May 19, 2007
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Tennessee baseball team's season came down to one game Saturday, and the Volunteers came out swinging. The Big Orange belted four home runs in support of senior pitcher Craig Cobb, and the end result was an 11-7 triumph over Florida in the regular-season finale for both teams at McKethan Stadium. The victory locked up Tennessee's 12th all-time berth in the SEC Tournament, which runs May 23-27 at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala.
The eighth-seeded Vols (33-23, 13-15 SEC) will face top-seeded Vanderbilt Wednesday at 5 p.m. CT. Tickets for the 2007 SEC Tournament are $100 for reserved box seats and $75 for a general admission book. Fans also may purchase reserved single-session tickets for $17 or general admission single-session tickets for $12 beginning Saturday, May 19, at 7 p.m. CT. To purchase tickets, call 1-800-732-4849 or visit www.secsports.com.
Cobb earned his eighth win of the season Saturday and the 26th of his career. It was his second victory in as many starts in Gainesville and his third in four outing against the Gators (28-28, 15-15 SEC). Tennessee has now won four straight series against Florida.
Junior standouts J.P. Arencibia and Julio Borbon each stepped up big for the Vols Saturday, logging four hits apiece and combining for five RBIs and five runs. Fellow junior Shawn Griffin also drove in three runs.
Florida made things interesting late, loading the bases with one out against Vols closer Jeff Lockwood in the bottom of the eighth. Backup catcher Hampton Tignor made it a four-run game with an RBI sacrifice fly, but a stingy Lockwood shut the Gators down after that and held on to log his eighth save and ensure the Vols would live to play another day.
Just as it did in the series' first two contests, Tennessee struck first Saturday. And it did so in a big way.
After leadoff man Andy Simunic drew a four-pitch walk from Gators pitcher Billy Bullock in the top of the first inning, Borbon belted a two-run homer to give the Vols an early lead. It was Borbon's third home run of the season and the seventh of his career.
Then following a single by Arencibia and a double by designated hitter Lockwood, Griffin slugged a three-run blast that put the Big Orange up by five. It was the Hollywood, Fla., native's sixth longball of the year.
Bullock lasted just 2/3 inning after allowing five runs on five hits. He gave way to fellow right-hander Patrick Keating. The two hurlers combined to face nine UT batters in the top of the first. Bullock was tagged with the loss to fall to 2-7 on the season.
Cobb, the lone senior on UT's roster, sat down the Gators in order in the bottom of the first, and the Vols plated one more run in the second to extend its lead to six runs. Arencibia enabled Borbon to score from third base with an RBI sacrifice fly. Borbon had previously singled, stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error by UF catcher Cody Neer.
Keating unleashed a wild pitch with two outs in the top of the third that allowed Griffin to score from third base, giving Tennessee a 7-0 lead.
Florida's first real scoring threat came in the bottom of the fifth, as the Gators led off the frame with five consecutive basehits. UF shortstop Cole Figueroa drove in two with a single to centerfield, and the Vols then intentionally walked Gators first baseman Matt LaPorta to load the bases. Brian LeClerc followed with a grounder that resulted in an infield error, enabling a third run to cross. Florida's five hits in the inning, coupled with UT's second error of the game, helped the Gators trim their deficit to four runs, 7-3.
The Gators brought their top reliever, southpaw David Hurst, to the mound for the top of the sixth, but it proved futile as UT quickly erased Florida's fifth-inning rally with a pair of home runs. Arencibia unleashed a two-run blast that was followed by a solo shot by first baseman Yan Gomes. Arencibia's longball was his leading eighth of the season and the 33rd of his career, tying him for fifth place on UT's all-time list. Gomes' round-tripper was also his eighth of the season, tying him with Arencibia for the team lead.
Vols third baseman Cody Brown tacked on one more run for Tennessee in the sixth with a two-out, RBI basehit that gave UT an eight-run edge.
The Gators managed three runs in the seventh inning, during which Cobb was lifted after allowing six runs on 10 hits with four walks - two of which were issued intentionally to LaPorta - and three strikeouts through 6 1/3 innings.
Tennessee will travel to Hoover Tuesday for the SEC Tournament. The Vols own an all-time record of 24-19 in that event, with their most recent appearance coming in 2005.