March 21, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
COLUMBIA, S.C. - On a rainy afternoon at Carolina Stadium in Columbia, S.C., the University of Tennessee baseball team (10-10, 0-3) just never could get the bats warmed up as it dropped a 4-0 decision in its series finale at No. 16 South Carolina (16-4, 3-0) on Sunday. The Volunteers managed just one hit off the Gamecock pitching staff in the contest.
"This was a tough weekend, but there is still a lot of season left," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "We're close. We were tied in the eighth on Friday, tied in the seventh last night and down just one going in to the seventh today. It's not like we are a million miles away. We've been pitching really well, playing pretty good defense and we have good hitters. We just need to stay at it, stay together and figure out a way to start swinging the bats a little better."
Senior Stephen McCray suffered the tough-luck loss for the Volunteers, allowing just one run on four hits in 5.2 innings of work. He walked three and struck out one. McCray was also able to get five groundball outs during his time on the mound, moving his season total to 44 in 30.1 total innings of work. By comparison, he had 44 in 52.1 innings all of last season.
Despite the fact that it only had one hit on the day, Tennessee had a number of solid scoring opportunities in the game, getting at least one runner in scoring position in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Junior Blake Forsythe got things started with a two-out walk in the fifth. He then moved to second when sophomore Charley Thurber reached on an error by USC third baseman Adrian Morales, but UT left both runners stranded as freshman Chris Fritts hit an 0-2 pitch hard, but right at Jackie Bradley, Jr., in center for the final out.
The Vols threatened again in the sixth, when juniors Khayyan Norfork and P.J. Polk opened the frame with a walk and a bunt single. After sophomore Zach Osborne was able to work the count in his favor 2-0, he squared around to bunt but pulled back and ripped a hard groundball down the line at third. Unfortunately, Morales was able to make a nice back-handed grab, step on third to force out Norfork and throw to first for the double play. USC relief pitcher Michael Roth then came on to strike out junior Cody Hawn to end the inning.
The Big Orange got another leadoff runner in the seventh when senior Matt Hamaker battled back from down 0-2 in the count to draw a walk before moving up to second on a sacrifice bunt by junior Matt Duffy. Hamaker would be cut down at third on the next play though as Forsythe hit a slow roller back to the pitcher who tossed it over to Morales for the fielder's choice. Sophomore Charley Thurber was then called out on strikes to bring the frame to an end.
South Carolina first cracked the scoreboard in the fifth inning on a solo home run off McCray by Whit Merrifield. The Gamecocks added another tally two frames later when Scott Wingo took a 1-2 pitch from sophomore Will Locante the opposite way for a solo shot of his own. USC then put the game out of reach in the bottom of the eighth with a pair of runs on three hits, including an RBI double by Brady Thomas and a run-scoring single by Adam Matthews.
The Vols next return to the diamond Tuesday, March 23, when they host USC Upstate at 7 p.m. at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Following that contest, the Big Orange will begin preparations for a three-game set against No. 3 LSU next weekend. For more information on Tennessee baseball, visit UTSports.com or follow @VolBaseball on Twitter.