March 14, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee baseball team (8-7) managed just four hits off of preseason All-American Alex Wimmers Sunday afternoon, as it fell 2-0 to No. 17 Ohio State (9-4) in the fifth game of the Arby's Classic at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The Volunteer pitching staff continued to impress in the defeat, as seniors Stephen McCray and Steve Crnkovich allowed just single runs in the sixth and seventh innings.
Wimmers lived up to his hype, giving up just three hits in eight innings with 10 strikeouts and five walks on 132 pitches. McCray and Crnkovich nearly matched his performance, however. The Vol starter, McCray tossed 4.1 scoreless innings, scattering six hits while striking out three and walking one before leaving due to minor elbow soreness. Crnkovich came on in relief for the sixth time this season and was solid once again, allowing just two runs on five hits in 4.2 innings.
Senior Matt Hamaker had two of the Vols' hits as he went 2-for-3 with a walk. Juniors P.J. Polk and Khayyan Norfork accounted for the other two with identical 1-for-3 performances. Polk also swiped his team-leading ninth base of the season. By comparison, Josh Liles led the Orange and White with eight stolen bases for the entire 2009 campaign.
The Big Orange had a number of chances early on against Wimmers, getting runners in scoring position in three consecutive innings, but was unable to push across a run. In the second frame, junior Cody Hawn was issued a leadoff walk before moving up 90 feet to second when fellow classmate Matt Duffy was issued a free pass three batters later. They would both be stranded though, as Wimmers got freshman Chris Fritts swinging to finish striking out the side.
Tennessee left another runner standing on second in the third. After a groundout to lead off the stanza, Polk followed with UT's first hit of the afternoon on a single through the left side. He promptly stole second and Norfork walked to put runners on first and second with just one out. Wimmers was able to wiggle out of the jam though, getting Liles to fly out to center and inducing a groundball from Hawn to end the threat.
While McCray continued to put zeroes up on the board, the Big Orange had another scoring opportunity in the fourth. Wimmers issued another leadoff walk, this time to Hamaker, but got freshman Cody Stubbs swinging for the first out immediately afterwards. A slow roller to short by Duffy allowed Hamaker to advance to second, but that would be as far as he would go as Fritts went down swinging once again.
After a scoreless fifth inning, Ohio State put the first run up on the board in the sixth. Michael Stephens led the frame off with a single to right and advanced to second on a sac bunt by Ryan Dew. Following a flyout to center, Brian DeLucia picked up a two-out single to center to plate Stephens. The Buckeyes added another tally in the seventh, using back-to-back singles to start the stanza before a run scored on an RBI groundout by Zach Hurley.
Tennessee looked to make one final push in the ninth inning when Ohio State pulled Wimmers in favor of closer Drew Rucinski. Hamaker opened the frame with a sharp single to left and moved to second on a groundout to the pitcher by Duffy after a strikeout by Stubbs. Junior Blake Forsythe then came on to pinch-hit for Fritts, but he grounded out to short to end the contest.
Tennessee will close out the 2010 Arby's Classic at 4 p.m. against Marshall. For more information on Tennessee baseball, visit UTSports.com or follow @VolBaseball on Twitter.