May 20, 2006
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Alabama freshman pitcher Tommy Hunter flirted with a complete-game shutout Saturday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium, but the Tennessee baseball wasn't interested in ending its already disappointing season on a scoreless note. Vols senior catcher Kelly Edmundson crushed a mammoth solo home run in his final collegiate at-bat in the bottom of the ninth inning as UT fell by a score of 5-1.
Edmundson and fellow Tennessee seniors Michael Rivera and Chris Kemp closed the book on their Big Orange careers Saturday and each received a gracious ovation during their final at-bats from the supportive crowd of 2,151.
With the victory, the Crimson Tide (39-17, 20-10 SEC) earned a share of the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship. The Vols fell to 31-24 (11-18 SEC) on the year.
Both starting pitchers - Hunter and Deunte Heath for Tennessee - kept the opposing batters off-balance through four scoreless innings. But in the top of the fifth, the Tide managed to put a pair of runners in scoring position with just one out. Designated hitter Alex Avila then drew a base on balls to load the bases for catcher Kody Valverde, who opened the game's scoring with an RBI fielder's choice.
Then with one out in the bottom of the fifth, Rivera - playing in his school-record 219th career game - doubled to right-centerfield. He later stole third base but ended up stranded. After five full frames, Alabama held a one-run lead and a 5-3 advantage in hits.
The Crimson Tide built a 2-0 lead courtesy of an RBI basehit by centerfielder Emeel Salem in the sixth inning. Tennessee countered with consecutive singles by Tony Delmonico and Kemp to lead off the bottom of the inning, but a strikeout and a double-play ball squelched the threat and preserved Hunter's shutout bid.
After a strong, seven-inning performance, Heath gave way to freshman right-hander Josh Lindblom. Heath absorbed the loss to fall to 4-3on the year after allowing two runs (one earned) on eight hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
Alabama first baseman Spencer Pennington sent the first pitch of the eighth inning over the right-field wall. Later with two outs in the frame, Matt Downs connected on a two-run homer that gave the Tide a 5-0 lead with one and a half innings left to play.
Hunter earned the win and improved to 9-3 after giving up one run on six hits with no walks and four Ks threw nine innings.
Lindblom tossed one inning of relief for UT before freshman right-hander Aaron Everett entered to work a perfect ninth.
Edmundson's ninth-inning blast was the 20th of his career and his ninth of the year.
With his fifth-inning double, Rivera moved into a tie for fourth place on UT's all-time hits list. The two-bagger was his 246th career hit, tying him with former Vol Stevie Daniel (1999-2001). Rivera also closed out his career with a school record 793 at-bats.