KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (utsports.com) -- The Tennessee baseball team put runners on base in eight of nine innings, but just never could get the big hit needed to break through as Mississippi State claimed the series finale, 5-2, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
In all, the Volunteers were 1-for-17 with runners on base and 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position on Sunday. They will return to the diamond at 7 p.m. on Tuesday to host the opener of a home-and-home midweek series against Middle Tennessee State. UT will travel to Murfreesboro on Wednesday.
“Our kids played hard,” UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. “As a coach, that’s all you can ask for. I thought we put ourselves in a position to win. I’m proud of the way they played. I thought we were ready. We just needed that one hit to clear the bases. (Mississippi State) made a great play with two outs in the sixth, but we have to overcome that. We just try to keep teaching and helping them learn the game as much as we possibly can. It’s not like they aren’t trying. They are playing hard. You saw (Khayyan) diving all over the field and our pitchers were battling out there. We never gave up. We had a chance even at the end with the tying run (at the plate) in the ninth.”
Senior Khayyan Norfork and junior Davis Morgan each had a pair of hits for the Big Orange, while senior Matt Duffy added his 11th double of the season. Senior Rob Catapano (2-5) suffered the loss for the Vols after battling through 4.2 innings in which he allowed three runs on four hits and five walks. Chris Stratton (5-5) picked up the win for the Bulldogs, striking out nine and yielding two runs on six hits in 5.2 frames of work. Caleb Reed recorded his ninth save with 3.1 scoreless innings and five strikeouts out of the bullpen.
Mississippi State struck the first blow of the game in the top of the third, using a bases-loaded walk and a two-run single by Jonathan Ogden to score three runs. The Vols looked like they were going to get a run back in the fourth when freshman Ethan Bennett followed a double by Duffy with a flare into left that looked like it would land safely until Ogden came flying in at the last second to pluck it out of the air and end the inning.
Tennessee finally did get on the scoreboard in the next stanza though, as back-to-back singles by Chris Fritts and Morgan and a sac bunt by Chris Pierce put two runners in scoring position for freshman Andrew Toles. He would bring one of them home with an RBI groundout to short.
Just an inning later, the Vols used a single by Norfork and consecutive hit batters to load the bases with just one out. Although Stratton was able to get the second out with a strikeout, he proceeded to issue a five-pitch walk to Morgan to bring in another run and put Tennessee back within a single run at 3-2. That would be all UT would get that frame, however, as Stratton struck out yet another hitter to end the bases-loaded threat.
His Bulldogs would then answer immediately, getting those two runs back in the top of the seventh with a run-scoring single by Jonathan Shepherd and another bases-loaded walk. Reed would then hold the Vols off the board over the final three innings to close out the contest.
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