KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (utsports.com) -- The Tennessee baseball team mounted a late comeback attempt against Appalachian State on Tuesday but couldn’t quite finish it off, falling to the Mountaineers, 6-5, at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The loss was UT’s first in the 15 games in which it has out-hit its opponent this year, as it collected seven hits to ASU’s six.
“It was just another tough one,” UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. “We out-hit our opponent but just can’t get over that hump right now. Giving up six (runs) early was disappointing. If we had come out and gotten off to a good start on the mound, maybe we are able to settle in and get some runs. We did a good job in the first inning coming back but then gave up three more. After that we just kind of faded out for three innings before we started having some good at-bats.”
Despite collecting just six hits all night, the Mountaineers made the most of them with home runs from three different players. They got a two-run shot by Daniel Kassouf in the first, a three-run longball from Trey Holmes in the second and solo home run from Zack Briggs on the first pitch of the third.
After falling behind by four through three frames, 6-2, the Volunteers scored three unanswered runs over the final five innings but were never able to get that final tally to tie the score.
Freshman Andrew Toles led the way offensively for the Orange and White, going 2-for-5 with a single, a triple, two runs scored and a pair of stolen bases. The triple was his third, tying him for the most in a single season by a UT freshman with four players, including Todd Helton and Kentrail Davis. His two stolen bases put his season total at 16, tying him for the most by any freshman in the nation this year.
Seniors Josh Liles and Khayyan Norfork each knocked in a pair of runs for UT with bases-loaded, two-RBI singles in the first and seventh innings, respectively. Norfork also stole his SEC-leading 21st base of the season.
After falling behind 2-0 in the top of the first, the Volunteers immediately answered in the home half of the frame with Liles’ single. Toles got the ball rolling for the Big Orange with a one-out single before stealing both second and third easily. Norfork followed with a walk and stole second as well, before another free pass, this one to senior Matt Duffy, loaded the bases to set the table for Liles.
Appalachian State responded with home runs in both the second and third stanzas to take a four-run lead at 6-2, but that would be all they would get the rest of the way as the UT bullpen shut them down.
Junior T.J. Thornton posted his most impressive performance in a Tennessee uniform to date, twirling three near-perfect innings of relief. He faced the minimum over his three innings of work, needing just 26 pitches to retire nine Mountaineer hitters. He did allow one hit, but immediately erased the runner from the basepaths by inducing a double play.
Sophomore Zack Godley and freshmen Carter Watson and Nick Williams closed out the final three innings of the contest. They combined to yield just two hits while striking out four.
While the bullpen was doing its job, the Volunteer offense made a few waves, scoring once in the fifth and twice more in the seventh. In the fifth, Toles laced a one-out triple to the gap in right-center before coming home to score just seconds later on a wild pitch.
Now down by three, the Big Orange moved within one in the seventh thanks to Norfork’s base knock. Freshman Ethan Bennett drew a leadoff walk and pinch-hitter senior Tyler Horne put two on with nobody out when he laced a 1-2 fastball to right for a single. Junior Zach Osborne followed with a perfect bunt that the ASU pitcher had no play on and went for an infield single to load the bases.
Although the Mountaineers struck out the next hitter, Norfork brought home two runs with a sharply hit single down the third-base line. While he was able to advance to second on the throw home to the plate, Osborne was tagged out trying to move up 90 feet to third. Appalachian State then ended the UT threat by getting a pop-out in foul territory down the right-field line.
The Vols now hit the road for their second straight ESPNU Thursday Night SEC Game of the Week, which will be pit them against No. 24 Alabama at 7:30 p.m. on April 14 in Tuscaloosa. The two teams will then battle it out at 7:30 p.m. on Friday before the series finale takes place at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
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Tennessee dropped to 19-14 overall with its eighth straight loss…UT is now 11-4 all-time against Appalachian State…The Orange and White out-hit the Mountaineers, 7-6, and are now 14-1 in games in which they have out-hit its opponent…The Vols swiped three bases, all before the second out of the bottom of the first inning…They now have 67 stolen bases as a team this season…All six Mountaineer runs came in the first three innings…Four Volunteer pitchers held them scoreless over the final six frames…The Tennessee pitching staff struck out 10 hitters…The Big Orange is now 17-4 in non-conference games, 2-2 on Tuesdays and 2-2 in one-run affairs…Official game time was two hours, 50 minutes.