April 16, 2011
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Behind its second dominant pitching performance of the day, the Tennessee baseball team picked up just its third series win ever in Tuscaloosa, downing No. 24 Alabama, 1-0, to sweep Saturday's doubleheader and claim its first SEC series win of the season at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
"Both of our starting pitchers were outstanding today," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh. "Steven Gruver really set the tone for us (in game one) and pitched great. He got in a few jams and walked a few more than he usually does, but he was able to make the pitches when he had to. His off-speed was as good today as it has been all year. Nick Blount in the second game was just unbelievable. Groundball city. We got a long of groundballs today as a staff.
"I think this gives us some confidence. We've been so close. We were due for some good things to happen. They hit into a couple of big double plays and that has been us. I think this shows that we can win even when we don't play our best. People don't want to hear that we are hurt, but we are. We have five or six guys that are either out or playing on one leg, but that never came up in the dugout today. A lot of guys stepped up. A lot of that is senior leadership from Khayyan (Norfork), Josh (Liles) and Matt (Duffy).
"We've been doing the right things, but haven't been getting the outcome. This shows us that we can do it as long as we stay positive. The reality is that we are right where we were at this same time last year and we had a chance (to make the SEC Tournament) in the last weekend. Not that this is where we want to be because it isn't, but we just have to keep moving forward."
With the doubleheader sweep, the Big Orange claimed its first SEC series win of the season and just its third ever in Tuscaloosa (1994, 2000). Tennessee, which won the first half of the doubleheader, 2-1, improved to 21-15 on the season and 4-11 through the first half of its conference schedule. The SEC's Western Division leader, Alabama falls to 24-15 and 8-7 in league contests.
Making his first start of the season and just the second of his career, sophomore Nick Blount was outstanding on the mound, holding Alabama scoreless over a career-high five innings, yielding just three hits, walking one and striking out another.
Freshman Nick Williams came on to close out the contest for the Vols, retiring four of the last five hitters, including a big out with two runners on in the sixth, for his second save.
At the plate, the 2-3-4 hitters for Tennessee were a combined 6-for-9 as junior Zach Osborne and seniors Khayyan Norfork and Matt Duffy each went 2-for-3. Duffy drove in the only run of the game with an RBI double to the gap in left-center in the top of the first after one-out singles by both Osborne and Norfork.
Alabama threatened a number of times, but the Tennessee pitching staff rose to the occasion each time. In the third, a leadoff single moved all the way to third thanks to a sac bunt and a groundout, but Blount was able to bear down to get Brock Bennett to bounce out to third to keep the scoreboard clean.
The Crimson Tide tried again in the fourth when Jerod Reaves collected a leadoff single. Alabama star Taylor Dugas, however, bounced into his second double play of the day. The Tide centerfielder had not hit into a double play until he ended the first game of the doubleheader with one. UA had the beginnings of a two-out rally with a walk and a single, but Blount induced a pop-up to first to end the frame.
Alabama put a runner in scoring position once again in the sixth, but Williams came out of the bullpen to relieve sophomore Drew Steckenrider and got David Kindred to groundout harmlessly to Davis Morgan at first.
Tennessee will return to the diamond at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 20, when it opens a five-game homestand against Western Carolina. The Vols will then host Georgia next weekend, with game times set for 6 p.m. on Friday, April 22, 4 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.