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Ex-Ads pitchers solid despite UT struggles

Though Tennessee’s baseball season has unraveled in SEC play — dead last at 2-10 having scored just four runs in its last seven league games — three ex-Farragut High School pitchers, all vital contributors, are holding their own.

Having pitched quite effectively in two SEC starts (home win versus Ole Miss then a loss at Florida), senior Rob Catapano worked 5 2/3 innings in a 4-0 home setback to SEC powerhouse South Carolina Thursday, April 7, allowing three earned runs, seven hits, three walks and one hit batter with one strikeout.

“I’m going to be honest with you, he didn’t pitch good at all — but he battled,” Tennessee head coach Todd Raleigh said. “His first-pitch strike percentage wasn’t good, his stuff wasn’t great, but if you can do that and not be on top of your game, that’s pretty good.

“His battle was unbelievable tonight; he kept us in the game. … If you saw him last week he was a lot better, getting ahead of hitters,” Raleigh added. “But [tonight] he made big pitches when he had to.”

Raleigh said Catapano’s top pitch count before wearing down is around 100. The senior lefty threw 94 Thursday.

Catapano said he “needed to get a ‘W,’ but I just didn’t get it done tonight. I just kinda handicapped myself with not getting ahead in the count, and I didn’t have my curveball at all tonight, so I was just pitching with two pitches.”

Entering the week with a 3.49 earned run average (2-2 record in five starts, seven total appearances), Catapano has worked 28.1 innings this season, allowing 11 earned runs, 30 hits and nine walks with 17 strikeouts.

Junior Matt Ramsey, Vols starting catcher, has now worked his way into the starting pitching rotation for SEC games.

Having become the Vols’ “Sunday,” or final SEC game, starter the past two weeks, Ramsey, UT’s ex-closer, carried an 0.96 earned run average (0-1 record in eight total appearances, 10 innings) into this week’s games.

However, “right forearm soreness” limited the junior to just 1 2/3 innings Saturday in his start versus the Gamecocks (two strikeouts, one walk, no earned runs or hits). The Vols lost 2-1.

Freshman Nick Williams, Vols closer, entered the week with a 4.96 ERA (1-1 record) in 12 relief appearances, earning one save in 16.1 innings (16 hits, five walks allowed with 17 strikeouts).

Williams worked two scoreless innings Saturday, giving up no runs or hits while striking out one and walking one.

Hunter Daniel, Vols sophomore lefty reliever and ex-Bearden pitching ace (4.91 ERA, 10 appearances), did spot duty Thursday and Saturday.

Facing just one batter Thursday, Daniel retired dangerous No. 3 hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. by inducing a fly-out with one out in the ninth.

Daniel allowed one hit in 1/3 innings relief Saturday.

Ramsey’s woes at the plate reflect Tennessee’s struggles offensively.

After going hitless against USC last week, Ramsey has seen his season average drop to .237 (no home runs, four RBI).

“I’m just kinda getting a little over aggressive sometimes. But it’s something that’s going to turn around,” Ramsey said after Thursday’s loss. “Mainly it’s just keeping my weight back and my hands, and just waiting for the ball to come to me and not jumping at it.”

Ramsey did improve his caught stealing percentage behind the plate (now 13 of 28), pegging a near perfect throw to second to cut down third baseman Adrian Morales in the seventh inning Thursday.

Ethan Bennett, freshman back-up catcher/designated hitter and ex-Admiral All-state honoree, entered the week at .295 with four home runs and 19 RBI in 18 starts, 20 games played.

Starting catcher against South Carolina Friday night in a 2-0 Vols loss, Bennett went 0-for-2.

Bennett walked in a pitch-hit appearance Saturday.

While the Gamecocks maintained a share of first place in the SEC East after its sweep (10-2, 26-5 overall), the Vols fell to 19-13 overall.


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