April 9, 2011
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee baseball team fought tooth-and-nail with No. 3 South Carolina for the third consecutive day, but the big hit eluded it once again as the Volunteers lost 2-1 on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
"We're doing a lot of good things, but not doing some of the things at the right time," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "We pitched pretty good and played pretty good defense this weekend, but at some point, we've got to get some hits. Guys that have been productive hitters here are not having that kind of year right now. At some point it's got to turn. If we get three hits, we win three games this weekend. They're the defending national champions and it's a very fine line, but we've got to find a way to get to that line.
"They (Florida and South Carolina) are two of the top staffs in the country and South Carolina didn't make an error this weekend. That's hard to do in this game. They didn't walk a lot of guys, they didn't let us in a lot of ways. Their pitching was outstanding. You see why opponents are hitting something like .213 off them coming in to today. They've been doing it to a lot of people. What you've got to do in a series like this is match them pitch-for-pitch and we did that. We just didn't get the hits at the right time. We matched them in hits today and weren't too far apart this weekend, we just didn't get them at the right times."
After getting strong outing out of its starting pitchers in the first two games of the series, the Vols shut the Gamecocks down by committee on Saturday. After starter Matt Ramsey was forced to leave the game in the second inning due to some right forearm soreness, UT utilized six other pitchers to hold South Carolina to just five hits on the day.
After junior Levi Dean got Tennessee through the third with two strikeouts in 1.1 innings, the Gamecocks grabbed the lead with two runs on three hits in two frames of work by freshman Carter Watson. That would be all they could get, however, as sophomores Hunter Daniel, Zack Godley and Nick Blount and freshman Nick Williams kept SC off the scoreboard over the final four stanzas.
Sophomore Zach Osborne and freshman Andrew Toles each posted a pair of singles to account for all but one of Tennessee's hits. Senior Khayyan Norfork had the other and scored UT's only run of the day.
Norfork's hit actually led off the bottom of the first as he helped the Big Orange strike the first blow of the contest. Following his base-knock to left, Toles was hit by a pitch. Senior Matt Duffy then laid down a perfect sac bunt to move them both into scoring position before junior Charley Thurber brought Norfork in to score with an RBI groundout to second to give Tennessee its first lead of the weekend and first since March 30 against UNC Asheville.
The pitching staffs for both teams completely took over for the next four frames as the two squads combined to put just one runner on second during that time. South Carolina broke the scoring drought in the top of the sixth, moving ahead of UT with a pair of runs. Back-to-back singles by Robert Beary and Peter Mooney opened the frame before Scott Wingo laid down a perfect bunt to make it three in a row.
With the bases loaded and nobody out, Watson got SC standout Jackie Bradley, Jr., to line out to right. UT junior Charley Thurber made a strong throw to the plate, but Beary was ruled safe on a bang-bang play to tie the game. Tennessee head coach Todd Raleigh came out to argue the call and was ejected by home plate umpire A.J. Lostaglio as he walked back to the dugout following a brief discussion.
The Gamecocks immediately added another run on an RBI single by Christian Walker, but Watson was able to get out of the jam by inducing Adrian Morales to bounce into a 5-4-3 double play. The play was a smart one by UT senior third baseman Matt Duffy as he had a chance to retire the runner at the plate on a high chopper that he had to charge in on, but he made a strong throw to second without hesitation to start the inning-ending double play.
South Carolina put two runners on base once again in the seventh thanks to a pair of walks, but freshman Nick Williams was able to bear down, getting the next two hitters to groundout to end the threat.
Tennessee finally got something going in the eighth, as freshman Ethan Bennett drew a nine-pitch walk after falling behind 0-2. Although he was forced out at second on a groundball by Norfork, Toles greeted Gamecock closer Matt Price with an infield single to put two on. Price then walked Duffy on four pitches to load the bases for Thurber. With the count in his favor at 2-1, Thurber hit a slow roller past the mound that looked like it was going to sneak through the infield. SC second baseman Scott Wingo snagged it at the last second, however, and flipped to the shortstop covering the bag at second to end the inning.
The Big Orange had another opportunity to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth before falling just short. This time, Osborne opened the frame with a sharply hit single to right and moved into scoring position with just one out after a perfectly-executed sac bunt by pinch-hitter Chris Pierce. Price was able to strike out the final two hitters of the game, however, to leave Osborne stranded at second and pick up his third save of the weekend and 10th of the season.
Tennessee will be back in action at 7 p.m. on Tuesday when it welcomes Appalachian State to Rocky Top. The Vols will then hit the road for their second straight ESPNU Thursday Night SEC Game of the Week, which will be pit them against Alabama at 7:30 p.m. on April 14.