March 27, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Behind yet another strong performance by junior Bryan Morgado, the University of Tennessee baseball team was able to remain within one of No. 4 LSU through eight innings. A three-run ninth by the Tigers (18-3, 3-1) proved to be too much for the Volunteers (11-11, 0-4) to overcome, however, as they dropped their Southeastern Conference home opener Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
"Obviously, Bryan was outstanding once again and I thought we did a better job of swinging the bats today," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "We hit some balls hard, but just right at people. I thought we did a good job early on, but we are just missing that one key hit. We're not getting that gap shot to clear the bases or a home run."
For his fourth straight start, Morgado gave the Big Orange seven solid innings, allowing three runs on five hits while striking out a season-high 11 batters and walking four in a tough-luck loss. He has now reached double-digits in punchouts six times in his career, as he also accomplished the feat five times as a redshirt sophomore in 2008. He finished one K short of his career-best of 12 which he set in his UT debut against Furman on Feb. 25, 2008.
Offensively, juniors Blake Forsythe and Cody Hawn paced the squad with a pair of hits each. Hawn and fellow classmate Khayyan Norfork were responsible for knocking in UT's only two runs of the day with an RBI single and a sacrifice fly, respectively.
After being unable to capitalize on a two-out rally in the bottom of the first, the Vols came up with the first run of the game in their half of the second inning. Freshman designated hitter Cody Stubbs led off the frame with a walk and advanced to third two batters later on a single by junior Matt Duffy. Stubbs then put UT on the board with the help of a sacrifice fly by Norfork. LSU answered right back, however, with a pair of runs of its own in the top of the third. Austin Nola got things started for the Tigers with a leadoff single and Trey Watkins brought him home just two batters later with a triple off the top of the wall in center. Tyler Hanover then made it 3-1 LSU with a single up the middle.
The back-and-forth battle continued in the bottom half of the stanza with the Orange and White tying the score after a leadoff double by Polk that bounced off the bag at third base and a one-out single by Hawn through the right side.
The Vols got another leadoff runner in the fourth, but were unable to bring him home. Once again, Stubbs got on base to open the frame with a single to left just past the glove of a diving Nola. Sophomore Zach Osborne then moved him up 90 feet with a textbook sac bunt, but a strikeout by Duffy and a flyball to center off the bat of Norfork ended the threat.
The Tigers were able to accomplish what UT had not been able to do in the fifth, bringing Nola home to score after a leadoff walk with a sac bunt and a two-out single by Hanover. The damage was kept to a minimum though as Liles threw Hanover out at second as he tried to stretch his hit into a double.
From there, Morgado dominated, sitting down five of the final seven batters that he faced. The 6-3 southpaw was able to work around a one-out single in the sixth to get an inning-ending double play and struck out the side in the seventh around a walk to the second batter.
While he was putting up zeroes, the Volunteer offense was unable to scratch across a run, however, and LSU entered the ninth with a 3-2 advantage. That would not be the score for much longer though, as the Tigers put the game out of reach with a three-spot in the final frame. LSU got three straight singles to start the stanza, the first coming off freshman Drew Steckenrider and the next two off of sophomore Will Locante, including an RBI base-hit by Nola. With runners on the corners and nobody out, Locante got UT's first out of the inning via a groundball to Osborne at short.
Raleigh then called upon closer Matt Ramsey to keep the score as close as possible. With runners on second and third and just one out, Ramsey picked up a huge strikeout, getting Watkins to go down swinging on a 3-2 count. He would then get the count to 2-2 against Hanover, before the LSU second baseman put one off the top of the wall in left-center to knock in two with a double.
Tennessee was then unable to get much of anything going against LSU closer Matty Ott in the ninth, as he worked around a one-out single by Norfork to close out the game for the Tigers.
The Vols will continue their series with the Tigers at 3 p.m. tomorrow in a contest scheduled to be televised on FOX Sports Net. The final game of the series is set to be played at 2 p.m. on Sunday. For more information on Tennessee baseball, visit UTSports.com or follow @VolBaseball on Twitter.