March 18, 2007
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The Tennessee baseball team salvaged its weekend series at No. 22 Alabama Sunday by posting an 8-7, 10-inning win over the Crimson Tide at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Volunteers saw an early five-run lead vanish but got an outstanding relief effort from freshman Jeff Lockwood, whose second victory of the year helped the Big Orange improve to 13-9 (1-2 SEC) on the season.
Vols sophomore Ryan Jones sent a slow dribbler towards Tide second baseman Jeff Texada in the top of the 10th inning, but Texada booted the ball, enabling Shawn Griffin to score the winning run from second base. Griffin had previously reached on his second walk of the game. Jones also made the final out in the bottom of the 10th on an athletic diving grab in right field.
Lockwood (2-0) worked a career-high six innings in his SEC pitching debut, scattering five hits and allowing two unearned runs with two walks and a career-high four strikeouts. Josh Copeland absorbed the loss for Alabama (15-8, 2-1 SEC).
The Vols out-hit the Crimson Tide 12-8 in a game that Tennessee controlled through four innings before Bama rallied to take a 7-6 lead after eight innings.
Back-to-back walks by Delmonico and Arencibia gave Tennessee a pair of early baserunners Sunday with one out in the top of the first inning. However, a double-play ball induced by Crimson Tide starter Casey Kebodeaux prevented UT from taking a lead for the first time in the series.
Tennessee starting pitcher Nick Hernandez found himself in a similar predicament in the bottom of the first after hitting a batter and issuing a walk with one out. Alabama capitalized on its early opportunity when Delmonico bobbled a high-bouncing chopper off the bat of Tide right fielder Kent Matthes. Jake Smith scored from third on the play, marking the third straight game in which Alabama struck first on the scoreboard.
The Vols exploded for five consecutive basehits to lead off the second inning while taking their first lead of the series. Griffin and Danny Lima began the rally, and that scenario cued designated hitter Jeff Lockwood to deliver his first hit and RBI in Southeastern Conference play. The Knoxville, Tenn., native's line drive up the middle plated Griffin, and Jones then singled to drive in Lima.
Jones then stole second base to give sophomore Jarred Frazier two runners in scoring position. Frazier laced a two-run single back up the middle to give the Vols a 4-1 lead with no outs in the top of the second. That marked the end of Kebodeaux's day after the right-hander had given up five runs on five hits with two walks in just one full inning.
Highly-touted Alabama fireballer Tommy Hunter relieved Kebodeaux and - following a groundout - quickly served up a two-run homer to Delmonico that put the Big Orange up by five runs. Delmonico's longball was his fourth of the season and the seventh of his career.
Alabama used a single, and a pair of walks to load the bases with its first three batters in the bottom of the fifth. Crimson Tide designated hitter Alex Avila then produced a two-run double off the wall in left-center to chase Hernandez from the hill.
Lockwood then took the mound for UT with the Vols leading 6-3, two runners in scoring position and no outs in the fifth. He struck out Matthes but then walked Matt Bentley to reload the bases. A two-run single by Alabama catcher Ryan Rhoden pulled the Tide to within one run, but Lockwood induced a 5-6-3 double play that temporarily preserved Tennessee's slim lead.
Alabama continued its charge in the sixth, putting runners on the corners with no outs. Lockwood got Salem to popout, but UA shortstop Greg Paiml stole second shortly thereafter to put a pair of men in scoring position for hot-hitting third baseman Jake Smith. Smith hit a laser that appeared to be headed into right field, but Vols first baseman Yan Gomes made a mind-blowing, diving grab that prevented any runs from scoring. The next batter then grounded out to Gomes to keep Tennessee's one-run lead intact yet again.
Fighting to hold off the rallying Crimson Tide, Lockwood recorded a pair of strikeouts in the seventh. The frame's other out came when Arencibia threw out Bentley on an attempted steal of third base. It was the third time in the series that a UT catcher threw out a potential Bama base-stealer.
Alabama centerfielder Emeel Salem drove in the tying run in the eighth with an RBI single to centerfield. Three batters later, Kent Matthes brought home the go-ahead run with an RBI basehit to right-center. Matthes had previously struck out in his three previous plate appearances.
The Vols managed a one-out baserunner in the top of the ninth when third baseman Andy Simunic logged his first hit of the day. Simunic advanced to second on a single through the left side of the Alabama infield by shortstop Tony Delmonico, and All-America catcher J.P. Arencibia drove in Simunic with a clutch, line-drive single up the middle.
Hernandez's SEC debut lasted four innings in which he was touched for five runs on three hits with four walks and a career-high five strikeouts. The Miami, Fla., native earned a no-decision before giving way to Lockwood.
Delmonico finished the day 3-for-4 with a run and two RBIs. Jones and Frazier each swiped a pair of bases as UT tied a season-high with five steals in the game.
Sunday's game was televised regionally on CSS. The Vols have won five of their last six televised games (and nine of their last 12). Sunday's win snapped a five-game Alabama win streak against UT.
Tennessee returns to the diamond Tuesday at 7 p.m. when it hosts Wright State at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.