Though it wasn’t always pretty, the Tennessee baseball team started the Todd Raleigh era off on the right foot Friday, defeating Morehead State 9-4 to give the first-year UT head coach the first of what surely will be many wins at Robert M. Lindsay Field at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
“I was a little (nervous)," Raleigh said. "It got to be about an hour before the game and I realized that it was here. I started getting excited.
"The first one, the second one, I'll take all of the wins we can get. Obviously, you want to come out and get off to a good start. It's a little bit of a relief to get the first one and stay undefeated."
The Volunteers (1-0) out-hit the Eagles (0-1) 11-4 on the day, but four UT errors kept the game close early on.
Tennessee right fielder Josh Liles—a true freshman from Jackson, Tenn.—drove in a game-high three runs and was one of five Vols with two hits.
Pitcher Steve Crnkovich was efficient in his Tennessee debut. The right-handed sophomore who transferred from the University of Illinois-Chicago got the start for the Vols and allowed four runs—all unearned—on four hits with two walks and a pair of strikeouts through seven innings. Crnkovich picked up the win to start his UT career 1-0.
Despite the cool weather, the Vols offense got off to a hot start, sending nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the first inning while building a quick 4-0 lead. Senior designated hitter Shawn Griffin drew an RBI walk to open the day’s scoring, and Liles ripped a two-run single up the middle of the Eagles infield two batters later. Tennessee first baseman Tanner Moore capped UT’s four-run frame with an RBI basehit of his own.
Morehead State—led by first-year head coach Jay Sorg—got on the board in the top of the second inning thanks in part to an outfield error. Eagles third baseman Trent Hanna reached on a walk and then advanced to third on a dropped fly ball. Nick Nail then laced an RBI single to score Hanna and cut Morehead State’s deficit to three runs, 4-1.
In the bottom of the second, UT freshman Kentrail Davis drove in senior second baseman Andy Simunic with an RBI groundout that restored the Vols’ four-run lead.
A second error in Tennessee’s all-freshmen outfield enabled the Eagles to scratch their second run Friday. A third-inning drop in right field put MSU outfielder Eric Allen on third base, and he came home on an RBI sacrifice fly by Andrew Wertz to make the score 5-2 in favor of the Vols.
Moore made it a 2-for-2 start to his Big Orange career with another RBI single in the third inning. His second hit of the afternoon scored Griffin, who previously reached on a single. Tennessee’s sixth hit of the game pushed the UT lead to 6-2 after three full innings of action.
Eagles leadoff man J.D. Ashbrook trimmed his team’s deficit in half in the top of the fourth when he unleashed a two-run homer to left-center. Both runs, however—like all four of MSU’s runs Friday—were unearned due to an infield error earlier in the frame.
The Vols managed to load the bases with one out in the bottom of the fifth, but Eagles starting pitcher Tyler Bess induced a much-needed double-play ball that prevented Tennessee from building on its two-run lead.
That marked the end of the day for Bess (0-1), who allowed six runs on seven hits with two walks and a pair of strikeouts through five innings. A trio of Eagles relievers worked the final three innings.
Davis added to Tennessee’s lead with a hard-hit double to right field in the bottom of the sixth that plated Simunic all the way from first. Brown later reached on an RBI fielder’s choice that brought home Davis and pushed the Vols’ lead to four runs once again, 8-4.
Tennessee posted a final insurance run in the seventh when Liles unleashed an RBI triple to deep centerfield.
Aaron Everett threw a hitless eighth inning for UT, and junior Ryne Simpson followed suit in the ninth.
Liles’ and Moore’s first-inning RBI singles came in their first at-bats as Volunteers. That duo, along with Crnkovich, Davis and left fielder P.J. Polk all made their UT debuts Friday.
Tennessee is now 64-33-2 all-time in season openers.
Sophomore left-hander Nick Hernandez will start on the mound Saturday for Tennessee opposite right-handed freshman Josh Schneider for Morehead State. First pitch is set for 2 p.m.
