Feb. 21, 2012
Brought the longest game in Tennessee history to a close and capped off an epic comeback with a game-winning sac fly in the 13th inning.
Tuesday's contest marked the longest game in school history at four hours and 48 minutes.
Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano became the first Vol coach in 101 years to begin his UT career 4-0 and just the third to do so in school history.
The Vols were down to the their last strike on two different occasions on Tuesday before rallying for the win.
"That was one of those games where you could say that we did everything possible not to win the game, they did everything to win the game and all we did is win the game," UT head coach Dave Serrano said. "I say this all the time. You can never figure out this game and why things happen the way they do. We'll take that. It's an ugly win, but we'll take it. It just adds to the win column. We won't look back and say our fourth win was ugly. It was our fourth win.
"I want to continue to stress, just like I said to the team, let's be excited about how we battled tonight. We came back and overcame ourselves, but we still have a lot of work to get to where I think we need to be."
Senior Davis Morgan lifted a sacrifice fly to right field in the bottom of the 13th inning and Zach Luther dashed home to score the winning run, just avoiding the tag after a strong throw from right. The Vols overcame a season-high four errors and three unearned runs to improve to 4-0 on the season, while the Hilltoppers fell to 1-3.
"This is just a great team win," Morgan said. "I thought we really came together as a team tonight. This is a win that we will be able to look back on later in the season to show us that the game is never over. It shows that we can win no matter what."
With the win, Serrano becomes the first coach in 101 years to start his Tennessee managerial career with four straight wins and just the third coach to do so in school history. The only other two coaches to accomplish that feat are Z.G. Clevenger (1911) and William H. Newman (1902).
Luther opened the bottom of the 13th inning by ripping a first-pitch single to center field. An error on a line drive to right by senior Zach Osborne then moved Luther into scoring position and set up Morgan's heroics.
The win would have never happened if not for a pair of dramatic comebacks earlier in the contest, however.
Trailing, 6-5, heading into the bottom of the ninth, Tennessee loaded the bases with one out before bringing home the tying run to force extra innings.
With runners on first and third, Osborne got into a rundown play and was nearly tagged out, but escaped the tag of WKU second baseman Ivan Hartle to keep the Vol threat alive. Following the rundown, Drew Steckenrider drew a walk to load the bases for the Vols, which set the stage for senior Chris Pierce.
With a full count, Pierce punched a sacrifice fly to right field that brought home freshman Will Maddox to tie the game at six.
For the second act, UT put together an even more dramatic script in the bottom of the 12th after a two-out, bases-loaded walk had given the lead back to the Hilltoppers, 7-6.
With two outs and the team down to its last strike with the count at 2-2, junior Chris Fritts ripped a single to center to keep the hopes of the Orange and White alive.
Serrano then sent pinch-hitter Wes Walker to the plate, who quickly fell behind in the count, 0-2. Nine pitches later, on the 11th total pitch of the at-bat, Walker blooped a single just over the outstretched arm of Hartle to bring Fritts home from second, which he had swiped on a wild pitch.
"Wes gets the credit for the base hit and he battled, battled, battled, but if it wasn't for Chris Fritts reading the ball in the dirt and advancing 90 feet, we don't ever get the opportunity to score that run," Serrano said. "He rolled the dice. Even if he gets thrown out by five feet, that is exactly what our mentality is. We want to put pressure on them. We needed to get in scoring position, he saw the opportunity and he took advantage of it."
The Vols actually jumped out to a commanding lead early in the game, going ahead 5-2 after a two-run double by sophomore Ethan Bennett and an RBI groundout by freshman Richard Carter in the second inning, as well as a solo home run by Steckenrider and a run-scoring wild pitch in the fifth.
Western Kentucky never gave up though, taking advantage of three Tennessee errors to put four runs on the board in the seventh and jump ahead, 6-5.
Sophomore Nick Williams helped keep the Vols in the game, throwing three innings of shutout relief in the ninth through 12th innings. Sophomore Dalton Saberhagen picked up his first win of the season after striking out two in the final two innings of the game.
The 13-inning duel was Tennessee's longest by innings since playing 13 innings on May 26, 2004, when the Vols won, 8-6, over Arkansas in the SEC Tournament. By time, the longest game in Tennessee history previously was 4:30 when the Vols knocked off Morehead State, 9-8, in 13 innings on Feb. 26, 1989.
The Vols will return to the diamond this weekend for a three-game series against Seton Hall. They will take on the Pirates at 4 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. All three games will be live streamed for free on UTSports.com.