April 10, 2010

Courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee baseball team scored in five of the first six innings and senior starter Stephen McCray pitched into the seventh, holding eighth-ranked Florida to just a single run as the Volunteers evened the series against the Gators with a 12-4 victory on Saturday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.


"Steven McCray obviously did a great job for us today, much like he did last week," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "He settled in again, gave up some hits but seemed to strand the runners. Offensively, we hit the ball hard all day. Matt Ramsey gave us a lift and P.J. Polk was tremendous for us again but the big one was Cody Hawn's double. We had two outs when he hit that one just inside the line. We ended up scoring all four of those runs (in the fifth) and three more in the sixth after having two outs and nobody on. That's big for us."


McCray finished with 6.1 innings of work, scattering seven hits and allowing just a single run to pick up his team-leading fourth win of the season. The Lilburn, Ga., native also tied his career high with seven strikeouts in the contest, doing so on a season-high 114 pitches, including 72 strikes. For the second straight day, redshirt junior D.J. Leffler came out of the bullpen and gave the Big Orange a terrific performance, retiring four of the five batters he faced, striking out two.


At the plate, all nine UT starters had at least one hit, including four players with more than one, and the Vols scored seven of their 12 runs with two outs on the scoreboard. As has been the case in most games lately, junior P.J. Polk led the way as he was 3-for-5 on the day with three runs scored, two stolen bases and an RBI. He has now hit safely in the last 13 games, dating back to March 21 against South Carolina.


Fellow classmate Cody Hawn topped the team with four runs batted in as he went 2-for-4 with a walk and a pair of doubles. Junior Matt Duffy and sophomore Matt Ramsey had strong games as well, as both players tallied two hits, scored two runs and knocked in a run. Junior Khayyan Norfork also picked up a base hit to extend his current hitting streak to 10 games and senior Cody Grisham hit his first home run of the season as a pinch-hitter in the eighth.


Florida was actually the first team to crack the scoreboard on Saturday when Austin Maddox muscled a 3-1 pitch from McCray out of the park for his eighth home run of the year to put the Gators up 1-0. It could have been worse, however, as the previous batter, Matt den Dekker had singled to left but was gunned down by UT catcher Blake Forsythe trying to steal second.


The Big Orange wasted little time answering back, tallying a run in each of the next three frames to jump ahead 3-1. Norfork got Tennessee started in the bottom of the first with a leadoff single before moving up 90 feet on a groundout by Osborne. Polk then ripped a single down the left-field line to bring him home from second.


With one out in the bottom of the second, Ramsey took a 1-1 offering from UF starter Brian Johnson and drove it off the wall in right for an inside-the-park home run as Gator right-fielder Kamm Washington chased after it, crashed hard into the wall and was injured on the play. The run in the third started with another single by Polk. It looked like he was picked off just seconds later, but he beat the throw from first to second for a stolen base. Junior Josh Liles then punched a base-hit to left center that allowed Polk to cross the plate safely.


Following a scoreless fourth, the Vols really broke the game open with four runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth, all seven of which came with two outs. In both innings, the first two UT batters were sent back to the bench before the team was able to generate some offense.


After two quick outs in the fifth, UF relief pitcher Justin Poovey issued a four-pitch walk to Liles to get things started. A single by Duffy put runners on first and third and Hawn followed by lacing a double just inside the third-base line to bring them both home. Racing all the way around the basepaths from first, Duffy just snuck in around the tag at the plate. Ramsey kept the inning going with a single to the hole in short and moved up to second while Hawn scored on the first career error by Gator shortstop Nolan Fontana as his throw skipped by the first baseman. Forsythe finished off the rally with a double to left center that plated Ramsey.


The sixth inning followed much the same script as Poovey retired the first two batters of the inning before Polk legged out a single on a groundball to the shortstop. He then nabbed his second stolen base of the game and Liles walked to put two on for Duffy who singled past a diving third baseman to bring Polk home to score. Hawn then brought both Liles and Duffy around the bases with a sharply-hit double to left-center.


After neither team could get anything going in the seventh, Florida moved a run closer on the second home run of the day by Maddox with two outs in the top of the eighth. The Vols answered back two-fold, however, in their half of the frame. With Polk standing on first after a single by Osborne and a fielder's choice, Grisham stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter for Liles. He proceeded to deposit an 0-1 fastball over the fence in left for his first longball of the season and fourth of his collegiate career.


The Gators struck for a pair of runs in the top of the ninth, but it was way too little, too late and freshman Nick Blount closed out the contest by getting Maddox to strike out swinging to end the game.


Tennessee and Florida will square off to determine the series winner Sunday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. in a game set to be televised live on Comcast Sports Southeast. Sophomore southpaw Steven Gruver (1-1, 5.27) will start for the Vols, while freshman right-hander Hudson Randall (2-3, 4.68) will get the nod for the Gators.


For more information on Tennessee baseball, visit UTSports.com or follow @VolBaseball on Twitter.