May 6, 2011
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Seniors Josh Liles and Khayyan Norfork both matched their career highs with four hits and all nine Tennessee starters had at least one hit, but it wasn't enough as the Volunteers dropped the series opener to Mississippi State, 16-5, Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
"I've been doing this a long time and I've never seen anything like it," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "We got the leadoff hitter on more than they did, did a good job there. I don't think I've ever coached a game where we left guys on in all nine innings. They got six two-out runs, we didn't get any two-out runs. We did a lot of good things and had the same number of hits, but lost by 11. That's hard to do. As a coach, you've just got to keep hoping that's going to turn around. We didn't do a lot of good things on the mound. Right now, the biggest thing that's killing us is the two-out runs.
I thought we were ready to play. We fought back in it. At one point, we had eight hits and two runs and they had five hits and eight runs. Like I said, I don't know if I've ever been in a game where left runners on in every single inning and never get a two-out hit. That's just kind of the theme."
Junior Steven Gruver reached the six-inning mark for the 11th time in 12 starts this season, but suffered the loss to fall to 4-5. In his six frames, the Canfield, Ohio, native struck out six and allowed eight runs on eight hits and four walks. Luis Pollorena picked up the win in his first start for Mississippi State, improving to 6-3 despite yielding five runs on 11 hits and two free passes.
Norfork and Liles led the UT offensive effort with four hits each. Norfork had a pair of doubles, two singles and two RBIs, while Liles added a two-bagger and three base knocks. Freshman Ethan Bennett and junior Davis Morgan each had a double in the contest as well and first-year Vol Andrew Toles swiped his 19th base of the season, tying him for the fourth-most all-time by a Tennessee freshman with Chris Burke (1999). Tennessee stranded 14 runners in the contest, including at least one in all nine innings of play.
The Bulldogs opened the game with a pair of two-out runs in the top of the first, but the Big Orange got one back in the home half of the inning thanks to a run-scoring double down the left-field line by Norfork. Following a scoreless second, the Vols tied the game at 2-2 in the third when Bennett smoked a double to the gap in left-center that brought Matt Duffy home all the way from first.
Just two innings later, however, Mississippi State plated five runs on three hits and an error to take a commanding 7-2 lead. After another Bulldog run in the sixth, Tennessee tried to get back within striking distance by scoring three times in the bottom of the inning. Morgan drew a four-pitch walk to start the frame and Liles followed with a single. Two batters later, junior Zach Osborne brought in a run with a single back up the middle. Norfork plated the second run with his second double of the day before Duffy greeted an MSU relief pitcher, Caleb Reed, with a sacrifice fly that put the tally on the scoreboard at 8-5.
That would be as close as UT would get though as Mississippi State sent 10 batters to the plate in the top of the seventh, scoring six runs, to break the game open and take a 14-4 lead. The Bulldogs added two more in the top of the ninth to account for the final score.
The Volunteers will look to return to the win column in game two of the series at 4 p.m. on Saturday. They will send sophomore right-hander Nick Blount (1-2, 5.57) to the hill to face off with MSU starting pitcher southpaw Nick Routt (0-2, 3.81). For the most up-to-date information on Tennessee baseball, visit www.UTSports.com/baseball and be sure to follow @Vol_Baseball on Twitter.