Feb. 17, 2012
"I've been in a lot of openers as a head coach," Serrano said. "This is my eighth one and my third on at a different program. I was most excited about this one. I just told the players in there, a lot of it had to do with them. They've had to overcome some of their tough times. For how much they've bought in to what we're trying to do here, this was special. This win was special for them. This isn't just about me. This is for them and what we're trying to do each and every day to become a better team.
"I told the players three sayings today before the game. `Play hard. Play smart. Have fun.' That's what we have written on the practice plan at the bottom every day. That's what I want these guys to do. Control what we can control. Baseball should be fun, and I want them to have fun while they're out here competing."
Senior Chris Pierce had a career-high four RBIs, launching a three-run home run and knocking in another run with an RBI fielder's choice, while freshman Jared Allen contributed an RBI double and three Vol pitchers combined to allow just one run.
Junior Drew Steckenrider picked up the win with four shutout innings to open the contest, and also blasted a home run in the eighth inning to cap the scoring. The Lawrenceville, Ga., native was the only Vol with multiple hits on the night, adding a double high off the wall in the sixth inning as well.
"I was proud of (Steckenrider)," Serrano said. "For him to be able to do those types of things, it's going to make it a lot easier for us to be successful. I say this again, there's no player that's more important than any other player but with some of his abilities, if he can live up to some of them, it's going to help us become more successful consistently."
Closing out the contest on the mound were a pair of freshmen righthanders in Robbie Kidd and Conner Stevens. Kidd struck out two in three frames of work, while Stevens finished out the final two innings, allowing just one hit.
"We won with a little bit of the long ball today," Serrano said. "Like I've always said, we will win any way we can. The thing I'll look at is that we played superior defense and we got two freshmen's feet wet. Robbie [Kidd] came in with the score 3-0 and pitched through three tough innings. He struggled in the fourth and then Conner [Stevens] comes in, in a tough situation as his first Division I experience. He gets out of it unscathed with just the one run and pitches a stellar ninth inning. Just to see the growth of some of the young guys is great and you'll start to see some of them grow up as we get through more of this."
Serrano becomes the 14th head coach at Tennessee to win his first game in the Orange and White.
Friday's record-breaking attendance topped the school's previous mark of 2,753 set against Louisville on Feb. 25, 1995.
The Vols (1-0) and Huskies (0-1) will complete their three-game series with a doubleheader Saturday, beginning at noon ET.