Nine strong innings from Aaron Tullo and Bryan Morgado led Tennessee to a 6-1 victory over Mississippi State on Friday night at Robert M. Lindsay Field at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The game’s first pitch was delayed until 8:30 p.m. Eastern time due to inclement weather in the Knoxville area.
Tennessee (14-20, 2-11 SEC) picks up its first Southeastern Conference victory since a 7-1 victory over Auburn in the second game of a double header on March 15.
“It was a good game,” UT coach Todd Raleigh said. “I think we played all three phases well. That is probably the best game we’ve pitched this year. They (MSU) came in leading the SEC in hitting in SEC play so they have been scoring some runs and Aaron Tullo just set the tone and Bryan Morgado was phenomenal.”
Right fielder Josh Liles went 2-for-4 with three runs and two RBIs while second baseman Cody Grisham added two singles and two RBIs of his own to provide the offense for Tennessee.
Tullo (2-4) pitched a season-high five innings, allowing one run on two hits. Tullo walked one and struck out four. Morgado picked up his first save of the year after throwing four scoreless innings to close out the game. Morgado walked two and struck out eight, including the side in the ninth.
Mississippi State (18-16, 4-9 SEC) starting pitcher Tyler Whitney (2-3) surrendered six runs (five earned) on 11 hits through 7-2/3 innings. The sophomore walked five and struck out five.
With the game tied at 1-1 in the third inning, center fielder Kentrail Davis gave the Vols a 2-1 lead by driving in Liles with a groundout to first base.
Tennessee took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Grisham’s RBI single to right field. Liles scored after reaching on an error and stealing third base.
Mississippi State shortstop Ryan Powers tied the game at 1-1 in the top of third with his second home run of the season, a solo shot to left field.
UT took a 3-1 lead when third baseman Tyler Horne scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Grisham. Horne led off the inning with a double to center field. The junior is batting .545 (12-for-22) during a six-game hit streak.
Liles put Tennessee in front 5-1 with a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning. The homer was his eighth of the season.
Tennessee extended its lead to 6-1 in the bottom of the eighth when freshman shortstop Zach Osborne hit his first career home run, a solo shot, to left field.
The two teams return to the diamond Saturday at 1 p.m. Left-hander Nick Hernandez (1-4, 5.64 ERA) will take the mound for UT against lefty Nick Routt (4-1, 2.83 ERA) for Mississippi State. The game will be televised regionally on SportSouth.