Knoxville, TN – It took almost ten years but the UT baseball team pulled the dusty broom out of the closet to sweep SEC East foe and 10th ranked South Carolina for the first time since 1994. The Vols found a reliable closer in Luke Hochevar and took three games over the weekend to move into the top spot of the SEC East.
Game One on Friday was a pitcher’s duel for seven innings. South Carolina starter Steven Bondourant (2-1) had a no hitter going into the eighth while UT’s Ben Riley (2-2) found his form retiring 21 straight after giving up two singles in the first.
Vol freshman Kyle Norrid got UT started in the eighth with a sinking liner that got just under the Gamecock’s Tim Seaton and broke up Bondourant’s bid for a no hitter. Justin Branson was walked when USC reliever Aaron Rawl gave up the deciding three run homer to Jordan Czarniecki. Hochevar picked up his first save as a Vol in the 3-0 win.
Saturday afternoon the Vols went for two in a row. South Carolina opened the first with back-to-back two out doubles to take a 1-0 lead before Derek Tharpe (3-1) retired the side. UT picked up the tying run in the third on an RBI single by Czarniecki. Chad Legate stroked a two run single in the fourth, which ended the day for USC’s David Marchbanks (4-2) who took the loss giving up three runs on seven hits. Tharpe was still battling but gave up a run to Bryan Triplett on a balk in the sixth. The Vols took the run back in the bottom of the inning as Nick Crowe’s sacrifice bunt brought Norrid home for a 4-2 win. Hochevar picked up his second save of the series striking out the last two Gamecocks in the ninth.
Checking the broom closet on Sunday, the Vols found catcher Javi Herrera ready to swing for a sweep. Herrera broke a 6-6 tie in the eighth inning with a grand slam home run giving UT a 10-6 lead they would hold on to for the victory. USC’s Rawl (4-2) was tagged with his second loss in the series.
The Gamecocks issued 5 straight walks in the second to assist the Vols. After two runs walked across the plate, Rivera crunched a 2 run single to bring the Vols a four run inning. Crowe singled for an RBI in the third, and Walter Sevilla used a hit to right for his own RBI in the fourth to put UT up 6-2.
South Carolina wasn’t giving up, scoring one run in the seventh and then tying it up in the eighth to set the stage for Herrera’s heroics. Josh Alley took first on an error, Czarniecki was intentionally walked and Rivera singled for his fourth hit of the day. Herrera came to the plate and collected his first home run in Knoxville and his first career grand slam. UT starter Dusty Johnson worked six innings on the mound, Rob Fitzgerald, Casey Eisemann and Beau Massey threw in middle relief before Joey Andrews (1-1) came in and picked up the win. Andrews worked out of the eighth inning jam as USC left the bases loaded, then struck out two in the ninth. Brian Cleveland made the other out of the inning on a diving grab in foul territory.
UT moves to 14-8 overall and 4-2 in the SEC. Tenth ranked South Carolina falls to 1-5 in the SEC and 16-8 overall. UT hosts Tennessee Tech on Wednesday night to complete a five game home stand. They travel to the swamplands of Florida for a series with the Gators next weekend.
SEC Pct. GB All Pct.
Tennessee 4-2 .666 - 14-8 .636
Florida 2-3-1 .416 1.5 19-6-1 .780
Vanderbilt 2-4 .333 2.0 13-10 .565
S.Carolina 1-5 .166 3.0 16-8 .666
Georgia 0-6 .000 4.0 11-10 .524
Kentucky 0-6 .000 4.0 8-14 .364
LSU 5-0-1 .917 - 16-7-1 .688
Auburn 5-1 .833 0.5 22-5 .815
Miss. St. 5-1 .833 0.5 17-3-1 .833
Ole Miss 5-1 .833 0.5 15-7 .682
Alabama 4-2 .667 1.5 18-5 .783
Arkansas 2-4 .333 3.5 18-5 .783