Vols Eliminated from SEC Tournament after Dropping 3-2 Thriller to Miss. State

May 28, 2005

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HOOVER, Ala. -- The No. 3 seed Tennessee baseball team saw its run at the 2005 SEC Baseball Tournament come to an end Saturday morning when it lost a dramatic 3-2 decision to No. 7 seed Mississippi State at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. The Volunteers did not score until they took a one-run lead in the ninth, and the Bulldogs countered with a game-winning rally in the bottom of the inning.

Tennessee recorded at least one hit in every inning but the seventh and out-hit MSU 13-10. The Vols fell to 41-19 with the loss.

The Bulldogs (39-20) remain undefeated in the tournament and advance to Sunday's championship game.

Vols senior Rob Fitzgerald led off the top of the ninth inning with a single through the right side of the infield. Second baseman Michael Rivera then came up and laid down a bunt hit that ran just fair along the right line. Bulldogs reliever Mike Valentine fielded the bunt but threw the ball over first baseman Brad Jones' head. The throwing error allowed Fitzgerald and Rivera to advance to third and second base, respectively.

Senior Joey Andrews then came up to bat for Tennessee, and he delivered an RBI single up the middle to score both runners and give the Vols their first lead of the game. Still with no outs, Andrews advanced to third base on consecutive groundouts by Alex Suarez and Josh Alley. Senior Eric King grounded out to end the top of the frame, and UT carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth.

MSU outfielder Brad Corley led things off with a basehit and then scored all the way from first on an RBI double to left-center by designated hitter Brian LaNinfa. That tied the game at two with no outs and pinch-runner Ben Grisham at second.

Tennessee then brought in sophomore right-hander Sean Watson to replace starter Craig Cobb, who had put together a magnificent eight-inning performance. Cobb's departure came after he allowed nine hits with no walks and one strikeout.

Watson got Joseph Hunter to strike out swinging, but Jeff Butts produced a game-winning single down the left-field line that drove in Grisham from second and made the final score 3-2 in favor of Mississippi State.

Cobb took credit for MSU's three runs and dropped to 6-4 on the year with the loss.

Saturday's scoring began when Mississippi State posted one run on a pair of hits in the bottom of the first. Second baseman Jeffrey Rea led off the inning with a basehit and then advanced to second on a balk. He came in to score two batters later when Thomas Berkery drilled an RBI single through the left side of the UT infield. Rea's run would serve as the contest's only scoring until the ninth inning.

MSU starter Jon Crosby pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings, scattering 10 hits and striking out three Vols batters before giving way to right-hander Valentine. Valentine was touched for two runs (one earned) on three hits in 1 1/3 innings but picked up the win and improved to 6-0 this season.

Fitzgerald finished with three hits, while Rivera, J.P. Arencibia, and Chase Headley each recorded two.

The game marked the 33rd time this season that UT had tallied at least 10 hits in a game. Tennessee is 28-5 in those contests. Saturday's game also marked only the fourth time this season that the Vols have lost when out-hitting their opponent. Tennessee left nine runners on base Saturday.

Tennessee now awaits the announcement of NCAA regional sites and matchups. The 16 host sites will be announced Sunday afternoon, and the 64-team bracket for the 2005 Division I Baseball Championship will be aired live on ESPN Monday at 11:30 a.m. ET.





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