitch just inside the third base line for a second consecutive infield single that loaded the bases for Norfork who brought home two more runs with a double down the left-field line.
Tennessee tacked on its fifth run in the third when Bennett took an 0-1 fastball and deposited it on to "The Porch" beyond the left-field wall for a solo home run. Manhattan got a run back in the top of the fourth with a sac fly and was able to hold the Vols scoreless in the bottom of the frame, marking the only inning in which the Vols did not score on Sunday.
Despite two quick outs to start the bottom of the fifth, the Orange and White got back on track, scoring five two-out runs on five hits and an error to take a commanding 10-1 advantage. Junior Charley Thurber got the two-out rally started with a sharp line-drive single to left. Ramsey followed with his second double of the day to plate, roping one to the corner in left that allowed Thurber to race home all the way from first.
Ramsey would score just two pitches later on an infield single by Bennett and a throwing error by the Manhattan pitcher. The Vols then loaded the bases once again as Pierce singled to center and Osborne took a fastball off of his shoulder. Norfork would come through for the second time in four innings, promptly clearing the bases with a three-RBI double to the gap in right-center.
A two-RBI single by Bennett in the sixth upped the UT lead to 12-1. The Orange and White was not done yet though, plating two more in the seventh and another in the eighth. The first run in the seventh came on a wild pitch while the second was a run-scoring single by junior Davis Morgan that extended his hitting streak to a team-best nine games. Toles received an RBI on the final scoring play, when he beat out a potential double-play ball up the middle.
Tennessee will put its seven-game winning streak on the line this Tuesday when it concludes a 16-game homestand with a 3 p.m. showdown against Alabama A&M at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The Vols will then hit the road for the first time this season when they travel to Clarksville, Tenn., the following day for a 4 p.m. matchup against Austin Peay in their final tune-up before SEC play begins this weekend at Kentucky.