March 15, 2011
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Freshman Ethan Bennett launched a grand slam and a solo shot to give him four home runs in the last three games as the Tennessee baseball team cruised to a rain-shortened 9-1 victory over Alabama A&M on Tuesday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The win is the Volunteers' eighth straight and gives them a 14-2 record at the end of their season-opening 16-game homestand.
"I thought we came out flat and weren't where we wanted to be," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "Their pitcher kept us a little off-balance. We weren't able to stay back on him, but we played a good game overall. Our focus was good, we didn't chase a lot of bad pitches, so I was happy with that. I was a little frustrated offensively, but Ethan (Bennett) got us some big hits, Ky (Norfork) played well and Zach (Osbourne) had a great game, so I was pleased. Both of our pitchers did a good job throwing strikes."
The game was called after the first pitch of the ninth as heavy rains hit the Knoxville area. The Vols have now won eight straight, matching their longest winning streak since 2006. The 14-2 record to start the year matches their best season-opening effort since 2006 as well.
Bennett drove in a career-high five runs on his two home runs to give him 12 RBIs in the last four games. He now leads the team with four longballs, all of which have come in the last three games, and is hitting .462 with 15 RBIs through his first 26 collegiate at-bats.
Another freshman, Dalton Saberhagen earned his first victory in his first career start, tossing five strong innings. He allowed one run on five hits while striking out four before junior T.J. Thornton earned the save by pitching three shutout frames to close out the contest.
Junior Zach Osborne also went deep for the first time in 2011 with a solo blast to lead off the sixth and had a double in the fourth as he went 2-for-4 at the plate. Senior Khayyan Norfork had two hits, a walk and a stolen base in the contest as well.
The Big Orange struck the first blow of the contest with a run in the bottom of the first without the benefit of even one hit. Norfork led off the frame with a walk, before stealing second, moving to third on a groundout and scoring on a wild pitch.
The Bulldogs used some smallball of their own in the top of the third to get the run back though, getting a bunt single and a base-hit to center before using back-to-back sacrifice bunts to bring a run across.
The Vols would answer their smallball with some longball though as Bennett launched his first career grand slam in the bottom of the stanza to put UT back on top, 5-1. With two outs on the board, senior Matt Duffy was hit by a pitch and fellow classmate Josh Liles extended his hitting streak to seven games with a bunt single. After another walk to junior Matt Ramsey, Bennett pulled a 2-2 pitch down the line in left, wrapping it around the foul pole for the grand slam.
The Orange and White tacked on another run in the fourth when Osborne came around to score after a leadoff double on a single to center by Norfork. It then scored again in both the fifth and sixth on solo shots by Bennett and Osborne, respectively. Tennessee closed out the scoring in the eighth with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly from sophomore Chris Fritts.
Tennessee will face its first road challenge tomorrow when it hits the road to Clarksville, Tenn., for a 7 p.m. ET showdown against Austin Peay (8-6). Senior southpaw Rob Catapano (1-0, 5.40) will get his second starting assignment of the season for the Vols.
That will be the Orange and White's final tune-up before the beginning of SEC play as it will travel straight from there to Lexington, Ky., where it will begin a three-game set against border-rival Kentucky. Game times for that series are set for 6:30 p.m. on Friday, March 20, and 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
For the most up-to-date information on Tennessee baseball, visit www.UTSports.com/baseball and be sure to follow @Vol_Baseball on Twitter.