This Week in UT Sports History is a weekly column written by RTI columnist Lexie Little
Last week, Major League Baseball teams selected three Vols in the first four rounds of the MLB Draft for the first time since 2007. The White Sox selected pitcher Garrett Crochet at 11th overall in the first round, making him Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello’s first first-round pick. Outfielder Alerick Soularie went to the Minnesota Twins in the second round, and fellow outfielder Zach Daniels when to the Houston Astros in the fourth round.
At least one Tennessee Vol has been drafted into the MLB every year since 1984. With momentum mounting on the mound and the batting lineup for the Vols, that tradition stands likely to continue in 2021 and beyond. The 2020 Vols earned a record of 15-2 before COVID-19 forced the season’s end.
Tennessee’s most impressive run for the top spot in collegiate baseball came in 1951, when the Vols finished second in the country to Oklahoma. Take a look back at Part I of our revisit of the Vols’ College World Series run here. Now, take a look at the rest in “This Week in UT Sports History.”
June 15, 1951
The Vols survived another day in Omaha with a win against Springfield College, 2-0, largely thanks to pitcher Sid Hatfield. Hatfield allowed only four hits in the game, which effectively eliminated Springfield from the tournament.
In the sixth inning, Vol Bert Rechichar knocked a triple into play. He then scored the first run of the game on catcher Andy Anderson’s sac fly. Harold Payne made his way to the box and homered over left field on the next pitch. The score remained at 2-0 for the rest of the game.
With the win, the Vols advanced to a rematch with Utah. The Utes put Tennessee in the loser’s bracket after Game 2 of the College World Series. Utah won 7-1 in the opening round, disheartening the Vols, who were riding a win streak stretching back to the second game of the regular season. The rematch served as the first game in a series doubleheader, with the winner advancing to play Southern California.
June 16, 1951
World-Herald sports writer Bob Phipps sat in Omaha typing up his recap for the doubleheader:
“Tennessee’s Vols picked themselves up by the spikes here today to defeat Utah, 5-4, this afternoon and Southern California tonight, 9-8, to advance to the finals of the NCAA Baseball Tournament against undefeated Oklahoma here tomorrow night.”
The next morning, Vol fans turned the Knoxville News-Sentinel to page 15 to read the news. Tenacity had allowed Tennessee to eke out the one-point wins, and only Oklahoma stood in the way of a title.
A crowd of 4,676 watched the Vols take on Southern Cal. The bats got going on both sides, but three home runs for Tennessee gave the orange and white the edge. Bill Asbury picked up an “inside-the-park four-bagger” in the sixth inning when he drove the ball over third base. Trojan left-fielder Hal Charnofsky sprinted to attempt a shoestring snag, but the ball bounded past him to the fence.
Despite solid pitching from USC starter Tom Kent, the Vols found some luck. Though he only allowed three hits, Kent hurled two wild pitches to allow Tennessee two runs. After three innings, the Trojans led by two, 6-4. By the fourth, the Vols pulled within one at 7-6. Asbury’s homer inside the park made the difference to round out three runs in the sixth and seal the win.
While Tennessee battled two teams, the Sooners cooled their heels while waiting for their final opponent. Already ragged after two close calls, the orange and white needed a red-hot start if they wanted to beat the undefeated team from Oklahoma.
June 17, 1951
No such luck.
The Vols finished runners-up to Oklahoma in Omaha despite jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the fifth. Sid Hatfield tossed eight innings of relief, walking eight Sooners as Oklahoma found a way to put up three runs. The Sooners scored one run in the sixth, seventh, and eighth, respectively, to take the win and the championship title.
Despite the loss, junior Hatfield (1B/P) earned Most Outstanding Player for the College World Series. His shutout against Springfield in the third round stands as the third in College World Series history.
“The newspaper in Omaha said the most outstanding player was the most surprised person in the ballpark. And that’s true,” he said in a later interview. “I told the people at that time, ‘Most of us are going to be back here next year. We’ll come out here and win your tournament.'”
Hatfield returned to Tennessee nearly two decades later to serve as the university’s golf coach. Prior to taking the job, he played minor league ball briefly before teaching at Rule High School in Knoxville, fighting in the Korean War and coaching Tennessee Tech’s baseball team.
As UT’s golf coach, he posted an impressive 500-253-3 record. In his first season, the Vols finished second in the SEC. Tennessee’s golf teams won 12 tournaments during his tenure from 1968-1976. He also served as an assistant basketball coach from 1967-1970. His guidance alongside coach Ray Mears led the Vols to the SEC basketball title in 1967.
Hatfield died of a stroke in January 2003. He was 73.