May 20, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee baseball team couldn't find an answer for Alabama starter Jimmy Nelson on Thursday night, dropping the series opener to the Crimson Tide (32-21, 13-15 SEC), 11-3, at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville. Juniors Cody Hawn and Blake Forsythe provided most of the offensive highlights for the Volunteers (30-24, 12-16) as Hawn had three hits and Forsythe blasted his 14th home run of the season.
"That was a bad game, all the way around," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "That's really all I can say. It was a closer game than the final score was, but it got away. We gave up eight runs in the last three innings. You're not going to win like that. If you can't get ready to play when you've got to win two of three, then you shouldn't put on the uniform, so I wouldn't expect any sort of a hangover going into tomorrow. We're going to face one of the hottest pitchers in the SEC tomorrow, so we've got to swing the bats. We've got to do everything we can to get a win tomorrow."
Hawn and Forsythe accounted for all three UT runs in the game, as one of Hawn's three singles knocked in a run and Forsythe's round-tripper scored two. Fellow classmate P.J. Polk had the Orange and White's only other extra-base hit in the contest, lacing a double to left center in the bottom of the eighth before coming home on Hawn's RBI single.
Senior Stephen McCray suffered the loss for the Big Orange, falling to 6-4 on the season after allowing four runs on three hits in 6.2 innings of work. The Lilburn, Ga., native walked four and struck out four on a season-high 123 pitches, 72 of which went for strikes.
Nelson, meanwhile, improved to 7-2 on the year for the Tide, tossing a complete game for the second straight week. He allowed three runs and scattered eight hits in his nine innings on the mound, while striking out eight and walking two.
Alabama got the scoring started early as Clay Jones hit an opposite-field home run on an 0-2 count with two outs in the top of the first to give the Crimson Tide a 2-0 advantage. McCray would keep UA off the board in both the second and third but a leadoff walk in the fourth came home to score after a wild pitch, a groundout to first and a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.
The Tide added two more runs in the top of the seventh to increase its lead to five. With runners on the corners, two outs and senior Steve Crnkovich on the mound in relief of McCray, Josh Rutledge looped a fly ball to shallow left. Unfortunately, Polk lost it off the bat and was unable to make the diving grab as it fell for a two-RBI double.
Tennessee finally got on the board in the bottom of the frame, cutting its deficit to three at 5-2. Hawn led things off with a single through the right side of the infield and Forsythe launched the very next pitch into the scoreboard in right-center for a two-run home run, his 14th of the season and the 29th of his career. That ties him with Rusty Ensor for eighth place in the UT record book.
Alabama responded immediately, however, putting up a four-spot in the top of the eighth. After Crnkovich struck out the first two batters of the stanza, a solo home run by Jake Smith started a two-out rally. The next four batters singled and, with the help of a throwing error by Forsythe, three of those baserunners came home to score before a fly ball to center finally ended the frame.
Now trailing 9-2, the Big Orange tried to mount one final comeback but was only able to manage a single run in the bottom of the eighth. With one out on the board, Polk ripped a double to left-center and raced home the final 180 feet on a single up the middle by Hawn three pitches later. A fielder's choice and a line drive right at Taylor Dugas brought the inning to a close though. UA tacked on its final two runs in the top of the ninth to account for the final score of 11-3.
The two teams will return to the diamond at 7 p.m. on Friday night in Knoxville. Sophomore southpaw Steven Gruver (4-4, 6.62) will take the hill for the Orange and White, while Alabama will hand the ball over to junior right-hander Nathan Kilcrease (5-2, 2.44). For more information on Tennessee baseball, visit UTSports.com or follow @VolBaseball on Twitter.