Sparked by a four RBI, 2-for-3 effort by sophomore center fielder Anita Manuma and a one-hit shutout by senior Megan Rhodes, the No. 5 Tennessee softball team (11-1) picked up an 8-0 win (5 inn.) over Virginia (1-6) Friday evening in the Tennessee Classic held at the Sherri Parker Lee Softball Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.
Rhodes paved the road to victory for the Big Orange, allowing just one hit over five shutout innings, with six strikeouts in the contest. Offensively, UT was led by a stellar performance from Manuma who doubled her RBI total for the season, knocking in four runs in the game. The Ewa Beach, Hawai’i, native had a pair of hits, including a three-run blast to record her second home run of the year. Fellow classmate and right fielder Erinn Webb, meanwhile, had a productive night of her own, driving in three runs and finishing 2-for-2 with a single, a double and a walk.
“I thought Megan Rhodes pitched really well tonight,” co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. “Virginia, a good hitting team, had scored six runs in their previous game today. Megan came out and quieted their bats. Tiffany Huff hit extremely well, and it was nice to see Anita Manuma get extended on her home run. Erinn Webb continues to be torrid at the plate.”
Both pitchers cruised through the first as Rhodes and Virginia starter Karla Wilburn matched each other by registering one-two-three innings. In the top of the second, UVA third baseman Abby Snyder went down on strikes to become Rhodes third K victim through two frames.
Doepking keyed a scoring threat for the Big Orange to begin the bottom of the second by reaching via a lead-off walk. Huff dropped a ground ball toward first that Cavalier first baseman Lauren McCaskey corralled. Unfortunately for UVA, her throw was wide of the bag allowing both runners to reach safely. Webb laced a shot off the glove of a diving Kierstie Cameron at second to plate two runs for a 2-0 lead. Following a walk to freshman designated player Jen Lapicki to again place two aboard, Manuma cleared them with a towering three-run shot to deep center field to improve the count to 5-0.
A lead-off free pass issued to Virginia’s McCaskey in the top of the third didn’t amount to anything as the runner was eventually gunned down attempting to steal second on a strong throw by Doepking to conclude the frame.
Huff christened a two-out threat in the bottom half of the third with a single up the middle that went right through the legs of Wilburn in the circle. Webb followed with her second hit of the match-up by banging a double off the wall in right center as Huff cruised into third. Lapicki stepped into the box and ripped a promising shot that shortstop Carly Winger managed to corral on a terrific play while moving toward second base. She threw across the diamond to first to close out the threat.
With a no-hitter still intact through 3.2 frames, Rhodes finally permitted a base knock in the fourth as left fielder Lindsay Preuss drove a double down the left field line into the corner. Designated player Kelly Haller hit a towering drive to left, but Hammond camped under the ball and made the catch to leave the occupant stranded in scoring position.
Virginia advanced a runner to second base in the top of the fifth via a lead-off walk to third baseman Abby Snyder and a wild pitch. Rhodes responded by striking out Cavalier right fielder Sarah Tacke and pitcher Whitney Holstun and inducing a pop-up to third by McCaskey to maintain Tennessee’s six-run advantage.
Consecutive singles from Doepking and Huff in the bottom of the fifth set the stage for the run-rule to come into play. Webb walked to load the bases and was followed by RBI-singles from Lapicki and Manuma to end the contest.
No. 5 UT will continue the Tennessee Classic on Saturday at Lee Softball Stadium with match-ups against Wagner (2:30 p.m.) and Louisiana-Monroe (5 p.m.). Action will begin at 10 a.m. with BYU taking on Virginia. Live stats will be available through utladyvols.com for all contests and, as always, periodic updates will be recorded on the Lady Vol Hotline (865-974-8700, box #6).
Stories Courtesy: UT Vols & Lady Vols Sports Information
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