March 17, 2011
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
Clarksville, Tenn. - The Tennessee pitching staff worked out of jams all night long, stranding 14 runners, including nine in scoring position, as the Volunteers (15-2) claimed their ninth straight win with a 5-3 victory over Austin Peay (8-7) in their first road game of the season in front of a standing-room only crowd of 892 at Raymond C. Hand Park.
"It was a tough game," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "Austin Peay gave us all we could handle and then some. We didn't play our best game, but I thought we really fought hard and showed a lot of character and a lot resolve. I thought Ky (Norfork) was the difference hitting a home run to dead center in the first at-bat of the game and getting three hits. His leadership was really contagious today.
"I didn't think our pitchers did bad, but we just couldn't seem to get ahead (in the count). I thought Zack Godley and Matt Ramsey really slammed the door, so I was really happy with that. They all made big pitches when they had to. I'm proud of this team. We're finding different ways to win. Now we just have to keep it going."
The 15-2 start to the 2011 campaign marks the Orange and White's best since opening the 2004 season with a 19-2 record. The nine straight wins are the most since it won 11 consecutive contests in 2005. The game was UT's final tune-up before beginning Southeastern Conference play at Kentucky this weekend.
Senior Khayyan Norfork set the tone for the contest from the first at-bat when he launched his second home run of the year to dead center. The Ripley, Tenn., native finished 3-for-4 on the night with a pair of RBIs as he also had a run-scoring single.
Freshman Ethan Bennett continued his hot-hitting as well, knocking in two more runs with a two-out double in the third to give him 17 RBIs on the year, all but one of which have come in his last six games. Seniors Matt Duffy and Josh Liles each added two hits to the team's winning effort too.
Five UT pitchers worked around a season-high four errors to hold the Governors to just three runs on 10 hits. The Vols held Austin Peay to just one hit in 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position, leaving the bases loaded in the third and sixth innings.
Senior southpaw Rob Catapano started the game and improved to 2-0 on the season after allowing one run on three hits and striking out three in three innings of action. After some solid work out of the pen by freshman Carter Watson and junior Levi Dean, sophomore Zack Godley and junior Matt Ramsey shut the door over the final 2.1 innings.
Ramsey earned his second save of the season, striking out the side after hitting the first batter in the top of the ninth. It was his eighth career save, moving him into a tie with Clark Odom (97-98) for sixth all-time in Tennessee history. Godley kept the Govs at bay before that, getting the final out of the seventh before striking out two in a scoreless eighth.
Norfork got the game started off on the right foot for the Big Orange, blasting a 3-2 pitch over the 392-foot sign in dead center. After two quick innings by Catapano, Bennett added two more runs to the scoreboard with a double to left-center after Duffy and Liles reached with two outs on a single and a walk, respectively.
Austin Peay threatened to put up a crooked number in the bottom of the third as Michael Blanchard hit a solo home run and the Govs loaded the bases, but Catapano got Cody Hudson swinging to dash their hopes.
The Vols tacked on another run in the top of the fourth when Norfork stroked a two-out single to center to bring pinch-runner Chris Fritts in from second base. APSU would get the run back immediately with an unearned tally in the bottom of the stanza, but Watson kept the damage to a minimum, getting a pair of fly outs to strand runners on first and second.
The Govs would threaten in each of the next two innings, but Watson and Dean continued to make big pitches when they needed two, leaving runners on the corners in the fourth and the bases loaded for the second time in the fifth.
Austin Peay would finally break through again in the seventh on an RBI single by Rolando Gautier, but Godley came on in relief to get a fly ball to center to end the frame with the tying runner standing harmlessly on third.
Tennessee took advantage of a couple of APSU miscues to increase its lead back to two in the top of the eighth. Duffy was hit by a pitch to start the frame and promptly moved all the way to third on an infield single by Liles as the third baseman's throw was low to first. Although Liles was picked off, Bennett followed with a walk before Ramsey smoked a shot down the line that the third baseman couldn't handle. Duffy would race home to score on the error.
With UT leading 5-3, Godley and Ramsey did the rest, combining to strike out five of the final eight hitters of the game. Ramsey hit the first batter in the ninth, but came back to punch out the next three to finish off the contest.
The Vols will now travel to Lexington, Ky., where they 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.