April 29, 2007
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Tennessee needed 10 innings to recover from one ghastly half inning of baseball Sunday, but the end result is all that matters. The Volunteers were the picture of perseverance during a dramatic 10-9 series-clinching victory over LSU at Alex Box Stadium. The win improved UT to 25-19 (8-11 SEC) and gave the program its first-ever series triumph in Baton Rouge.
After the Vols used a Cody Brown basehit to tie the game at 8-8 in the eighth, they loaded the bases with one out in the top of the 10th. Preseason All-America centerfielder Julio Borbon then delivered a clutch two-run single that bounced over the head of Tigers first baseman Chris Jackson and brought home Brown and Shawn Griffin to give UT a 10-8 advantage and its second lead of the day.
LSU centerfielder Jared Mitchell made things interesting with a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the 10th, but Vols reliever Aaron Everett pulled out two critical strikeouts and induced a game-ending grounder to improve to 2-0 on the year and log his first career Southeastern Conference win. Everett's final line included one run on four hits with two walks and career-high tying five strikeouts.
Tennessee took an early 2-0 lead Sunday courtesy of RBI singles by catcher Yan Gomes and left fielder Jarred Frazier in the first and second innings, respectively. But Tigers catcher Sean Ochinko belted a solo home run in the bottom of the second inning to cut the UT lead to one run.
Vols second baseman Tony Delmonico drew a two-out walk in the third, and UT used another walk and a basehit to load the bases for starting pitcher/designate hitter Jeff Lockwood later in the frame. Lockwood delivered an RBI single up the middle that plated Delmonico to give the Vols a 3-1 edge. Right fielder Andy Simunic was then issued an RBI base on balls before LSU head coach Paul Mainieri yanked Tigers starting pitcher Ryan Byrd after just 2 2/3 innings in which he was touched for five runs on six hits with four walks and a strikeout.
LSU reliever T.J. Forrest entered the game with two outs and the bases loaded, and he promptly walked Brown to bring in Tennessee's fifth run of the game.
The Tigers (24-20-1, 9-11-1 SEC) temporarily erased one run in the bottom of the third when Jackson scored on an RBI sacrifice fly by designated hitter Blake Dean. But Tennessee answered in the fourth when it manufactured one run on two hits. Shortstop Danny Lima came home on a basehit that marked Delmonico's 15th RBI in SEC play. The Vols fell short on an opportunity to build on their four-run lead by stranding three runners in the frame.
Back-to-back errors by the LSU infield enabled Tennessee to take a 7-2 lead in the fifth. Brown scored when Tigers second baseman Nicholas Pontiff mishandled a grounder up the middle by Gomes.
LSU led off the bottom of the fifth with three consecutive walks, and Dean then hit a chopper towards second base that Delmonico was unable to corral. Two runs scored on the play, and when Jason Lewis sent a grounder to Lima on the next-at bat, Lima's throw ended up in the LSU dugout, allowing two more runs to cross. The costly pair of miscues cut UT's lead to a single run, 7-6.
Lockwood gave way to Everett after recording one out in the inning, but the bad luck continued for Tennessee. Everett unleashed a wild pitch that enabled Lewis to score the tying run, and a passed ball during the same at-bat put Ochinko on third base. Everett struck out J.T. Wise to make it two outs in the inning before Pontiff capped the rally with an RBI single that gave LSU its first lead of the day.
LSU sent 10 batters to the plate in the bottom of the fifth and totaled six runs - including three that were unearned - on two hits to take an 8-7 lead. Tennessee committed three errors in the frame along with one wild pitch and one passed ball.
The Vols threatened to retake the lead in the seventh when a double by Gomes gave UT a pair of runners in scoring position with two outs, but Tigers reliever Nolan Cain logged a crucial strikeout that temporarily preserved LSU's one-run lead.
Brown managed to drive in the tying run with an RBI basehit in the eighth, and the Vols had a chance to jump back on top later in that same inning. But a called third strike led to the Big Orange leaving the bases loaded for the fourth time in the game. The Vols stranded a season-high 17 runners on the day.
Tigers reliever Paul Bertuccini was tagged with the loss and fell to 0-2 on the year. While earning a no-decision on the mound for UT, Lockwood surrendered eight runs (five earned) with four walks and three strikeouts across 4 1/3 innings. At the plate, Lockwood finished the series 9-for-12 (.750) with four RBIs and a .750 on-base percentage.
The Vols and Tigers combined for nine errors Sunday. Tennessee is now 2-0 in extra-inning games, with both victories coming on Sunday road games in SEC play. UT's 17 hits were one shy of its season-high.
Tennessee now returns home to Knoxville, Tenn., for final exams before hosting Ole Miss in a three-game weekend series at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.