Feb. 28, 2012
Pierce tallied his team-high fourth multi-hit contest of the season and swiped third base twice to give him a team-high four stolen bases on the year.
Tennessee has already played three extra-inning games this season after playing just one last year.
The Vols opened the season with seven consecutive wins before Tuesday's loss, marking the second-best start in school history behind only 2003 and 1992 (8-0)
With a sac fly in the first inning, Chris Fritts picked up his 13th RBI of the year, a total which leads all SEC players.
"We knew this was a game where we were going to have to come out and play our best game of the year and we didn't," UT head coach Dave Serrano said. "I think we battled, I have no problem with that, but it was the details. We didn't come out and pitch the best baseball, we made some baserunning blunders and we missed a lot of signs. For us to be a good team, we have to be disciplined in all those areas.
"I think (the breakdowns) get magnified because we came out on the short end. We've been trying to let them feel good about what they were doing, but we were doing some things that were starting to concern the coaching staff and we knew it would eventually catch up with us and it did. Credit to (MTSU) for coming through and outlasting us, but I think the way we approached the game tonight is what hurt us. I think the game rewarded the right team."
Sophomore Carter Watson was saddled with a no-decision after tossing four shutout frames to open the contest, striking out three and allowing just two hits. Nick Williams (1-1) suffered the tough-luck loss, yielding a two-out RBI single to Ryan Stephens in the top of the 10th.
Joey McClung (1-0) picked up the win for the Blue Raiders after recording two outs in the ninth and Daniel Palo came on to strike out the side in the 10th and earn his first save of the year.
Down to its last out with runners on second and third in the bottom of the ninth, Zach Luther hit what appeared to be a game-ending groundball to short. The throw was a bit offline, however, and the ball sailed out of the first baseman's glove as he attempted to apply the tag on Luther, allowing both runners to score and Tennessee to tie the game at 4-4.
Fritts got the scoring started in the bottom of the first, bringing home a run for the Vols with a sacrifice fly. UT then jumped ahead 2-0 in the fourth when Walker singled home a run on a double-steal, hit-and-run that plated Fritts who led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch.
The Blue Raiders rallied to take a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth, scoring on a double by Johnny Thomas, groundout by Matthew Drake and an infield single by Ryan Stephens. They then added to their lead in the eighth when Drake brought in another run with an RBI double.
The Vols fall to 7-1 on the year while the Blue Raiders improve to 5-3. The contest was UT's third extra-inning affair this season.
"I saw 30-plus guys in that locker room that were stinging a little bit," Serrano said. "I told them that was a good thing because losing will never be accepted in this program. I don't care who it is against, I want losing to hurt. I want them to hate losing more than they like winning and I felt that today."
Tennessee will be back in action this weekend when it travels to the Lone Star State to participate in the Houston College Classic, presented by Ticketmaster. The Vols will play Houston, Texas and Rice at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros.
"I'm looking forward to taking this team on the road and playing in a great atmosphere, because we are going to need to get used to that down the line," Serrano said. "We play some good competition each and every day so I'm excited about it, but we can't make it bigger than it is.
"It is just one game at a time, one pitch at a time. We will continue to try to play Vol baseball and throw more strikes, play better catch and put the ball in play more than the opponent, no matter what color uniform or what team we are playing."