May 17, 2007
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Tennessee baseball team started its crucial Southeastern Conference road series off on the right foot Thursday, defeating Florida by a score of 6-5 at McKethan Stadium. A trio of Volunteers pitchers held the Gators' bats in check, and UT recorded double-digit hits for the sixth time in the last eight games while improving to 32-22 (12-14 SEC) on the year. The series resumes Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Florida's Avery Barnes added some drama to the ninth inning Thursday with an RBI single that pulled the Gators to within one run, but Vols freshman Jeff Lockwood held on to notch his seventh save of the year.
Vols ace James Adkins recorded his sixth win of the season and the 24th of his career, and Lockwood threw the final 1 1/3 innings. Sophomore Aaron Everett also was effective during his single scoreless inning of relief.
"I knew I had to step up, and I knew our team had to step up," Adkins said. "And that's what we did. I felt really good. I came out strong throwing strikes and just let my defense work."
Tennessee second baseman Tony Delmonico drove in two of UT's runs, continuing his recent stretch of superb play. Over the Vols' last six games, Delmonico is batting .444 with 11 RBIs. His 44 RBIs on the year are tied with freshman Yan Gomes for the most on the team.
The teams worked through three scoreless frames until Tennessee plated a pair of runs on one hit in the top of the fourth. All-America catcher J.P. Arencibia led off the inning with his 47th career double and then advanced to third when Gators third baseman Jon Townsend fielded a grounder by Gomes and threw the ball over the head of first baseman Matt LaPorta. Lockwood followed with a walk, loading the bases with no outs.
Delmonico and left fielder Shawn Griffin then recorded back-to-back RBIs to put the Big Orange on top 2-0. Delmonico drove in another run with a single up the middle in the sixth inning. Arencibia scored on the play to give the Vols a 3-0 lead.
Florida (27-27, 14-14 SEC) trimmed that deficit to a single run when Gators centerfielder Justin Pigott belted a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth. Adkins' eighth strikeout of the night came against Clayton Pisani later in the inning. It was Adkins' 374th career strikeout, moving him past former LSU pitcher Ben McDonald (1987-89) into eighth place on the SEC's all-time list.
Preseason All-America centerfielder Julio Borbon extended Tennessee's lead back to two runs in the seventh with his sixth triple of the season and the 13th of his career. Shortstop Danny Lima scored from second on the play after previously reaching on an error and advancing on a sacrifice bunt by right fielder Andy Simunic. Borbon - who now ranks third on UT's all-time triples list - later scored on a basehit by Gomes to extend Tennessee's lead to 5-2.
Florida continued to hang around, however, and made it a two-run game once again in the home half of the seventh when Brian LeClerc laced an RBI basehit that brought home shortstop Cole Figueroa. The Vols' lead was then reduced to a single run when UF designated hitter Cody Neer singled to drive in LaPorta.
That marked the end of Adkins' outing. The Vols ace gave way to Everett, who took the mound with the potential go-ahead run on first base and two outs. Everett preserved the lead, however, by striking out Pigott to end the inning.
Tennessee's good fortunes continued when junior Chad Maddox delivered a pinch-hit home run to lead off the eighth inning. It was Maddox's first career home run and just his second hit as a Vol (four previous games played).
"It felt good," Maddox said of his homer that provided the winning margin. "When I first hit it I knew it had a chance. It was just a matter of whether it was fair or foul."
The Gators authored a threatening rally in the bottom of the eighth, as the Vols intentionally walked LaPorta for the fifth time in the game to load the bases with two outs. Following the free pass, Lockwood took over on the mound for UT and got LeClerc to look at strike three.
Adkins' winning line included four runs on seven hits with five walks - four of which were intentional walks issued to LaPorta - and nine strikeouts. Tennessee's all-time strikeout king now boasts 375 career Ks.
Gators starting pitcher Kyle Mullaney was lifted after being touched for five runs (three earned) on nine hits through 6 1/3 innings. He fell to 4-2 with the loss.
Tennessee has now seen 16 of its 26 SEC games this season decided by two runs or less. The Vols are 11-6 overall in one-run games.
Freshman left-hander Nick Hernandez (4-2, 5.14 ERA) will start on the mound for UT Friday, while Florida sends right-hander Bryan Augenstein (6-5, 5.49 ERA) to the hill.