June 5, 2005
KNOXVILLE -- The Tennessee baseball team enjoyed a productive day offensively and was stellar with the leather in the field while routing Wichita State 12-2 Sunday in the championship game of the NCAA Knoxville Regional. The victory clinched the Volunteers' spot in next weekend's NCAA Super Regionals, which they'll enter riding the momentum of a three-game regional sweep.
NCAA Super Regional action runs Friday through Sunday, with Tennessee facing the winner of the Atlanta Regional - hosted by Georgia Tech - in a three-game series with a College World Series berth on the line. The Vols have not played in a Super Regional since the 2001 season, when they swept East Carolina in Kinston, N.C., and ended up finishing in a tie for third place with Cal State Fullerton in the CWS.
Sunday's Atlanta Regional final features national No. 2 seed Georgia Tech versus South Carolina. Playing out of the loser's bracket, the Gamecocks would need to defeat the Yellow Jackets twice to claim the regional crown.
With the site for next weekend's NCAA Super Regional guaranteed to be either Atlanta or Knoxville, Tennessee season-ticket holders will receive ticket-order priority through Tues., June 7. For ticket information -- and for confirmation of the Super Regional site -- log on to UTsports.com or call the UT Ticket Office at (865) 656-1200.
Sophomore Knoxville, Tenn., native Craig Cobb started for Tennessee Sunday and improved to 7-4 on the year with his third complete-game victory. He threw just 87 pitches while allowing two runs on eight hits.
Vols junior Josh Alley drove in three of UT's runs, and senior Rob Fitzgerald went 4-for-6 with an RBI and three runs scored. The pair was among nine Vols who collected at least one hit as UT out-hit the Shockers 18-8.
Tennessee began the game by putting its first six batters on base. Wichita State recorded one out via a rundown between third base and home plate, but All-America third baseman Chase Headley then doubled to left-center to drive in senior shortstop Eric King.
Junior designated hitter Eli Iorg followed Headley to the plate, marking Iorg's first starting appearance of the weekend (he had previously been limited to one pinch-hit at-bat while nursing a foot injury). Iorg capitalized on his second plate appearance of the regional, plating Headley and freshman J.P. Arencibia with an RBI double that put Tennessee ahead 3-0. That would prove to all the offense UT needed to ensure victory.
Fitzgerald then reached on a single and the Shockers made the call to their bullpen, bringing in designated hitter Danny Jackson to pitch. Jackson's first batter faced, freshman outfielder Julio Borbon - who went 4-for-4 in Saturday's win versus Winthrop - enabled Iorg to score from third with an RBI sacrifice fly to right field.
All told in the top of the first, Tennessee scored four runs on four hits with eight Vols batting.
The Shockers came out swinging in their half of the first as well. Outfielder Phil Napolitan led things off with a double and was later driven in on an RBI single by second baseman Damon Sublett.
After UT's first two batters went down in the top of the third inning, Fitzgerald crushed a solo homer over the right-field wall to put the Vols up by four runs. It was the senior's fifth long ball of the season.
Headley led off the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run that made it just inside the left foul pole. Headley's 13th homer of the year made the score 6-1 in favor of the Big Orange. Five batters later, senior Alex Suarez was hit by a pitch for the 22nd time this season, loading the bases with two outs. Alley then laced a two-RBI basehit through the left side on the infield to score Fitzgerald and junior Michael Rivera and make the score 8-1 Tennessee.
The Vols tacked on one more run on a pair of hits in the top of the seventh inning. After Rivera reached on a double, he came in to score on an RBI sacrifice fly by Alley.
Wichita State managed its second and final run of the game on an RBI basehit by shortstop Tad Reida in the bottom of the eighth.
Shockers starter Kyle Touchatt lasted just 1/3 inning after being roughed up for four runs (two earned) on four hits with one walk. Jackson worked the next 2 2/3 innings, giving up one run on four hits with two strikeouts.
Left-hander Rob Musgrave entered the game for WSU in the top of the fourth and was lifted after giving up three runs (one earned) on two hits in two innings of action. Shockers relievers Khol Nanney, Jared Simon and Max Hutson combined to allow four runs on nine hits through the final four innings.
The Shockers advanced to Sunday evening's title game by virtue of their 3-2 elimination-game victory over Winthrop earlier in the day.