KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)-- No. 22 Tennessee used the long ball to rally for a 4-2 win over SEC East rival Kentucky in Thursday night's series opener at Kentucky Proud Park.
The Big Orange scored three runs in the top of the eighth to erase a one-run deficit. Alerick Soularie put the Volunteers ahead 3-2 with a two-run blast off one of the light poles in left field before Pete Derkay added an insurance run with a pinch-hit homer to right field to give UT a two-run advantage.
The dynamic duo of Andrew Schultz and Redmond Walsh took over from there as the Vols shut down the Wildcats in the eighth and ninth innings to earn their 28th win of the year.
Garrett Crochet made his second start of the season for the Big Orange and cruised through the first five innings before allowing a pair of solo home runs in the sixth. Those were the only two runs given up by the junior left hander as he went 6.2 innings, allowing six hits and two walks while fanning eight on the night en route to a no-decision.
Kentucky starter Jimmy Ramsey was able to shake off a bumpy start to throw six solid innings for the Cats. The right hander allowed just one run on three hits and three walks while striking out seven for the game and left the contest in line for the win.
Two batters into the game the Vols found themselves ahead 1-0 after Jay Charleston led off with a triple and scored on a single by Max Ferguson. Those would be Tennessee's only two hits until a two-out single by Evan Russell in the sixth inning as Ramsey was locked in after the shaky start.
After five dominant innings from Crochet, the Wildcats finally broke through with two solo home runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 2-1 lead. Ryan Shinn led off the inning with a shot that just cleared the wall in left field and T.J. Collett homered to straightaway center field two batters later to give UK its first lead of the night.
Wildcats' reliever Daniel Harper did not fare as well as Ramsey, giving up both home runs to the Vols in the top of the eighth. Ferguson led the inning off with a walk before Soularie's team-leading 10th bomb of the year put UT back in front. Derkay put the icing on the cake with his third four-bagger of the season to give the Orange and White a little breathing room.
Harper was stuck with the loss, falling to 3-2 on the year, while Schultz improved to 2-0 after throwing 1.2 innings of scoreless relief. Walsh entered the game with a runner on second and one out in the ninth to slam the door and earn his seventh save. The Alcoa High School product has recorded a save in each of his last four appearances.