KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UTSports.com) -- A three-run home run by Davis Morgan brought the Tennessee baseball team within two runs of Georgia in the bottom of the ninth, but that would be as close as the Volunteers would get as the Bulldogs staved off the late comeback attempt to claim an 8-6 decision that evened the weekend series on a sunny, but windy, Saturday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Georgia scored six two-out runs on the day, including three on a home run by Kyle Farmer in the top of the ninth, en route to the victory. The outcome sets up a series rubber match at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Sophomore Nick Blount (1-0, 2.55) will make his second start of the season for the Big Orange while Georgia will send left-hander Craig Gullickson (3-2, 6.67) to the mound.
After UT fell behind 5-1 though the first four frames, redshirt freshman Jon Reed made his first relief appearance a memorable one, holding the Bulldogs to just one hit over the next 4.2 innings to keep the Vols in the game. The Tulsa, Okla., native yielded just a single and a walk while striking out two. He retired 14 of the 16 batters that he faced on the evening.
"That was the most encouraging thing all day," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "That's the best he's pitched, by far. We stretched him out to (near) his career-high in pitches and he did a great job. If there's any silver lining, I thought he did a good job."
The Tennessee offensive managed to score six runs off of Georgia starter Michael Pallazone, including a season-high four earned runs, but it wasn't quite enough as he improved to 7-1 on the year with the win. He allowed eight hits and struck out three over 8.2 innings before handing the ball over to Tyler Maloof who earned his 13th save of the season despite throwing just four pitches. Tennessee senior Rob Catapano suffered the loss, falling to 2-4, after giving up five runs on six hits in three innings.
Hitting out of the leadoff spot for the second straight game, freshman Andrew Toles sparked the Orange and White offensive effort, going 2-for-5 with a pair of runs scored and a stolen base, his 17th of the season. Morgan nearly doubled his season total in RBIs with his three-run home run in the ninth, his first longball as a member of the Volunteer squad. Senior Khayyan Norfork also tallied an RBI and swiped his SEC-leading 25th base of the year.
Georgia opened the scoring right away, plating two in the top of the first. Both runs came after Catapano put two quick outs on the scoreboard as the Bulldogs followed with back-to-back singles and a two-RBI double by Brett DeLoach.
The Vols quickly got one of the runs back in the home half of the first to cut their deficit in half. Toles got the ball rolling with a leadoff infield single and junior Zach Osborne followed with a single down the left-field line. Although Osborne was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double, Norfork got his job done just four pitches later when he recorded an RBI groundout to short.
The Bulldogs answered immediately, however, as a two-out single by Curt Powell, a wild pitch and a single to center by Levi Hyams returned their lead to two at 3-1 in the second inning. After a scoreless third, UGA tacked on two more tallies in the fourth thanks to a run-scoring double by Powell and an RBI groundout by Hyams.
"The early two-out runs were deflating," Raleigh said. "Both those times, we had two outs and nobody on. They didn't just get two-out hits, but got them when they had nothing going, so the momentum went their way."
With Georgia leading 5-1, Tennessee got back within striking distance with two more runs in the fifth. This time it was the Orange and White's turn to mount a two-out rally as sophomore Chris Fritts followed two quick putouts with a single through the left side of the infield. He then promptly stole second on the very next pitch before moving to third on a hard-hit single to left by Toles. A throwing error by Powell then allowed Fritts to score before the second error of the inning, this one on a failed pickoff attempt by Pallazone, brought Toles across the plate, to put the tally on the scoreboard at 5-3.
With both Pallazone and Reed mowing hitters down, neither team could generate any offense over the next three frames before Georgia finally struck again with another two-out rally in the ninth. Following a two-out walk to Hyams and a single by Conor Welton, Bulldog shortstop Kyle Farmer took an 0-2 offering from Zack Godley and lined it into the first row of "The Porch" in left field to put UGA ahead 8-3.
Despite trailing by five and down to its last three outs, Tennessee was no deterred in the slightest. Senior Tyler Horne opened the final frame with a sharp single to left. After an infield pop-up, freshman Ethan Bennett sliced a base-hit to the gap in left-center to put two on and one out for Morgan who proceeded to crush a 1-0 fastball high down the line in left and wrap it around the foul pole for his first home run of the season.
Now down by just two, UT was able to get the tying run to the plate just three batters later after a groundout to short and an error by the shortstop allowed Toles to reach safely. Osborne hit a chopper back up the middle that looked like it would sneak through for a single, but a fantastic defensive play by Hyams brought the game to a close as he snagged the ball and made a jumping, off-balance throw to get Osborne on a bang-bang play at first.
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Tennessee drops to 22-16 overall and 5-12 in SEC play as it had its three-game winning streak snapped...UT is now 114-102 all-time against Georgia, including a 65-39 record in Knoxville...The loss was UT's first against Georgia since 2009 as it swept the Bulldogs in Athens last season...Tennessee utilized the same lineup in back-to-back games for the first time in the 2011 campaign...The Big Orange did not commit an error for the 14th time this season, while UGA made three miscues...Tennessee stole three bases to move into a tie with Arkansas for the SEC lead with 73 in 94 attempts...The Vols hit a home run for the first time since April 2 at Florida, a drought of 10 games...Seven of the nine UT starters had at least one hit...Total attendance was 1,543...Official game time was two hours, 37 minutes...Prior to the game, former Tennessee head coach Bill Wright was honored...His wife, children and grandchildren were on hand for the ceremony as were former players Condredge Holloway, Joe O'Brien and Hal Bibee...The longest-tenured coach in UT history, Wright had a career record of 408-308-2 (.570) in 19 years (1963-81) at Tennessee.
In the first relief appearance of his career, Jon Reed posted one of his best efforts on the mound...He tossed 4.2 scoreless frames, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out two...Of his 69 pitches, 41 went for strikes...Reed retired 14 of the 16 batters that he faced, yielding only a single and a walk...Carter Watson and Hunter Daniel combined to toss a scoreless inning of relief...The four earned runs by Georgia starter Michael Pallazone were a season high...Andrew Toles posted his 15th multi-hit game of the season with a pair of singles...He also scored two runs and stole his 17th base of the year...Khayyan Norfork also swiped a bag, as did Chris Fritts...For Fritts, it was his third of the season, while Norfork's increased his SEC-leading total to 25...Davis Morgan hit his first home run in a Tennessee uniform, blasting a three-run shot down the left-field line in the bottom of the ninth.
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