Home runs by third baseman Cody Brown and designated hitter Shawn Griffin highlighted Tennessee’s 13-hit effort Sunday as the Volunteers baseball team defeated Morehead State 8-4 to clinch their season-opening weekend series at Robert M. Lindsay Field at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
The Volunteers (2-1) started four true freshmen in Sunday’s series-finale, and the rookie quartet combined for five hits and three RBI. Freshman catcher Blake Forsythe used two sacrifice flies to drive in a pair of runs.
Junior-college transfer Joey Rosas started on the mound for Tennessee Sunday and enjoyed a five-inning outing that included five strikeouts and four walks. The twice-drafted junior left-hander from Cottonwood, Ariz., was touched for one run on three hits and picked up the win to start his UT career 1-0.
Junior right-hander Danny Wiltz entered out of the bullpen and was perfect through the final two innings while logging his third career save.
“We got some good starting pitching today, and we got some key hits,” UT head coach Todd Raleigh said. “We still left a lot (of runners on base). I think we’re fighting the game a little bit right now. We’re going to have to work for everything. Today we scored eight runs, but we had to really work for them a lot. We’re getting good effort; we’re just fighting the little things.”
The true-freshmen duo of Forsythe and left fielder P.J. Polk keyed a second-inning rally that opened the day’s scoring and gave the Vols a 1-0 lead. First baseman Tanner Moore drew a one-out walk early in the inning and advanced to third base on single by Forsythe—the first hit of his collegiate career. Polk then followed with his first career hit, an RBI basehit up the middle that plated Moore.
Griffin kept the hit parade rolling in the bottom of the third inning, sending a 2-1 pitch out of the park in right field for his first home run of the season and the seventh of his career. The senior’s solo blast gave the Vols a 2-0 edge.
Following Griffin’s homer, freshman right fielder Josh Liles and Moore delivered back-to-back basehits, setting the stage for an RBI double by shortstop Danny Lima. Forsythe then plated Moore with an RBI sacrifice fly that stretched UT’s lead to four runs.
Brown extended his solid opening weekend Sunday by belting a two-run homer over the wall in left field in the bottom of the fifth inning. The team co-captain’s first long ball of the year—and the 10th of his career—put the Vols up by a score of 6-0. It was Brown’s third extra-base hit of the weekend.
Morehead State leadoff hitter J.D. Ashbrook erased all hopes of a shutout when he unleashed a solo home run in the fifth inning. It was the Eagles second hit of the afternoon and Ashbrook’s second homer of the series. Morehead State finished with seven hits on the day and 18 in the series.
Once into the Vols’ bullpen, Morehead State (1-2) managed to load the bases—via two hit batsmen and a single—with no outs in the top of the sixth. But left-handed reliever D.J Leffler avoided any damage by recording a strikeout and inducing a double-play ball to start his UT career on a solid note. Leffler, a native of Yorba Linda, Calif., transferred to Tennessee from Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif.
Morehead State was successful pushing three runs across against Leffler in the seventh, however, with Drew Lee providing an RBI double and Michael Bottoms adding a two-run homer that cut UT’s lead to two runs, 6-4.
Brown bumped Tennessee’s lead back to three runs with an RBI sacrifice fly in the seventh inning that brought home Forsythe, who led off the inning with a hit-by-pitch. And later in the eighth, Forsythe logged his second RBI sacrifice fly of the day to make it 8-4 in favor of the Vols.
UT now leads the all-time series with Morehead State 28-2, dating to 1987.
Tennessee hit .327 for the series. Brown led the Vols with six hits and four RBI on the weekend. Moore had the top average, belting out four hits in eight at-bats for a hitting clip of .500. Simunic hit .429 in the series, and Brown hit .400.
The Vols’ staff ERA on the weekend stood at 2.67, and UT’s hurlers struck out 18 batters while limiting the Eagles to a .184 average at the plate.
The Vols continue their season-opening five-game homestand Monday when they host Furman at 3 p.m. Tennessee also hosts a midweek contest against Austin Peay Wednesday at 3 p.m.
Redshirt freshman left-hander Bryan Morgado is expected to start on the mound for UT Monday vs. Furman.
Story Courtesy: UT Sports Information