March 16, 2007
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The Tennessee baseball team was unable to overcome a strong start by No. 22 Alabama as the Crimson Tide posted a 9-7 victory over the Volunteers in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams Friday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Big Orange fell to 12-8 (0-1 SEC) as their six-game win streak came to an end.
Alabama scored in six different innings Friday and logged multiple hits in seven frames. Eight of its starters recorded at least one hit as the Tide pushed its record to 14-7 (1-0 SEC).
Tennessee had a baserunner in every inning and finished strong by scoring six runs through the final four innings, but it was too little too late as Bama won its fourth straight contest against the Vols.
Tide starting pitcher Miers Quigley threw six effective innings in which he was touched for five runs on nine hits with four walks and nine Ks. He improved to 4-0 on the year, and Tommy Hunter notched his first save of the year for UA.
After UT stranded a man on third base in the top of the first inning, Alabama used back-to-back home runs to stake an early 3-0 lead in the bottom of the frame. Leadoff man Emeel Salem singled prior to a two-run blast by Tide third baseman Jake Smith. And designated hitter Alex Avila followed Smith's blast with a solo shot of his own to centerfield.
Vols freshman Yan Gomes was quick to strike back in the top of the second inning, smacking the first pitch he saw over the right-field wall in his first career SEC at-bat. Gomes's team-high fourth homer of the season trimmed Alabama's lead to two runs, 3-1.
The Tide then posted a pair of two-out runs in the bottom of the second, using an RBI sacrifice fly by Salem and an RBI basehit by Smith to extend UA's lead to four runs.
Following a scoreless third inning, Salem homered to right field with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. Salem's fourth longball of the year gave Alabama a 6-1 lead and its third three-homer game this season.
The Tide continued to pour it on in the fifth, plating one run on three hits. Right fielder Kent Matthes doubled down the left line to lead off the inning, and he was driven in one batter later on an RBI basehit by first baseman Matt Bentley. Gomes threw out a would-be base-stealer for the second time in the game, preventing Alabama from tacking on another run.
Gomes made it a 3-for-3 start in league play with a single through the left side of the infield in the top of the sixth. That hit put first baseman J.P. Arencibia on second base after he led off the frame with a base on balls. Sophomore third baseman Cody Brown then plated Arencibia with an RBI single. A wild pitch by Quigley gave UT a pair of runners in scoring position, but both men ended up stranded to leave the Vols facing a 7-2 deficit.
Tennessee starter Craig Cobb (4-2) gave way to freshman left-hander Bryan Powell in the bottom of the sixth. Cobb's final line included seven runs on 11 hits with a pair of walks in six innings of work. Making his first collegiate appearance, Powell debuted impressively by striking out All-America selection Salem.
Later in the sixth, however, with runners on first and second, Bentley zipped an RBI line drive past Arencibia at first base to bring Alabama's lead to what appeared to be a comfortable six runs, 8-2. But things would tighten up quickly.
Just as it had done in the sixth inning, Tennessee put its first two batters on base in the seventh. Shortstop Tony Delmonico then singled to load the bases with no outs for Arencibia. Alabama head coach Jim Wells pulled Quigley in favor of right-hander Josh Copeland. The change made no difference to two-time All-America Arencibia, however, as the Miami, Fla., native produced a two-run double that pulled the Vols to within four runs, 8-4.
Gomes then drew a walk from Copeland to reload the bases and set the stage for an RBI fielder's choice by left fielder Shawn Griffin. Gomes was putout at second on the play, giving runners on the corners to Brown with one out. Brown lined a hard-hit ball to Bentley who threw out Arencibia at home. A second Crimson Tide pitching change brought Will Stroup to the mound, and the lefty got Lockwood to strikeout looking. In total, UT sent eight men to the plate in the seventh, resulting in three runs on three hits.
After Alabama tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh, Powell was lifted and sophomore right-hander Danny Wiltz took the mound for UT. Powell's Big Orange debut came to the tune of two runs on four hits with one walk and one strikeout. Wiltz worked 1 2/3 scoreless innings at the end for the Vols, lowering his season ERA to an impressive 0.71.
Delmonico delivered a two-run double in the eighth, making it a two-run game. Gomes then dug in against Hunter with an opportunity to make things even closer, but the Alabama all-star candidate struck out the hot-hitting Vols rookie to spoil UT's final threat of the evening.
Gomes finished 3-for-4 on the night, while Delmonico went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs. Arencibia also drove in two runs for UT. Tennessee batters struck out a season-high 14 times.
The series resumes Saturday at 4 p.m. CT, with junior left-hander James Adkins (2-2, 1.62 ERA) taking the hill for Tennessee opposite Tide right-hander Bernard Robert (2-2, 4.50 ERA).