Volunteers withstand upset-minded Bucs

By Matt Hill

   JOHNSON CITY--Alex Suarez was a little upset when he came up to bat in the seventh inning of Tennessee's game with East Tennessee State on Tuesday night.
   He let the Bucs know about it.
   The Volunteer designated hitter hit a solo home run on the first pitch of the frame to put the Vols on top for good en route to an 8-6 win over the Bucs at Cardinal Park.
   Suarez wanted to do something after the benches cleared following a play at home plate in the previous inning that saw teammate Josh Alley get tagged out at home by catcher Caleb Moore.
   Moore pushed Alley, and then tempers flared. There were no ejections, but the incident was in the back of Suarez's mind.
   "I was excited about that," Suarez said. "It wasn't really a brawl, just a little skirmish there. But I was just looking to make hard contact with the ball and get us going."
   After the homer that put Tennessee up 6-5, the Vols added two more runs in the inning to give themselves a comfortable cushion.
   While Suarez had the blast to give the Vols the lead, the hero of the game might have been former Science Hill standout Brandon Crowe.
   Crowe came in after Vol starter Rob Fitzgerald was rocked for five earned runs in the first three innings. Crowe pitched the end of the third, then completed the game with a near flawless effort.
   Crowe gave up just one earned run and three hits. Crowe also had five strikeouts to his credit.
   "Anytime you've got Brandon on the mound and he's the hometown kid, and just the way he was out there on the mound battling and showing intensity the whole game, it pumped me up and it got the rest of our dugout pumped up," Suarez said.
   Crowe thought it was a special experience getting to play where he shined in high school.
   "Coming back here and doing well is a great thing," Crowe said.
   There were a total of four former Hilltoppers playing in this game.
   ETSU features Beau Alford and Shane Byrne, while Brandon's brother, Nick Crowe, had two hits on the night for the Vols.
   As for the Crowe brothers, ETSU head coach Tony Skole was very impressed with their performances against his team.
   "Both those Crowe brothers are tremendous competitors," Skole said. "I sure would like to have them."
   The Bucs struggled against the Vols two weeks ago in Knoxville, so it was encouraging to Skole that his team performed well on Tuesday.
   "We got some big hits at times, and we were in the ball game," Skole said. "We got two hits down there, and were never really in the ball game.
   "The big thing is our kids are competing with a high intensity level. That's the thing that is important to me right now, and playing the game fundamentally sound. We did that tonight."
   Brian Cleveland topped Tennessee with a 3-for-5 effort. Moore and Andy Howdeshell each had two hits to top ETSU.
   Tennessee hosts UNC-Asheville tonight, while ETSU travels to The Citadel this weekend.