March 27, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - After finding itself down by five halfway through the game, the University of Tennessee baseball team rallied back within one on two occasions against No. 4-ranked LSU. In the end, the early deficit and the fact that they left 12 runners on base were simply too much to overcome, however, and the Tigers were able to leave Knoxville with three wins in two days, defeating the Volunteers, 8-2, in the nightcap of a doubleheader Saturday evening at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
"That was a tough one, we just left too many on," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "We left 12 and they left six. That was the difference in the game. We did a good job fighting to get back in it as usual. We've been tied or down by one in either the seventh or eighth inning of every one of our SEC games, but haven't been able to win any of them and it's frustrating.
"We're only six games in, and we've had a chance to win every single one of them. We need to continue to point that out to our young players because I saw a lot of good things this weekend. (Matt) Duffy really swung the bat well and Matt Ramsey gave us an unbelievable spark today. We don't want moral victories though. If we keep putting ourselves in these positions we are going to start winning some games."
Four different Tennessee players had two hits in the contest, led by junior P.J. Polk who hit his second home run of the season and knocked in three runs. Fellow classmates Cody Hawn and Matt Duffy, as well as sophomore Zach Osborne notched multi-hit games as well, while senior Cody Grisham was the lone Vol to score a pair of runs, doing so after getting hit by a pitch and drawing a walk.
The Big Orange continued to play stellar defense, racking up its 11th errorless contest of the season, fourth in the past five games and second of the weekend. Senior Steve Crnkovich gave UT a solid performance out of the bullpen, coming on for starter Steven Gruver who lasted just 4.2 innings after allowing a season-high six runs on six hits in his first start in three weeks.
Crnkovich kept the Vols within striking distance the rest of the way, tossing 3.1 frames, during which LSU managed just two runs on five hits. Sophomore Matt Ramsey pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out one, in addition to going 1-for-4 with a run scored and a walk as the team's right fielder for the first eight innings. Over the course of Saturday's doubleheader, Ramsey hit .429 with two doubles, his first career home run and a pair of RBIs.
Tennessee actually struck the first blow in the second game of the day when P.J. Polk led off the bottom of the third by launching a 2-1 pitch high off the batter's eye in centerfield for his second home run of the season. LSU answered right back in the next half-inning, scoring a pair of runs on a two-run shot by Matt Gaudet to take a lead it would not relinquish the rest of the way.
The Tigers added four more tallies to the scoreboard in the top of the fifth, highlighted by a leadoff home run by Leon Landry, an RBI groundout by Blake Dean and a two-run triple off the bat of Micah Gibbs. Crnkovich was able to limit the damage, however, coming on to strike out Gaudet on three pitches to end the frame.
Trailing 6-1, the Vols started their comeback bid with a run in the bottom of the fifth on a run-scoring single by junior Blake Forsythe. Their big push came in the sixth though, when they moved within one by scoring three runs. After junior Josh Liles flied out to start the stanza, Ramsey walked, Duffy doubled down the line and Grisham was hit by a pitch to load the bases with just one out. Polk then fell behind in the count 0-2 to LSU reliever Daniel Bradshaw before smoking a base hit through the left side to bring two runs home to score. Osborne then followed with a seeing-eye single up the middle to plate Grisham and put the Orange and White within one at 6-5.
Following a scoreless seventh inning, the Tigers extended their lead to two with a pair of singles, a sac bunt and an RBI groundout by Austin Nola. The Big Orange cut its deficit back to one just moments later with a run in its half of the inning. After Grisham and Polk both drew five-pitch walks from Mitch Mormann, Osborne moved them up 90 feet with a perfectly executed sac bunt. Hawn then looked to have given the lead back to Tennessee with a long drive to centerfield, but it fell about two feet short of the wall. Grisham was able to come home easily though to return the score to a one-run difference at 7-6.
LSU added an insurance run in the ninth with a leadoff triple by Trey Watkins and a single past the drawn-in UT infield by Tyler Hanover. Ramsey was able to hold them down the rest of the frame though, getting a pair of lineouts before striking Johnny Dishon out looking to end the inning.
With Tiger closer Matty Ott on the mound for the bottom of the ninth, the Vols were able to get a one-out double from Ramsey, but that was it as he held on to give LSU its 20th victory of the season and pick up his ninth save of the year.
The Big Orange will look to return to the win column when it hosts Tennessee Tech on Tuesday, March 30. It will also play a mid-week contest the following day when Presbyterian College makes the trip to Rocky Top. Both games will be played at 7 p.m. at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
For more information on Tennessee baseball, visit UTSports.com or follow @VolBaseball on Twitter.