April 11, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A seven run sixth inning for No. 8 Florida proved to be the difference on Sunday, as the University of Tennessee baseball team dropped a 9-1 decision in the series finale against the Gators at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
"We just didn't play well today," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "Both pitchers did a good job early. The game was tied 0-0 in the sixth, and I think (Steven) Gruver just ran out of gas. I thought he did a great job, but just kind of ran out of gas there at the end.
"This is a tough loss, but we have to move on. We've played the four toughest series first, and this is the worst game we've played so far. We could easily have seven or eight wins right now, but we don't. Not that any of the series coming up are easy, but we've got to go down to Mississippi State next week and take care of business, then come back here for six straight (SEC games)."
Sophomore Zach Osborne was the top performer for the Volunteers, recording two of the team's six hits on the day. He also knocked in UT's only run of the game. Senior Cody Grisham, juniors Blake Forsythe and Josh Liles and sophomore Matt Ramsey had the squad's other four hits, all of which were singles.
On the mound, sophomore Steven Gruver opened the contest with five shutout innings before allowing four of the Gator's seven runs in the sixth. He finished with a pair of walks and one strikeout in 5.1 innings of work, while giving up seven hits, four of which came in the sixth.
For the third straight day, redshirt junior D.J. Leffler came out of the bullpen and gave the Big Orange a stellar performance as he struck out both batters he faced on Sunday. For the weekend, he finished with four punchouts in 3.1 scoreless innings. The Yorba Linda, Calif., native allowed just one hit and retired 10 of the 11 batters that he faced.
With a crowd of 2,302 on hand on Sunday, Tennessee set a season-high for attendance for a weekend series, as 7,314 fans passed through the games over the course of the three days of play. That shattered the previous high of 5,541 set during the LSU series on March 26-27.
Hudson Randall picked up his third win of the season for Florida as he yielded just a single run in eight strong innings. The Vols managed just four hits off of him and he struck out six without walking a batter.
Neither team could get much going offensively in the early goings as Gruver didn't allow a baserunner past second and Randall faced just one over the minimum through the first four innings.
The Gators were the first team to threaten, loading the bases in the top of the fifth with a two-out single and back-to-back walks. Gruver would bear down though and got Austin Maddox to line out to Matt Duffy at third to get out of the jam.
After the Vols went quietly in the bottom half of the inning, Florida came out swinging in the sixth, breaking the game open with a season-high seven runs in the stanza. The first three runs came quickly as brothers Daniel and Jonathan Pigott led off the frame with a double and a single, respectively, before coming home to score on a three-run home run to center by Josh Adams.
Gruver came back to get Mike Zunino to pop up a 3-2 pitch for the first out, but Jerico Weitzel ended his afternoon when he doubled down the right-field line and advanced to third on an error by Ramsey. Sophomore southpaw Will Locante came on in relief, but he walked the first batter he faced before surrendering three straight RBI hits to increase UF's run total in the frame to six. A wild pitch then put the final tally on the board.
Trailing 7-0 all of a sudden, Tennessee tried to mount a quick rally in the bottom of the sixth, but it was only able to manage a single run. Forsythe got things started with the Orange and White's first hit of the day, a single up the middle. He then moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch, but was forced to stick close to the base when Grisham grounded out to third just seconds later. He advanced to third on another wild pitch, but a strikeout by junior Khayyan Norfork put two outs on the board. Fortunately, Osborne was able to come through with a two-out infield single to plate Forsythe from third for UT's only run of the game.
Florida would add an unearned run in the seventh and a got an RBI double from freshman shortstop Nolan Fontana in the ninth to account for the final score.
The Big Orange will look to return to the win column on Tuesday when it hosts Lipscomb at 7 p.m. in Knoxville. From there, the Vols will travel to Starkville, Miss., for a three-game set against Mississippi State at Dudy-Noble Field, April 16-18. For more information on Tennessee baseball, visit UTSports.com or follow @VolBaseball on Twitter.