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KNOXVILLE,, Tenn. – It was tough going for the Tennessee baseball team Wednesday as it managed just seven hits in a 5-3 loss to Belmont at Robert M. Lindsay Field at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The Volunteers received a pair of hits from Freshman All-America candidate Kentrail Davis, including the center fielder’s team-leading 12th home run of the season. UT’s record now stands at 25-24 with seven regular-season games remaining.
The teams worked through three scoreless innings Wednesday before Belmont (19-28) broke through with one run on two hits in the top of the fourth. And a three-run homer by Bruins catcher Matt Zeblo in the sixth put Belmont on top by a score of 4-0.
The Vols, meanwhile, managed just two hits off Belmont starting pitcher Brian Kelley until Davis led off the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run. The blast moved him past Todd Helton (11 homers in 1993) on UT’s all-time freshman list.
Tennessee put runners on the corners with no outs later in the sixth, chasing Kelley from the game. Belmont called reliever Eric Diaz out of the bullpen, and UT third baseman Cody Brown greeted the right-hander with an RBI single to left-center. Vols sophomore Tanner Moore then delivered an RBI sacrifice fly that plated designated hitter Jeff Lockwood to make it a one-run game.
The scoring ceased in the seventh and eighth innings, and an RBI sacrifice fly by Belmont’s Brandon McCall in the top of the ninth put the Vols in a two-run hole, 5-3.
Vols freshman P.J. Polk jumpstarted a ninth-inning rally with a leadoff double, and he advanced to third on a flyball by pinch-hitter Shawn Griffin. But Bruins closer Jimmy Stanley sat down the next two batters to notch his fourth save of the year and extend UT’s season-long losing skid to six games.
Sophomore Steve Crnkovich (5-6) took the hard-luck loss for the Vols after surrendering just one run on three hits with a walk and three strikeouts through four full innings.
Tennessee redshirt freshman pitcher Bryan Morgado—who recently was added to the 2008 Roger Clemens Award watch list—made his first relief appearance of the year Wednesday. The hard-throwing lefty struck out a pair during one full inning of action to bring his season strikeout total to 91.
Joey Rosas, Danny Wiltz and Lockwood also saw time on the mound for UT.
Belmont’s victory evened the all-time series with Tennessee at 3-3, dating to 2000.
The Vols return to action this weekend when they host Southeastern Conference rival Kentucky (35-14, 11-13 SEC) for a three-game series. Game times are set for 7 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Saturday’s game will be televised regionally on SportSouth.
Tennessee and Kentucky are currently tied for eighth place in the overall SEC standings. Only the top-eight teams in the league earn berths to the conference tournament, which runs May 21-25 at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala.