Vols Baseball fends off Middle Tennessee 5-3

Talk about being well-rounded. Tennessee sophomore Jeff Lockwood did a little bit of everything Tuesday while leading the Volunteers baseball team to a 5-3 triumph over in-state rival Middle Tennessee at Robert M. Lindsay Field at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. He even helped lead some elderly folks to their vehicles after the game.

Lockwood—who appears on the 2008 watch list for the Stopper of the Year Award, presented to the nation’s top relief pitcher—retired five of the six batters he faced during separate pitching stints of 1/3 inning and 1 1/3 innings. A single walk was the lone blemish on his no-hit, three-strikeout save.

In addition to logging his third save of the season—which moved him into third place on UT’s career list with 11—Lockwood also went 2-for-4 at the plate with a solo homer that put the Vols up for good in the sixth inning.

The Vols improved to 8-4 with the victory and ran their season-best win streak to four games. The Blue Raiders fell to 8-3-1 (1-1 Sun Belt) despite out-hitting the Big Orange 7-6.

“I thought that was our best game of the year,” UT head coach Todd Raleigh said after his team improved to 7-2 at home. “I actually thought we played better (Tuesday) than we did in the win against Texas. We’re starting to come together as a team. We used a lot of different guys the last two games, and I like what I’m seeing right now.”

UT junior Danny Wiltz earned his second win out of the bullpen in as many appearances by working one scoreless inning with a pair of strikeouts. The Miami, Fla., native is now 2-0 on the year with one save and a 2.00 ERA.

Tennessee dealt the first blow Tuesday when catcher Yan Gomes ripped a two-run double down the third-base line in the bottom of the first inning. Kentrail Davis and Cody Brown both scored on the play after getting hit by pitches consecutively.

Middle Tennessee used a pair of walks and two wild pitches by Vols starting pitcher Ty’Relle Harris to put runners on the corners with two outs in the top of the third, and Blue Raiders centerfielder Nathan Hines later scored from third base on a passed ball—trimming UT’s lead to a single run.

Harris gave way to junior left-hander Joey Rosas for the top of the sixth. In five full innings, Harris allowed one unearned run on three hits with three walks and three strikeouts. He came away with a no-decision in his first start as a Vol.

Rosas faced just three batters in the sixth before Wiltz was called out of the UT bullpen. Shortly thereafter, Blue Raiders shortstop Tyler Burnett roped a two-out, game-tying single that scored Knoxville, Tenn., native Bryce Brentz. Burnett’s basehit put runners on the corners, but Wiltz recorded an inning-ending strikeout to preserve the 2-2 tie.

Lockwood restored the Vols’ one-run lead with a solo homer in the bottom of the frame. It was the sophomore’s first longball of the season and the fifth of his career.

“That was huge for me,” Lockwood said. “I was in a bad slump. I didn’t hit it that well, but it got up in the wind and it was enough to get it out. It’s a big relief. I think if we can spark a few more guys, we’ll be in good shape.”

Vols right fielder Josh Liles followed Lockwood’s home run with a double, prompting Middle Tennessee head coach Steve Peterson to call reliever Langdon Stanley out of the bullpen. Stanley promptly hit the first two batters he faced, loading the bases with one out. Tennessee leadoff man Andy Simunic then drove in Liles with an RBI fielder’s choice to give the Vols a 4-2 lead.

After back-to-back two-out singles and a hit batsman in the top of the seventh, Middle Tennessee had the potential go-ahead run on first base. The Vols then brought Lockwood from first base to the mound to face Blue Raiders pinch hitter Steven Watson, and Lockwood got the sophomore to strike out looking and end the threat.

Brown then led off the bottom of the seventh with a solo bomb that cleared the left-field bleachers and pushed UT’s lead to three runs, 5-2. It was Brown’s team-leading third home run of the season and the 12th of his career.

Vols right-hander Aaron Everett took the mound for the top of the eighth, and the Raiders once again threatened, using a pair of walks to bring the potential tying run to the plate with one out. After Middle Tennessee third baseman Zach Barrett made it a two-run game with an RBI single, Raleigh again called for Lockwood to make the short jog from first base to the mound—after a separate 1/3 inning pitching appearance earlier in the seventh.

Lockwood again rose to the challenge, however, retiring the first batter he faced via an inning-ending line drive to first base. Lockwood walked the second batter he faced in the ninth but then recorded back-to-back Ks to send the Blue Raiders packing.

The Vols return to action Wednesday at 3 p.m. against Presbyterian College (5-6). Senior right-hander Zane Stone (0-0, 10.12 ERA) is slated to start on the mound for UT. Wednesday’s game marks the first-ever meeting between the Vols and the Blue Hose.

Story Courtesy: UT Sports Information

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