KNOXVILLE – Pitcher Bryan Morgado’s much-anticipated Tennessee debut ended up being well worth the wait. The redshirt freshman struck out 12 batters Monday to help lift the Volunteers baseball team past a feisty Furman squad by a score of 2-1 at Robert M. Lindsay Field at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Vols sophomore Jeff Lockwood came on to close things out in the ninth inning. And though he dug himself into a bit of a hole, he managed to come through with three clutch strikeouts to record his ninth career save.
Monday’s contest marked Furman’s season-opener, and Paladins reliever Ian Parry took the loss as his club managed just a pair of hits on the day.
Morgado consistently threw in the low-90s Monday and retired each of the first 12 batters he faced—including 10 via strikeout—before Paladins first baseman Ryan Lee managed a basehit to right field to lead off the fifth inning. Morgado allowed one unearned run on two hits with 12 Ks and just one walk through eight innings to start his career on an impressive winning note.
“That was the best start I’ve seen for somebody in their first appearance,” UT head coach Todd Raleigh said. “It’s hard to think that he could do any better than that. He’s worked hard. It was good to see that.”
After a pair of scoreless innings, UT second baseman Andy Simunic made some things happen for the Vols in the bottom of the third. The senior from Collierville, Tenn., singled before stealing second and third on back-to-back pitches. Freshman centerfielder Kentrail Davis then brought Simunic home with an RBI groundout that put Tennessee on top 1-0.
After Lee finally broke through with his leadoff basehit against Morgado in the fifth, Lee used a wild pitch and a passed ball to advance to third base. Furman outfielder Campbell Lewis then plated Lee with an RBI sacrifice fly to tie the game at 1-1.
The Vols (3-1) countered with an RBI sacrifice fly of their own in the bottom of the fifth, as catcher Yan Gomes brought home Davis to restore UT’s one-run lead. Davis had previously singled to lead off the frame.
Lockwood replaced Morgado for the ninth inning and logged a leadoff strikeout before walking the next three Paladins batters. With the bases loaded and one out, Lockwood got Lee to strikeout swinging. With a vocal and supportive crowd backing him, Lockwood then struck out Paladins designated hitter John Paterson to end the game.
Monday marked Lockwood’s first mound appearance of the season. He led the Southeastern Conference last year with eight saves.
Tennessee had runners thrown out at the plate while trying to build on its lead in both the seventh and eighth innings, and the Vols once again struggled with runners left on base, stranding 10 in the game.
UT third baseman Cody Brown continued his recent streak of strong offensive play, going 3-for-3 to raise his season batting average to .538. Davis finished the day 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI. The true freshman from Theodore, Ala., is batting .500 through UT’s first four games.
To add some historical perspective to Morgado’s 12-strikeout collegiate debut, it can be noted that some other noteworthy UT pitchers of the past fell well short of that mark in their respective debuts. James Adkins and Patrick Hicklen each fanned seven in their first career start; Luke Hochevar struck out six; Todd Helton sat down five; and R.A. Dickey struck out two.
Tennessee concludes its season-opening five-game homestand Wednesday when it hosts Austin Peay at 3 p.m. ET.