KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee baseball team found itself hampered by a lack of offense once again Saturday as 22nd-ranked Kentucky notched a series-clinching 5-2 win over the Volunteers at Robert M. Lindsay Field at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The setback gave the Big Orange just their second home series loss of the season.
The Vols (25-26, 11-15 SEC) seemed in danger of suffering their first home shutout of the season until junior third baseman Cody Brown and sophomore first baseman Jeff Lockwood delivered back-to-back solo home runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Tennessee starting pitcher and Freshman All-America candidate Bryan Morgado struck out nine while allowing four runs on six hits through six innings and took the loss to fall to 5-4 on the year. Saturday’s contest marked the fourth game of the year in which UT totaled less than three runs when Morgado was the starting pitcher.
With a fifth-inning strikeout of UK second baseman Ryan Wilkes, Morgado joined former Vol James Adkins (2005-07) as the only freshmen in UT history to log 100 strikeouts. Adkins struck out a Tennessee-freshman-best 135 in 2005 and is currently enjoying success in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor-league system.
Tennessee came close to taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first Saturday, but SEC Freshman of the Year candidate Kentrail Davis was thrown out at home while attempting to score from second on a single to left field by Vols freshman Josh Liles. The throw home by Kentucky left fielder Collin Cowgill barely beat the speedy centerfielder for the third out of the inning.
The Vols later mounted a one-out, bases-loaded rally in the bottom of the third, but Cats reliever Aaron Lovett induced an inning-ending double play that killed that threat as well.
The only luck the Vols had going to that point was the fact that Morgado was keeping the Kentucky bats silent. The Roger Clemens Award candidate struck out seven while holding the Cats hitless through three innings.
Wilkes broke through with a leadoff single in the top of the fourth. And after taking second and third on a wild pitch and passed ball, respectively, Wilkes scored the game’s first run on a double-play ball off the bat of Cowgill.
The Wildcats took a two-run lead on an RBI single by first baseman Brian Spear in the sixth. And later in the sixth with two outs, UK third baseman Chris McClendon put his team up 4-0 with a two-run homer over the wall in right.
Kentucky catcher Tyler Howe added an insurance run for the Wildcats in the top of the ninth with a solo homer to left-center.
The win was credited to Lovett (4-1), who limited the Vols to a pair of late runs on four hits through 6 2/3 innings out of the bullpen. After Tennessee’s back-to-back homers in the ninth, Cats closer Scott Green came on to log the final out.
Lockwood and junior second baseman Danny Lima led the Vols Saturday with two hits each. Tennessee pitchers have recorded 21 strikeouts thus far in the series.
The series concludes Sunday at 2 p.m., and Senior Day ceremonies—during which outfielder Daniel Beasley, outfielder Shawn Griffin and pitcher Zane Stone will be recognized—are scheduled to take place before the game.