KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UTSports.com) -- In a game that was decided by a single pitch, Tennessee could not back up junior Steven Gruver's solid, eight-inning performance with any run support, falling to third-ranked South Carolina on Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The Volunteers managed just three hits and six total baserunners in the contest, with none moving past second base.
"It was a tough one for us," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "We're just in a funk right now, that's all I can say. We are 2-for-40 with runners on in our last three games and we're not going to win games like that. I thought we had a good scouting report again. We knew what they were going to do and we told our guys, but I think we're just trying too hard. "
After going 0-for-12 with runners on base on Thursday night, the Vols were 0-for-9 on Friday. In the team's last six SEC games, it is 3-for-53 in those situations. In total, Tennessee managed just three hits against the Gamecock trio of Colby Holmes, John Taylor and Matt Price. Holmes moved to 3-0 with the win, while Price picked up his second save in as many days and ninth of the season.
Suffering the tough-luck loss was Gruver, who scattered seven hits over eight innings of work. He struck out four and walked one. The only two runs of the game came on a two-out, two-run home run by Christian Walker in the sixth inning as he took a 1-0 changeup and hit it over the wall in left. The other six hits yielded by the junior southpaw were all singles.
"(Gruver) pitched good," Raleigh said. "He gave up two runs in eight innings and gave us a chance to win, there's no doubt about that. If somebody had told me they'd just get two, I thought we'd win. We are just in a funk that I've never seen before here."
Sophomore Drew Steckenrider gave the Big Orange a chance to rally in the bottom of the ninth, by striking out the side in the top of the frame. The Vols were only able to manage a two-out walk by Matt Duffy, however, as Price followed Steckenrider's example and recorded the final three outs of the game via strikeouts.
Senior Khayyan Norfork got back on track after a short slump at the plate, recording a double and a single for two of UT's three hits. Sophomore Chris Fritts had the other with a two-out, two-bagger in the second. Fritts also reached once when he was hit by a pitch to lead off the eighth. Junior Zach Osborne was the only other Tennessee player to reach base as he was also plunked by a 1-0 pitch in the third.
The Vols had opportunities in both the sixth and eighth innings when they were able to get their leadoff hitter on base, but the Gamecocks turned double plays in both frames to thwart the Orange and White's efforts.
The Big Orange returned the favor in the top of the eighth when the Gamecocks looked poised to break the game open after loading the bases with just one out. Gruver got Adrian Morales to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play, however, to keep the UT deficit at just two.
Tennessee and South Carolina will close out this weekend's three game series with a noon showdown on Saturday. The contest will be televised live on SportSouth with Andy Demetra and Rusty Ensor on the call.
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