April 9, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee baseball team battled to the end, bringing the tying run to the plate three times in the bottom of the ninth, but it just never could get that one key hit it needed all night, eventually falling 4-2 to No. 8 Florida in front of a season-high 2,519 fans on Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
"It was a tough one out there," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "You have to give them some credit. We probably hit the ball harder than they did all night, but we hit it right at them and they made some plays. They outpitched us and played better defense than we did today. We made a blunder on defense that ended up costing us but I thought offensively we swung the bats better than what the results were. You have to tip your hat to them, we just couldn't get anything going. Now we need to come out tomorrow and do what we did last week against Ole Miss and just battle up."
The Volunteers, who hit the ball hard all game, actually out-hit the Gators, 7-6. They were only to string together hits on two occasions, however, scoring a run both times. The Big Orange also hit at least another 10 balls hard that all went for outs due to a strong effort by the Florida defense.
Junior P.J. Polk continued his offensive onslaught for UT, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games with a 2-for-4 effort including a single and a double. Fellow juniors Matt Duffy and Khayyan Norfork each had a hit and scored a run as well, while classmates Blake Forsythe and Cody Hawn drove in the Orange and White's only two runs of the game.
Yet another junior had a strong day on the mound for Tennessee as Bryan Morgado logged seven innings, allowing four runs on five hits while walking three and striking out eight in a tough-luck loss. Redshirt junior D.J. Leffler came on in relief to post 1.2 perfect frames, retiring all five batters that he faced.
Florida sophomore Alex Panteliodis picked up the win with eight innings of two-run ball. He scattered six hits and struck out two before Kevin Chapman came out of the bullpen to get the final three outs of the game for his sixth save of the year.
The Gators struck the first blow of the contest, using a wild pitch and a pair of flyouts to score a run after a leadoff single by Austin Maddox in the top of the second. He actually came home to score on a long foul ball of the bat of Daniel Pigott that UT freshman Chris Fritts made a great play on as he navigated around his own team's bullpen to make a sliding grab.
The Vols answered right back with a run of their own in the bottom half of the frame though. With one out on the board, Duffy laced a 1-0 pitch to right center for a single. He then came racing all the way around the bases to tie the game when Hawn finished off a seven-pitch at-bat by powering a double off the base of the wall in right-center.
After Morgado and Panteliodis threw up matching zeroes in the third, UF struck for another run in the fourth and two more in the fifth. Tennessee ran into a bit of bad luck in the fourth, as Morgado just missed with four consecutive pitches after jumping ahead of Preston Tucker 0-2 to issue him a leadoff walk. Morgado then got back-to-back groundballs to Norfork at second, but a small bobble on the first and the fact that the second was a slow, high chopper kept the Vols from turning a double play to clear the bases. Instead, both went down as fielder's choices and Pigott came through with a two-out triple to make it 2-1 in favor of Florida.
The Gators continued to attack in the fifth, opening the stanza with consecutive singles by Jonathan Pigott and Mike Zunino. A throwing error by Forsythe on a sac bunt attempt by Nolan Fontana then allowed one run to score and put runners on second and third with no outs. Following a strikeout by Morgado, Tucker singled to left to plate another run. He was thrown out at second on the play, however, and Polk made a tremendous head-first diving catch just inside fair territory down the left-field line to keep the damage at a minimum.
While his team was staking claim to a three-run lead, Panteliodis was in the process of putting up six straight scoreless frames, recording 18 straight outs at one point. A one-out single by sophomore Matt Ramsey ended that run in the eighth as he punched an 0-2 pitch to left. Senior Cody Grisham, pinch-hitting for Fritts, followed by smashing a laser beam of a line drive back up the middle. It was knocked down by Panteliodis though, who picked it up and threw Grisham out at first while Ramsey advanced to second. Just seconds later, Ramsey moved up to third on a wild pitch, but that would be as far as he would go as Osborne grounded out to end the threat.
After Leffler and freshman Alan Walden combined to hold the Gators off the board in the top of the ninth, Tennessee returned to the plate determined to make a comeback. Swinging at the first pitch he saw, Norfork got the frame started with a single through the left side that marked the end of the night for Panteliodis. Polk then greeted reliever Jeff Barfield with a single to the hole at short before Florida finally called upon its closer, Chapman.
Although he got back-to-back groundouts, both plays advanced the runners up a base, with Norfork touching home on a grounder to short by Forsythe to bring the Vols within two. They wouldn't get any closer though as third straight groundout, this one by Duffy, brought the contest to a close.
Tennessee and Florida will be back in action at 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon with a contest scheduled to be televised on FOX Sports Florida. Senior right-hander Stephen McCray will take the hill for the Big Orange while the Brian Johnson is slated to start for the Gators. The series will conclude with a 12:30 p.m. showdown on Sunday. That game will be shown live by Comcast Sports Southeast.
For more information on Tennessee baseball, visit UTSports.com or follow @VolBaseball on Twitter.