March 19, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Despite another stellar start by junior Bryan Morgado, the University of Tennessee baseball team (10-8, 0-1) was unable to overcome a pair of runs in the eighth, falling 4-2 to No. 16 South Carolina (14-4, 1-0) in both team's Southeastern Conference opener Friday night at Carolina Stadium in Columbia, S.C. Morgado allowed just two runs on three hits in seven strong innings.
"Bryan was outstanding again and we had our chances offensively tonight, but we just didn't capitalize on those opportunities," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "Winning comes down to three things: good pitching, good hitting and timely hitting. We just didn't get the timely hits tonight."
With the score tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth, the Gamecocks used three straight singles and a sacrifice fly to plate two more runs, which proved to be the eventual game-winners. Sophomore Will Locante suffered his first loss of the season and second of his career, while Ethan Carter picked up the win for South Carolina.
Junior P.J. Polk led the Orange and White offensive attack, collecting two of the team's four hits, while sophomore Zach Osborne and junior Matt Duffy accounted for the other two. Sophomore Charley Thurber tallied the squad's lone RBI on the day.
The Gamecocks got the scoring started quickly, as the first two batters to face Morgado crossed home plate. Whit Merrifield led off the bottom of the first with a single to left and Adrian Morales followed with a two-run home run to left on the first pitch he saw to put USC up by two in a hurry. Morgado would settle down though, and he proceeded to sit down 17 of the final 23 batters he faced.
The score remained 2-0 for the next five innings as both Morgado and South Carolina starter Blake Cooper continued to put zeroes up on the scoreboard. The Vols had a prime scoring opportunity in the sixth, loading the bases with no outs, but were unable to scratch anything across. Polk and Osborne got the stanza started with back-to-back singles off of Cooper, before an error by the USC second baseman juiced the bags for UT.
After falling behind in the count 0-2, freshman Cody Stubbs was just looking to put the bat on the ball. Unfortunately, it went right back to Cooper on the mound and he fired to the plate to start a 1-2-3 double play that cut Polk down at home. Cooper then got junior Josh Liles to fly out to left to end the threat.
As disheartening as that half-inning was, the Vols got right back to work in the top of the seventh, tying the game with a pair of runs. Junior Blake Forsythe worked a five-pitch walk to give the Big Orange a leadoff runner. Although freshman Drew Steckenrider followed with a strikeout, Duffy ripped a first-pitch fastball down the third-base line to put runners on second and third with just one out for pinch-hitter Charley Thurber. The Elmira, N.Y., native crushed a sharp grounder right at Gamecock first baseman Nick Ebert who was unable to corral it, as it bounced off his chest into shallow right field, allowing both runners to score.
Unfortunately for fans of the Orange and White, that would be all the Vols could muster as sidewinding righty Jose Mata came out of the bullpen to get the final two outs of the inning. Michael Roth and Ethan Carter would combine to keep Tennessee off the scoreboard in the final two innings and the Gamecocks got to Locante for the two runs in the eighth to account for the final score.
The three-game set with the Gamecocks will continue at 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon at Carolina Stadium. The final game of the series will take place at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
For more information on Tennessee baseball, visit UTSports.com or follow @VolBaseball on Twitter.