Sunday’s deciding game five was an edge-of-your-seat pitcher’s duel that starkly contrasted the 30-hit shootout which took place in game four on Saturday. The final two games were witnessed by large, vocal crowds who were treated to fantastic, summer-like weather at Robert M. Lindsay Field at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
After Sunday’s seven scheduled innings resulted in a scoreless tie, Tennessee new “fall classic” went into extra innings for the first time.
The White Team used an RBI single by freshman outfielder Josh Liles and an infield throwing error by the Orange Team to take a 2-0 lead in the top of the eighth. But the Orange Team countered with three runs in the bottom of the frame, highlighted by a game-winning, two-run double down the third-base line off the bat of sophomore Yan Gomes. The Miami, Fla., native’s clutch hit clinched the series for the Orange Team, 3-2.
“This (World Series format) was the best way to create a competitive environment where you could see the players with pressure on them,” first-year UT head coach Todd Raleigh said. “I didn’t coach during the games. I tried to watch and evaluate and see how the players reacted to different situations.
“I think the players enjoyed the competitiveness of it. The two teams have been talking trash to one another all fall, but it was all good. I think it was a success.”
Junior shortstop Danny Lima led the Orange Team offensively in the fall, batting .529 with nine hits, five RBIs and six runs scored. Amidst a crowd of Big Orange fans gathered for autographs following Sunday’s finale, Lima offered his thoughts on the new fall format introduced by coach Raleigh and his staff.
“I thought it was great,” Lima said. “It gave you a chance to see what everyone was about, and we had a chance to really compete. It was really competitive, the teams were evenly divided and it was a lot of fun. I think we have a lot of talent.
“Today was kind of a pitching duel. We went down two runs in extra innings, but our team never gave up. We swung at good pitches, got on base and made things happen. We were able to come back and win the whole series.”
Lima scored the tying run on Gomes’s double, followed by freshman catcher Blake Forsythe, who hustled home from first base. Forsythe’s head-first slide just beat the throw from White left fielder Shawn Griffin, inciting a home-plate celebration by assistant coach Fred Corral’s triumphant Orange Team.
Both teams committed a pair of errors Sunday, and the Orange Team produced six hits against five for the White Team.
The White Team’s offensive standouts during the fall were seniors Shawn Griffin (.474) and Andy Simunic (.444). Griffin had a team-high nine hits, followed by Simunic with eight. Junior Matt Hamaker drove in a team-best 10 runs and also had a pair of home runs.
While games two, three and four of the series were heavy on offense, the opening and closing contests were dominated on the mound. Sunday’s starters both looked impressive as each worked four complete innings.
For the White Team, sophomore lefty Nick Hernandez allowed no runs on just two hits with no walks and four strikeouts. Orange Team right-hander Steve Crnkovich also gave up just two hits in his four shutout frames while also logging one walk and three Ks. Both were saddled with no-decisions, however, as Orange reliever Jeff Lockwood (2-0) earned the win with two innings of two-hit ball and one earned run. Danny Wiltz (0-1) worked the final 1 2/3 innings for the White while taking the loss.
“Throughout fall workouts and conditioning, with everyone being together everyday for almost a month, I feel like we have a pretty tight team right now,” Hernandez said after his third appearance of the series. “Today coach asked me to give him everything I had, and I ended up throwing four good innings. Early on they just kept fouling pitches off, but I just had that ‘battle’ mindset where I wasn’t going to let a hitter beat me.
“We got out of two innings with pickoffs. The plays that we put in this fall really worked and ended up being a big reason why I was able to stay out there as long as I did.”
The aforementioned 30-hit affair on Saturday included 18 for the White Team and 12 for the Orange. Six different Vols collected three hits on the day, and Hamaker recorded a game-high five RBIs. The Clarksville, Tenn., native delivered a three-run shot—his second homer of the fall—in the first inning, and the White Team built a commanding 16-4 lead after just three frames. It held on for a 17-11 win that evened the series at two games apiece.
Freshman P.J. Polk enjoyed a solid day for the Orange Team Saturday, going 3-for-5 with two runs, an RBI and a stolen base. Teammate Alan Wright, a sophomore second baseman from Memphis, Tenn., delivered a solo home run Saturday and also scored twice.
Saturday’s winning pitcher was sophomore left-hander Bryan Powell (1-0). The Knoxville, Tenn., native who attended Farragut High School was touched for three runs (one earned) on five hits through four innings of relief.
Collectively through all five games of the Orange & White World Series, the Vols combined to hit .345 with 81 hits, 56 RBIs and four home runs. The Vols were also 17 of 19 on stolen-base attempts.
Tennessee opens the 2008 season Feb. 22-24 with a three-game home series against Morehead State. For season-ticket information, call 800-332-VOLS (8657) or 865-656-1200.
Story Courtesy: UT Sports Information
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