May 12, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Four different players hit home runs on Wednesday as the University of Tennessee baseball team (28-21) powered its way to a 12-7 victory over Middle Tennessee State (30-19) at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. With the win, the Volunteers finished off a season sweep of the Blue Raiders and completed the 2010 regular season with a 7-1 record against in-state foes.
"This is a big win because it keeps our momentum alive," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "The confidence is there and we have the right mentality. We're trying to beat people, not just trying to win. We are trying to beat them and score a lot of runs. Our hitters are really confident at the plate and they can smell it. That was a good team out there. It was big not to have a let-down and I don't think we did that at all. We were ready to play.
"Even though we fell behind early, I knew we were going to score some runs. I didn't want us to fall behind by too much, but once we got the lead we never gave it up. We are really swinging the bats better than we have all season. Coming off a huge weekend at Georgia, taking final exams this week and looking at another huge weekend against one of the hottest teams in the league in Auburn, I thought our team did a terrific job of focusing on the task at hand and getting the job done tonight."
Junior Cody Hawn hit a mammoth shot over the scoreboard in the sixth inning to highlight a stellar offensive performance for the Big Orange. He finished the contest with a pair of hits, two RBIs and three runs scored. The home run was his 12th of the season and the 34th of his UT career, moving him into a tie with Bobby Tucker (1970-73) for fourth all-time in school history and just four behind Todd Helton (1993-95) for the top spot on the list.
Sophomore Charley Thurber had strong day at the plate as well, blasting a solo home run, his seventh of the year, while going 3-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored. Junior Blake Forsythe, meanwhile, went 2-for-5 with a three-run longball, scored two runs and knocked in three more as he extended his hitting streak to 10 games. He also moved up the UT career home runs chart as his dinger was his 27th in a Tennessee uniform, tying him with Chuck Barclift (1979-80) for ninth all-time.
Joining in on the slugfest as well was freshman Chris Fritts who launched his third round-tripper of the season and finished with two hits and a pair of RBIs. Junior Josh Liles added two hits of his own with a single and a double, while P.J. Polk crossed the plate three times as he notched a single and walked twice.
Senior Steve Crnkovich earned his fifth win of the 2010 campaign, tossing three innings of relief during which he allowed just one run on two hits. He is now tied with fellow classmate Stephen McCray for the most victories on the squad.
Freshman Drew Steckenrider earned the start on Wednesday, the first of his collegiate career. He yielded just one hit and a pair of runs, only one of which was earned, in two innings of work. Sophomore Matt Ramsey closed out the contest by retiring all three batters he faced after coming on with two runners on board and nobody out in the top of the ninth.
Despite the final outcome, it was actually Middle Tennessee State that struck the first blow of the evening, using a leadoff walk, a wild pitch, a double, a passed ball and a sacrifice fly to score a pair of runs in the top of the second inning. Following a scoreless third, the Blue Raiders would add one more in the top of the fourth when Justin Miller blasted his 17th home run of the season over the wall in right to put MTSU up 3-0.
At that point, Tennessee decided it had seen enough and responded with seven unanswered runs, scoring four in the bottom of the fourth and three more in the fifth. Polk got the ball rolling for the Vols in the fourth, drawing a leadoff walk. He then moved all the way to third on a pair of wild pitches before a 3-2 pitch missed to Hawn to put runners on the corners with nobody out for UT.
Forsythe then proceeded to tie the game with one swing, blasting a three-run shot to left-center to bring the game back to a deadlock at 3-3. They would not be finished yet, however, as Thurber added an opposite-field home run two batters later to give the Big Orange a lead it would not relinquish the rest of the night.
UT continued its offensive onslaught in the fifth, which started, once again, with a leadoff walk to Polk. Back-to-back singles by Hawn and Forsythe then loaded the bases for junior Matt Duffy who brought two runs home to score with his team-leading 16th double of the season, ripping a grounder just inside the chalk down the third-base line. On the very next pitch, Thurber punched on one the ground toward short. With the infield drawn in, they could only knock the ball down, allowing Thurber to reach first safely with a single and Forsythe to race to the plate without a throw.
Suddenly trailing by four at 7-3, Middle Tennessee State tried to make a game of it with three runs in the top of the sixth, using the first of two home runs in the game by Justin Guidry for the first two tallies and a solo dinger by Drew Robertson for the third.
The Vols would answer right back, however, doing the Blue Raiders one better with four runs in the bottom of the frame. The stanza started off inauspiciously as senior Cody Grisham looped a fly ball to shallow right, but MTSU right-fielder Bryce Brentz dropped the ball while trying to avoid a collision with the second baseman. Fritts took full advantage of the error as he got all of a 2-2 pitch from Marshall Mears and deposited it over "The Porch" in left-center.
Although Mears got the next batter to ground out, Polk followed with an infield single to chase him from the game. Hawn then greeted MTSU reliever Joey McClung by absolutely annihilating his first offering, crushing it over the scoreboard in right-center to put two more runs on the board for Tennessee.
The Orange and White would add one more run in the seventh on an RBI double by Liles and a solo home run by Guidry, his second of the game, would account for the Blue Raider's seventh and final run of the evening in the top of the eighth.
The Big Orange will return to Southeastern Conference play this weekend when they travel to the Yellowhammer State for a three-game series against No. 18 Auburn. First pitch is set for 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, March 14, 4 p.m. ET on Saturday and 2 p.m. ET on Sunday. For more information on Tennessee baseball, visit UTSports.com or follow @VolBaseball on Twitter.