April 22, 2011
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - After Georgia intentionally walked Khayyan Norfork to load the bases with one out in the 10th inning, Tennessee senior Matt Duffy calmly delivered a walk-off single, lacing an 0-1 pitch high off the wall in right to lift the Volunteers to a 5-4 victory over the Bulldogs on a beautiful Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
"I was a little nervous because the game was on the line and you never want to let your team down and want to get that big hit," Duffy said. "I've never walked off in my life, so that was pretty cool. I was just looking for a pitch to drive, and luckily he left one up and I got a hold of it."
The victory was UT's third straight, improving its record to 22-15 overall and 5-11 in Southeastern Conference play. The Bulldogs fall to 19-20, including a 9-7 league mark. The Vols will go for the series win at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
To set up Duffy's dramatics, sophomore Chris Fritts led off the bottom of the 10th with a seven-pitch walk. He then moved up 90 feet to second on freshman Andrew Toles' second sacrifice bunt of the night before an infield single by junior Zach Osborne and the intentional walk to Norfork loaded the bases.
"I knew Georgia would intentionally walk (Norfork)," Raleigh said. "I came up and told Matt before Ky hit. I think it's a good play, I don't blame them. Duff is a little injured and Ky is one of the toughest guys in the league to double up, so I thought it was actually a pretty good play. Matt just had one of the best swings we've seen from him all year. This was huge. To get two in Tuscaloosa against Alabama, who's leading the Western Division, and then to come back and do this on a Friday night is huge for us."
Duffy finished the contest 2-for-5 at the plate with two RBIs. Junior Zach Osborne actually led the team with three hits, while senior Tyler Horne also added a pair of singles. Senior Khayyan Norfork was all over the box score, finishing with a single, a walk, a run scored and two stolen bases to increase his SEC-leading total to 24.
On the mound, sophomore Drew Steckenrider picked up the victory, striking out two and walking one in the top of the 10th. Junior catcher Wes Walker, who entered the game as a defensive replacement at the start of the stanza, helped Steckenrider out of the inning by gunning down a potential base stealer at second for the third out.
"How big was that play in a one-run game," Raleigh said. "Wes works hard and is probably our best defensive catcher. It was a huge momentum swing. We came right back and got the lead-off walk and got things rolling from there. I can't tell you how big that play was. It was huge."
Although he didn't earn the win, junior Steven Gruver was outstanding on the mound yet again, allowing just four runs, three earned, on eight hits in 7.1 strong innings of work. The Canfield, Ohio, native struck out seven, walked one and allowed just a single extra-base hit.
"Steven pitched great," Raleigh said. He certainly gave us a chance to win. I've got nothing to say but great things about him. He was awesome."
The Vols got on the scoreboard first, putting up a three-spot in the bottom of the third. Junior Davis Morgan led off the frame with a first-pitch single to left and Fritts was hit by a pitch just seconds later to put two on with nobody out. Toles then laid down a sac bunt to move them both into scoring position which allowed Osborne to pick up an RBI with an infield single up the middle that the second baseman was able to knock down.
Although that play saved a run right at the moment, Tennessee would get it before another pitch was thrown as UGA starter Alex Wood balked, allowing Fritts to score and Osborne to make his way to second. After a pop-up to second, Duffy tacked on the third tally of the inning with a bloop single to center that brought Osborne in from second.
Georgia answered with a run in each of the next two innings, scoring on a passed ball in the fourth and a sac fly in the fifth to move within one at 3-2.
The Big Orange pushed its advantage back to two in the sixth thanks to some aggressive play by Norfork. The Ripley, Tenn., native led things off with a single, punching an 0-2 pitch through the right side of the infield. He then promptly stole both second and third before coming home to score on a single to left by Horne.
After a scoreless seventh, the Bulldogs brought the game back to a deadlock in the eighth with a pair of runs on a two-out, full-count, bases-loaded single to center by pinch-hitter Conor Welton off of UT freshman reliever Nick Williams.
With neither team doing much in the ninth, the game headed to extra innings, a first for both squads in 2011, setting up the dramatic final frame.
Tennessee will go for its second straight SEC series victory at 4 p.m. on Saturday. Senior southpaw Rob Catapano (2-3, 4.70) will get the starting assignment while Georgia will counter with right-hander Michael Pallazone (6-1, 2.13). The series finale will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday.