Derek Tharpe won his fourth straight decision in leading the Vols to a 9-4 SEC-opening win.
March 19, 2004
Starkville, Miss. - Derek Tharpe set a career high with 12 strikeouts in winning his fourth straight decision as the No. 19 Tennessee Volunteers won their 14th straight game, 9-4, over the No. 20 Mississippi State Bulldogs at Dudy Noble Field in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams. Game two is Saturday at 2 p.m. CT. Tennessee improved to 18-2 overall, 1-0 in the SEC, while State dropped to 12-3 and 0-1 in league play.
Tharpe (5-0), who surrendered two Bulldog runs on four hits in the first three innings, got stronger as the game progressed as evidenced by him striking out the side in the fourth and fifth innings and punching out seven of eight batters at one point.
The senior left-hander, who has allowed only three earned runs in his last 32 1/3 innings, gave up an unearned run in the first before Steve Gendron, who led the Bulldogs with three hits, belted his second home run of the season in the third. They added one more in the eighth on pinch hitter Tyler Jones' hit off reliever Scot Drucker.
Jamie Gant (2-2), who lost his second straight decision, gave up five runs (three earned) on eight hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings.
After the first three batters reached safely on a walk and back-to-back singles in the first, Tennessee took a 2-0 lead on a sacrifice fly and a Headley bloop single to center.
The Bulldogs struck for an unearned in the bottom of the inning as Gendron singled and advanced to second on a fielding error by right fielder Michael Rivera. He took third on a ground out before scoring on Craig Tatum's hit.
The Vols made it 3-1 in the second when Cleveland scored from third on a Bulldog error after loading the bases on his single and two walks.
Gendron's home run to left-center pulled the Bulldogs to within 3-2 in the third.
Chris Kemp scored on Headley's ground out in the fifth giving the Vols a 4-2 lead. Kemp led off with a smashing single to right before taking third on two wild pitches by Gant.
Tennessee then reeled off four more unanswered runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings for an 8-2 lead. Josh Alley added an RBI single in the sixth and Nick Crowe scored on Cleveland's sacrifice, before the Vols plated two more in the eighth on the fourth Bulldog error and Headley's sacrifice fly.
Iorg, who doubled and stole third, swiped home in the ninth on a strikeout throw down to the first for the final UT tally.