Brian Van Kirk
March 18, 2006
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The fifth-ranked Tennessee baseball team's furious ninth-inning rally fell one run short Saturday, as sixth-ranked Mississippi State held on to hand the Volunteers a 4-3 loss at Dudy Noble Field. Tennessee committed three errors and fell to 14-5 (0-2 SEC). The series-finale is set for 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday.
Tennessee put three runs on the board in the top of the ninth and managed to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. But MSU reliever Brett Cleveland induced a game-ending groundout to keep the Bulldogs unbeaten at 15-0 (2-0 SEC), marking the best start in the program's history.
The game was 17th-year UT skipper Rod Delmonico's 1,000th all-time contest as a head coach. Michael Rivera, Brian Van Kirk, Ryan Jones and Cody Brown each recorded two hits for the Vols. It was the first career multi-hit outing for Jones.
The Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when outfielder Joseph Hunter drove in catcher Ed Easley with an RBI basehit through the left side of the infield. The teams then battled through five scoreless frames before MSU's Mitch Moreland and Michael Rutledge turned in back-to-back RBI singles in the seventh to give State a 3-1 edge.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Bulldogs went up by three on an RBI sacrifice fly by first baseman Brad Jones. That would prove to be the difference, as MSU took a 2-0 lead in the weekend series.
The Vols' first three batters all reached base in Tennessee's three-run ninth. Tony Delmonico and Chris Siewert each drove in runs on RBI groundouts, and Michael Rivera added another tally on an RBI basehit.
Tennessee was unable to capitalize on a pair of early scoring opportunities, as the Vols had a runner thrown out at the plate in the first inning before leaving the bases loaded in the third.
Vols freshman right-hander Josh Lindblom was solid in his SEC debut, allowing one run on eight hits with two walks and six strikeouts through six full innings. Lindblom fell to 4-1 with his first loss of the year. Junior reliever Craig Cobb entered the game in the seventh - making his seventh appearance in UT's last eight contests - and gave up three runs (one earned) on three hits in the final two innings.
State right-hander Josh Johnson improved to 4-0 on the year after being touched for seven hits with two walks and four Ks through eight solid shutout innings.