April 25, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - It took a little longer than expected, but a walk-off, two-run home run by Blake Forsythe gave the University of Tennessee baseball team a 4-2 win over No. 15 Vanderbilt in the 11th-inning of a game that was only scheduled to go seven on Sunday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville. The victory evened the weekend series which will be decided in the second game of today's doubleheader.
Forsythe's game-ending blow came with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the 11th inning. The junior fell behind in the count 0-2 and then fouled off three consecutive pitches before launching his eighth home run of the season over "The Porch" in left.
Besides Forsythe, junior Matt Duffy was the most productive hitter in the game for the Volunteers as he finished the contest with three hits in five at-bats to raise his batting average to a team-leading .381 in Southeastern Conference action. UT leadoff hitter and fellow junior Khayyan Norfork was the lone player to score a pair of runs in the contest.
Senior starter Stephen McCray was masterful on the mound, twirling 7.1 innings during which he allowed just three hits and two runs, one of which was unearned. He also struck out four, walked one and hit two batters in a tough-luck no decision as he lowered his ERA to a squad-best mark of 2.43.
It was sophomore Matt Ramsey that came away with the win, however, as he was absolutely perfect out of the bullpen, retiring all 11 batters that he faced in a career-high 3.2 innings of relief for McCray. The Knoxville native struck out three Commodore hitters and did not allow anyone to reach base, while the score was tied at 2-2 his entire time on the mound.
The Commodores actually struck the initial blow of the contest, tallying an unearned run in the top of the first after an error, a sacrifice bunt and an RBI single by Jason Esposito.
The Big Orange came racing right back though and quickly tied it up with an unearned run of its own. Norfork kicked things off with a single on the second pitch he saw and junior P.J. Polk was able to move him into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Following a lineout by junior Cody Hawn and a five-pitch walk to sophomore Charley Thurber, Duffy hit a high chopper between the mound and third base for an infield single. The ensuing throw by VU starter Jack Amstrong bounced past the first baseman down the right-field line allowing Norfork to race home from second to tie the game.
After a scoreless second stanza, Tennessee took a 2-1 lead with another unearned run off of Armstrong. Once again, Norfork reached base to start the frame as Commodore shortstop Brian Harris misplayed a groundball. A wild pitch then moved him up to second and a groundout by Hawn two batters later put him at third with two outs. In the midst of a 10-pitch at-bat by Thurber, which he finished off with a single to left, a second wild pitch allowed Norfork to cross the plate for UT's second run of the game.
From there, McCray and VU pitchers Amstrong and Chase Reid simply took over. Neither team would score a run over the next three innings. The Vols did threaten in the bottom of the fifth though, as Ramsey laced a two-out single to right with runners on first and second, but Commodore right fielder Joe Loftus threw a strike to the plate to gun down Polk trying to pad UT's lead.
Heading to the top of the seventh, McCray walked out to the mound needing just three outs to give the Big Orange the victory. He had sat down eight straight and 11 of the previous 12 Vanderbilt hitters, but left a 3-2 pitch up to Curt Casali who deposited it over the fence in left-center to tie the game up at 2-2. McCray was able to settle down and get the next three hitters though to keep the score deadlocked.
Once again, pitching for both teams took over the contest as the two teams combined for just four baserunners, three for UT and one for Vandy, until Forsythe's heroics in the bottom of the 11th.
Tennessee will go for the series win in the second game of the doubleheader on Sunday. Freshman Nick Blount will make his first collegiate start, while the Commodores will send right-hander Taylor Hill to the mound. For more information on Tennessee baseball, visit UTSports.com or follow @VolBaseball on Twitter.