March 14, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - It wasn't necessarily the prettiest game, but the University of Tennessee baseball team (9-7) rode a pair of Zach Osborne home runs to a 13-8 victory over Marshall (7-6) in the final contest of the Arby's Classic on a rainy Sunday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville. Following the first two home run performance of his career, Osborne was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
"That was a pretty ugly game, but those were some tough conditions out there," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "I thought we pitched pretty well and actually played pretty good defense all things considered. Offensively, we battled back and did what we had to do. Fortunately, we were able to take advantage of some errors that they made and get some timely hits."
Every position player that started for the Volunteers scored at least one run in the game, with Osborne, senior Matt Hamaker and juniors Cody Hawn and Blake Forsythe each crossing the plate twice. In all, UT scored its 13 runs on just six hits as it walked 10 times and had three players reach after getting hit by a pitch. Osborne led the attack, going 2-for-5 with his second and third home runs of the season and a career-high five RBIs, while Forsythe and junior Matt Duffy each knocked in a pair of runs as well.
On the mound, freshman Alan Walden earned the first victory of his collegiate career, tossing two shutout innings in relief of UT starter Aaron Tullo who surrendered four runs, three earned, in four innings of work. Sophomore Will Locante retired all three batters he faced in the seventh and freshman Drew Steckenrider made his first pitching appearance at Tennessee, twirling a pair of frames, allowing just one run on a solo shot and striking out the side in the ninth.
Marshall came out of the gates swinging, scoring three runs on a single, two errors and a home run, before recording even a single out. Tullo settled down, however, and kept the Thundering Herd off the scoreboard for the next three frames. While he was tossing zeroes up on the board, the Big Orange got one of the runs back in the third without the benefit of even a single hit, taking advantage of two walks and an error.
The score remained 3-1 in favor of Marshall and the Vols still had not recorded a hit with one out in the fifth, when the UT bats erupted for six runs. Senior Cody Grisham opened the inning by taking a pitch off his shoulder for a free base. A passed ball, a walk to junior Khayyan Norfork and a pitch off of Hamaker's ribs loaded the bases for junior Cody Hawn. Although he grounded into a fielder's choice that saw the runner at home forced out for the second out of the inning, Forsythe followed with a big two-RBI single on a looper to center that tied the game and gave Tennessee its first hit of the game.
That started a string of three consecutive two-out, two-RBI hits, as Duffy brought Forsythe and Hawn home with a double down the right-field line on the very next pitch. Just seconds later, Osborne cleared the bases when he blasted one on to "The Porch" in left to mark the end of the scoring in the inning.
Although Marshall scored an unearned run in the sixth off of Walden, the Big Orange picked up right where it left, matching its performance in the previous frame with six more runs. Once again, it was Grisham that got things started as he walked on seven pitches. A throwing error on a fielder's choice off the bat of Polk then put runners on second and third for Norfork, who lifted a 1-1 pitch to the warning track in right for a sacrifice fly, scoring Grisham from third. After Polk stole second, he came around to touch home plate on a throwing error by the Marshall second baseman that also allowed Hamaker to advance to second. Hamaker stole a page out of Polk's playbook and swiped third for the first stolen base of his UT career.
Hamaker would score just moments later when he was singled in by Hawn on a fly ball to center that got caught in the wind and the rain and fell in front of Herd outfielder Isaac Ballou. After a walk to Forsythe, Duffy went down swinging for the second out of the inning. It looked like Marshall would be able to get out of the frame having allowed just three runs this time as Osborne fell behind in the count 1-2, but he battled back before getting a hanging curveball that he parked in almost the same spot as his first home run for a three-run jack.
Marshall simply refused to go away though, continuing to pester the Vols and scoring three more runs in the top of the seventh on a pair of singles, a wild pitch and three walks, including one of the bases-loaded variety. Locante came on to stop the bleeding and did just that, getting a strikeout and two fly outs to end the inning.
Tennessee loaded the bases once again in the seventh with three more walks, but came away empty-handed when the final batter popped out to second. Steckenrider then came out of the pen for his initial collegiate pitching appearance and acquitted himself well, hitting up to 94 on the radar gun while retiring the side in order. He returned to the mound in the ninth and, although he gave up a solo home run, proceeded to strike out the side to give UT its fifth victory in the last eight days.
"Drew is a very unique player," Raleigh said. "He has as much ability as anybody I've ever coached."
The Vols will be back in action at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 16, when they host Morehead State at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. For more information on Tennessee baseball, visit UTSports.com or follow @VolBaseball on Twitter.