March 2, 2012
HOUSTON - Trailing by six runs entering the ninth inning, Tennessee rallied to score three times and bring the go-ahead run to the plate, but the comeback attempt fell just short as the Volunteers (7-2) dropped their opening game at the Houston College Classic, 7-4, to Houston (5-4) at Minute Maid Park on Friday evening.
"I don't think we came out with a passion to win every pitch," UT Head Coach Dave Serrano said. "We tried again at the end to scrap through it and try to get back into it, and we were one swing away, but it was a little too late. So it's back to the drawing board as a coaching staff. We need to get some things fixed and we'll take part of the responsibility, and I think the players need to take part of the responsibility too.
"You play the game hard, no matter what's going on around you. We will learn. We will learn that is going to be our mentality. If you don't have attitude, you have nothing. I don't care if teams are more talented, we are not ever going to get out-attituded on the field."
Trailing 7-1 entering the ninth, senior Zach Osborne drilled a leadoff double off the scoreboard on the wall in left. After a pair of singles and a fielder's choice loaded the bases, freshman Jared Allen brought in UT's second run of the night with an RBI groundout.
The Big Orange added two more runs on a hot-shot single to third by senior Davis Morgan and a bases-loaded hit by pitch with sophomore Ethan Bennett at the plate, but it was too little, too late as a hard-hit groundout to second off the bat of Zach Luther ended the contest.
Junior Drew Steckenrider suffered the loss for the Big Orange, his first of the year, after allowing three runs on three hits in 3.1 innings of work. The Lawrenceville, Ga., native struck out a career-high five batters in the contest as well.
Freshman Conner Stevens posted a solid outing out of the UT bullpen, going 3.2 frames in which he yielded three runs, two earned, and recorded the first four strikeouts of his young career.
At the plate, junior centerfielder and Houston native Chris Fritts led the way, going 2-for-4 with a single and a double. Walker and Morgan each had a pair of hits as well.
Houston starting pitcher Jared Ray held Tennessee to just one run on five hits and struck out 10 in seven strong innings to pick up the victory.
After three scoreless innings to open the contest, the Cougars got the scoring started with three runs in the bottom of the fourth. UH had just one hit in the frame, taking advantage of two hit batters, two walks a passed ball and a wild pitch. They scored on an RBI groundout, sacrifice fly and a bases-loaded walk.
Tennessee got a run back in the next half-inning as Fritts led things off with a double to right-center, UT's first hit of the day, and Walker brought him home with a sharply-hit single straight back up the middle.
The Cougars got the tally right back, however, with John Cannon one-hopping the wall next to the Crawford Boxes in left for an RBI double. Houston then pushed two more across in the sixth and another in the seventh to break the game open, taking a 7-1 advantage.
Tennessee will return to Minute Maid Park on Saturday for a 3:35 p.m. showdown against No. 16 Texas. The Vols will send junior righthander Zack Godley (1-0, 0.90) to the mound, while the Longhorns will counter with junior southpaw Hoby Milner (1-1, 4.09).