Everything works out for UT, even final hunch, 5-2

Tennessee's Drew Steckenrider sprints past leaping Auburn catcher Tony Caldwell to score a run for the Vols in their 5-2 SEC victory over Auburn on Thursday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Photo by Ruth Tedrick, utsports.com

Tennessee's Drew Steckenrider sprints past leaping Auburn catcher Tony Caldwell to score a run for the Vols in their 5-2 SEC victory over Auburn on Thursday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

For one night, at least, Tennessee baseball enjoyed a reprieve from doom and gloom.

A .205 hitter delivered a clutch two-out, two-run single in the first inning.

A pitcher whose work has been better than the record he bears stifled Auburn with a no-hitter for four innings and delivered seven quality innings.

Another two-out hit in the seventh plated a couple of welcome insurance runs.

And finally, coach Todd Raleigh's "hunch" decision in filling out his lineup card paid off on the game-ending defensive play.

Virtually everything clicked Thursday night in a 5-2 win over Auburn at Lindsey Nelson Stadium to snap an 11-game SEC losing streak.

"This last home series, we're playing for the seniors,'' said sophomore Drew Steckenrider who provided heroics both early and late.

The Vols (24-28, 6-22 SEC) had last won an SEC game on April 22 against Georgia. They had since been swept by Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and LSU to lose any hope of extending the season into the SEC tournament.

If Auburn (28-26, 13-15) thought it was going to get a sweep to emerge from a four-way tie atop the SEC West, it will have to think again.

Game two is tonight at 6.

Steven Gruver (5-7) got a well-deserved victory for the Vols, allowing five hits in 7 1/3 innings. The Tigers couldn't touch him until a bloop single in the fifth.

"Nothing was perfect,'' said Gruver. "I had to battle. I got behind on some counts but I worked through and I found it. That was the biggest thing.''

The biggest hit was the first one.

Auburn's Jon Luke Jacobs (1-4) walked two of the first three Vols he faced, Kayan Norfork and Charlie Thurber.

With two outs, Steckenrider, the .205 hitter who spent most of the season as a pitcher before unlimbering his bat in the past month, lined a single to left scoring both runners.

Davis Morgan then followed with an RBI single to make it 3-0.

"It was awesome,'' said Steckenrider, "my first big hit this season since I've been hitting.

"Coach (Raleigh) pulled me aside and told me they weren't going to come at me with fastballs. The second pitch was a change-up away, just like Coach said.''

The way the season has played out, Gruver could hardly believe his good fortune to have a 3-0 lead.

"It just takes all the pressure off my shoulders,'' Gruver said.

The pressure was tightening again as Auburn got back to 3-2. But Morgan came through again, with a two-out, two-RBI single in the seventh.

Then Steckenrider, who was playing the DH role, came to the mound and pitched out of a jam in the top of the eighth.

Auburn loaded the bases in the ninth against three UT pitchers, and all three runners were off to the races when Craig McElroy sent a two-out shot to deep center field.

Josh Liles, given the start in center over freshman Andrew Toles (who had started 49 games) ran the ball down to end the game.

"It comes down to the last play of the game,'' said Raleigh, "and Josh made a great jump on it. We just played a hunch on it.''

It was that kind of night, for a change.

Follow Mike Strange at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange

Get Copyright Permissions © 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2011 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 16

acknowledgment writes:

Happy for the kids - it's been a long season.

tmartin writes:

CTR deserves a contract extension!!! He has turned the ship around.

Londonjohn writes:

Great job Coach. Now win these next two and we can start talking goals for next season, where we fans expect a entirely new array of nifty excuses after each loss.

Don't listen to the haters. You're wonderful and most of the readers here know a good thing when we have it; if nothing else you and Hamilton provide for a good chuckle between basketball and football seasons, and as one or both of those sports might produce some serious tragedy next year, we are going to badly need the Vols' baseball team to provide for some needed comic relief.

Four more years. Four more years.

ericshoskins#523684 writes:

Finally, the Todd Raleigh experiment is drawing to a close. And my, what an epic disaster it has been. There is no excuse for a program like Tennessee's not to be in the SEC Tournament 3 out of every 4 years and in a Regional at least 1 out of every 4. And CTR has not even sniffed Hoover since he took over.

My guess is that Rick Honeycutt is Mike Hamilton's last hire at Tennessee. At least I hope it is.

SummittsCourt writes:

Glad there was a reprieve from the doom and gloom of this season for the players.

Losing sucks!

huntined#565710 writes:

I said we would win a TRAP GAME and we did..just glad for the players as I am sure this year has been rough on them.

Ironcity writes:

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. What does this say about Auburn.

Volunatic writes:

Good job Vols. Find a way to win this series!

volalum1972 writes:

To paraphrase the late Gov. Frank G. Clement, " How long, Hammy, oh how long will we have to endure TR?"

shipperman#280095 writes:

in response to DukeDeLuca:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Duke, great post. On another hand, Todd Raleigh will be relieved of his duties on Sunday, and Chris Burke is the top target to replace him. Thank you and have a great day all.

shipperman#280095 writes:

in response to volalum1972:

To paraphrase the late Gov. Frank G. Clement, " How long, Hammy, oh how long will we have to endure TR?"

Until Sunday

PAVolsFan writes:

Chris Burke has never coached a day in his life, UT can do much better than Chris at head coach. To have him on staff, excellent, but not as head coach, it takes more than being an alumni and a good player to coach

DeeBee writes:

in response to PAVolsFan:

Chris Burke has never coached a day in his life, UT can do much better than Chris at head coach. To have him on staff, excellent, but not as head coach, it takes more than being an alumni and a good player to coach

I agree 100%, he has never even coached a little league team and some morons want him as the next head coach, get a clue people. Like you said, nice addition but get an actual coach to take over this mess of a program. Thanks Mike.

TKO writes:

One, Two, Three strikes your out at the ole A D

shipperman#280095 writes:

in response to DeeBee:

I agree 100%, he has never even coached a little league team and some morons want him as the next head coach, get a clue people. Like you said, nice addition but get an actual coach to take over this mess of a program. Thanks Mike.

There once was this pudgy little fellow named Philip Fulmer who had never coached a game of football either, and he seemed to do ok against most of the SEC

shipperman#280095 writes:

in response to PAVolsFan:

Chris Burke has never coached a day in his life, UT can do much better than Chris at head coach. To have him on staff, excellent, but not as head coach, it takes more than being an alumni and a good player to coach

As I said in another post, there was this pudgy man named Philip Fulmer who was a UT alumni who had never been a head coach. Most of you thought he did pretty well

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features