Raleigh credited Matt Ramsey with completely changing the pace of the game when the Vols were losing all the momentum to the visiting Wildcats.
"Very emotional game, we went up early and they did a good job of battling back," Raleigh said. "Obviously, the difference was Matt Ramsey, again. He was phenomenal, as he was last week against Vanderbilt."
The Volunteers got off to a hot start, scoring five runs in the first two innings, several of which came from a P.J. Polk home run. The Vols then went offensively stagnant while Kentucky came on strong, leveling the score at six by the sixth inning. Then, Raleigh turned to Ramsey.
"He usually is a closer for three innings, but the way I look at it is it was do or die for us. We had to win today and we have to win tomorrow," Raleigh said. "They had all the momentum when we brought him in, and he just shut them down the rest of the way."
Ramsey's success may be forcing him into a new role. Raleigh said the program simply can't get Ramsey the ball enough at this point.
"I am thinking about possibly starting him, just because he is so good," Raleigh said. "I look down at our stats and I see how good he is and sometimes I don't feel like we are getting him the ball enough. You could see that next weekend, it's a very good possibility.
"He could be a starter. If he weren't so good at being a closer he would be a starter for us. I don't think there is any question he is one of top one or two arms. It's just the fact of why he is a closer, because he has a great mentality and bounces back well."
According to teammate Cody Hawn, there is no doubt that Ramsey is ready for the opportunity.
"He just gives it his all every time he is out there and that's all you can ask for," Hawn said. "He's crazy, he was back there talking at the end like, ‘I want the ball tomorrow.' He is wanting it as well so I'm sure he is going to get his shot."
Raleigh said Saturday's win was a team effort and he credited several Volunteers with making solid contributions to the win.
"We had a lot of guys do good things," Raleigh said. "I think Blake Forsythe throwing out a couple of runners was huge. I thought Cody Hawn played well. P.J. (Polk) had a great game."
After a bit of a hitting slump, Hawn was able to hit a ball out of the park in Saturday's game. Hawn was moved to the eighth spot in the batting order and was motivated by the move.
"When I found out I was in the eight spot I said I was going to be the best eight-spot hitter in the country today," Hawn said.
Hawn gave all the credit from Saturday's success to his teammates hitting in front of him.
"I had a lot of guys on today and that helped out a lot," Hawn said. "When that happens it makes it real tough on the pitcher. Most of the time I was up today he had to worry about guys on like P.J. and stuff like that. It really helps you out at the plate a lot."
Raleigh knew Saturday's game was do or die. Now, he is looking forward to Sunday's game to stay alive in the SEC East picture.
"There is a lot of baseball left, but if we don't win today it's going to be real tough," Raleigh said. "It's huge because if we don't win today it's going to be really hard. We won today and if we get a chance to win tomorrow that gets us a tiebreaker."
Win – Matt Ramsey (3-1)
Loss – T. Rogers (4-6)
Stephen McCray – 5.2 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 3 BB, 4 SO
Matt Ramsey – 3.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 SO
P.J. Polk – 3 H, 3 RBI, 1 HR; C. Hawn – 2 H, 3 RBI, 1 HR; J. Liles – 1 H, 3 RBI; B. Forsythe – 2 H