March 8, 2014
TEMPE, Ariz. - A late Tennessee rally fell short in the opening game of a three-game series at No. 24 Arizona State on Friday night, as the Sun Devils handed the No. 19 Vols their first loss of the season.
Entering the game having outscored its opponents by a 103-31 margin, Tennessee (12-1) couldn't find the big hit when it needed to on Friday, as UT was 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base under the lights at Packard Stadium.
"I'm disappointed in the loss because the guys fought hard," said head coach Dave Serrano. "This was a typical Friday night matchup. I thought Nick Williams gave us a chance to win. I thought he pitched his tail off. He was a little up in the zone in the first inning, made an adjustment and pitched well.
"We had some opportunities and we had the right guys up, but that's the way the game of baseball goes. We didn't get the clutch hits and it cost us. Like I said to the team, we're not going to win every game, but it's a learning process for us."
After giving up two runs in the first, Williams settled in, giving up just one more run, seven total hits and just one walk. The senior from Knoxville struck out four and retired 12 Sun Devils (7-4) in a row during the middle innings.
Arizona State got a great start out of left-hander Brett Lilek, who improved to 2-0 on the season. The sophomore struck out three and gave up just three hits over seven innings of work.
The Sun Devils took an early 2-0 in the first inning off three-consecutive singles to start the bottom half. UT used a 5-4-3 double play to work out of the inning.
The teams went scoreless from the second through the sixth inning as Williams and Lilek went to work. UT threatened in the fifth with two on and no outs, but the momentum was stopped as lead runner Nathaniel Maggio was picked off second and the Sun Devils turned their second inning-ending double play of the night.
Arizona State tacked on another run in the seventh stanza as third baseman Dalton Dinatale sent the first pitch from Williams over the right field wall, ending Williams' streak of 12-straight retired.
The Vols got on the board in the top of the eighth off a Nick Senzel two-out RBI single off ASU closer Ryan Burr, who came in looking for a four-out save. Senzel roped the first pitch he saw into right to score sophomore A.J. Simcox, who reached base with a single. Simcox notched the only multi-hit game for the Vols, finishing 2-for-4 at the dish. The Vols had runners on second and third after the Senzel knock, but Burr got Vincent Jackson to line out to end the threat.
Josh Peterson and Andy Cox pitched brilliantly out of the bullpen for UT, combining for 1.2 innings of perfect baseball. Cox struck out three of the four batters he faced, stretching his scoreless streak to 15.2 innings with the outing. He's allowed just two hits and three walks, and struck out 16 during the span.
Down just two runs and to its last three outs, Tennessee got the ninth started with a five-pitch walk to David Houser. Derek Lance came in to pinch run for Houser and would later reach second on a defensive indifference. Each representing the tying run, Maggio was struck out swinging, Taylor Smart flew out to center and Burr sat senior Scott Price down on strikes to end the game.
Price finished the night 1-for-4, reaching base safely for the 25th-consecutive game, dating back to April 26, 2013. UT was held to just six hits in the contest. Houser and Will Maddox added singles for the Vols, who had no extra-base hits on the night.
The Vols and Sun Devils return to action at Packard Stadium on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET. UT will send out sophomore righty Andrew Lee (2-0, 3.60), while ASU will hand the ball off to lefty Ryan Kellogg (1-1, 4.50). All games of the series will be carries on The Sports Animal 99.1 FM / AM 990 in Knoxville, as well as online at UTSports.com/allaccess.