March 10, 2010

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CBI Live
Volunteers spring past Blue Raiders

By Jimmy Jones

Special to

(photos by Jimmy Jones)


MURFREESBORO, Tenn.---Spring revealed itself in all its glory with bright sunshine, comfortable temperatures and crystal blue skies Wednesday afternoon topped off by the great American past time when the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders and Tennessee Volunteers took center stage in front of 2,442 fans at Reese Smith Field.
The two teams put on quite a battle, exchanging the lead on four occasions before UT pulled the game out with four runs in the eighth to prevail 8-6.
The Volunteers (7-6) scored first as P. J. Polk opened the game with a walk, stole second and was plated on an RBI single by Cody Hawn.
Blue Raider centerfielder Bryce Brentz (left) tied the game with one swing on a towering fly ball off Vol starter Rob Catapano (above) that cleared the left field fence in the bottom half of the first.
The score remained tied until the third when Brentz struck again, this time on a ball that left the stadium in centerfield to give MTSU (8-4) a 2-1 lead. The home run was the 51st of the junior All American's career and ties him with Rawley Bishop as the all-time leader in school history.
Left fielder Will Skinner got into the long ball act with a solo drive over the left-centerfield wall to give the Blue and White a 3-1 lead in the fourth. MTSU scored again when Justin Miller reached on an error, moved over on a bunt single by Ryan Ford and scored on a throwing error.
Blue Raider freshman hurler Hunter Adkins made the most of his start by going five innings allowing just three runs on three hits. The right-hander finished with five strikeouts and left with a 4-3 lead.
"Hunter Adkins is going to be a very good pitcher," said MTSU coach Steve Peterson. "I thought he had good stuff and dominated their lineup when he was in the strike zone.
"He kept himself in trouble getting his pitch count up and if he had kept it down he might have made it to the sixth. I wasn't going to run him past there and get his pitch count way up."
With senior Tyler Hyde on the mound in relief of Adkins, Tennessee scored two runs in the fifth when Matt Duffy was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and advanced to third on a double into left field by Zach Osborne.
Khayyan Norfork followed with a base hit to deep short to score Duffy and advance Osborne to third.
Hawn (right) picked up an RBI with a fly ball to score Osborne to pull the Vols to within 4-3.
Tennessee tied the game in the seventh when Osborne scored on a wild pitch. MTSU came right back to retake the lead on a Robertson double. He scored on a one-out hit by pinch-hitter Stuart Meinhart in their half.
"We battled really well today," UT head coach Todd Raleigh said. "Every time they got up on us, we were able to answer the bell. In a weird way, I thought this was our best game of the year, just because of how we kept responding.
"Yesterday (loss to Western Kentucky) was a tough one to take, but those things happen and I thought we've been more productive offensively over the last few days than we have been over the past few weeks.
"We did a great job running the bases and getting some timely hits, so I really feel like this is something that can get us going a little bit. We're really just starting to figure out our personal identity as a team and I'm really proud of the guys tonight."
The visitors put the game away with four runs in the eighth, with the big blow being a two-run homer off the bat of Charley Thurber after MTSU was unable to field a bunt.
"I thought Tennessee outplayed us on the mound and played excellent small ball," said Peterson. "They get the bunt down and after a double laid another bunt down and we don't get an out.
"Our third baseman, catcher and pitcher miscommunicated and you have got to get an out there. It’s one thing to execute a bunt but you have to get an out. That led to extra runners on base which in turn led to runs."
Hyde took the loss after allowing four runs on three hits in one-third of an inning of work.
Steve Crnkovich (2-0) picked up the win for the Volunteers with five innings of three-hit ball in relief. He allowed two runs on three hits while striking out two. He did not walk a batter.
MTSU hosts Louisiana-Monroe on Friday at 6.
Tennessee returns to Knoxville to host the Arby's Classic with Connecticut, Marshall and 17th-ranked Ohio State participating.