March 10, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Trailing by three heading to the bottom of the eighth, Tennessee rallied to tie the game and send it to extra innings, but ULM answered with two runs in the 10th to hand the Volunteers an 8-6 loss and even the weekend series on a picture-perfect Saturday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
This was a tough loss," UT head coach Dave Serrano said. "Out of all the losses, this might be the toughest one for me. I'm disappointed. I didn't like the way we ran the bases today. We made too many mistakes there. You have got to tip your hat to [ULM]. I can't take away that we battled. I love these guys for that because they continue to battle. We have to stop getting in our own way, making mistakes, and allowing the other teams to be successful."
Down 6-3 in the eighth, the Big Orange got a leadoff single by Zach Osborne and one-out double by Drew Steckenrider to put two runners in scoring position. Chris Fritts then bounced an 0-1 offering to short that ensured at least one run would score, but the throw skipped past the first baseman allowing Steckenrider to come home as well and cut the UT deficit to just one.
A balk by ULM pitcher Will Browning moved Fritts to third just seconds later and Jared Allen promptly tied the game with a sac fly to deep center.
Following a scoreless ninth, ULM plated two runs in the 10th to regain the lead and fight off the Vols. Joey Rapp drove in his third run of the game with an RBI single back up the middle and UT's first error since last Sunday allowed the second run to score.
Browning hit the leadoff batter in the bottom of the 10th but retired the next three hitters to pick up his third win of the season. Nick Williams suffered his second loss of the year for the Orange and White after allowing the two runs, one earned, in the 10th.
For the second time this week, junior Drew Steckenrider was tremendous out of the bullpen for the Vols, striking out a career-high seven batters in a season-high four innings of work. Including his effort on Wednesday against Ball State, the Lawrenceville, Ga., native has struck out 12 batters and allowed just one hit in his last six frames on the mound.
"Part of trying to be a successful as a coach is trying to understand your players and putting them in the roles that they could be successful in," Serrano said. "[Drew] has proven it to me twice in a row. I thought he was really good tonight, again. That's the kind of Drew Steckenrider I expect to have and we will continue to use him in that role."
Nick Blount started the contest for Tennessee, retiring the first eight batters he faced and tying his career high with four punchouts, but the Warhawks got to him for six runs on six hits in his five innings on the mound.
Hitting out of the leadoff spot for the first time in his career, freshman Will Maddox reached base four times, going 2-for-3 with a double, two walks and a pair of runs scored. The Gainesville, Ga., native extended his hitting streak to seven games, tying Osborne, who also had two hits on the day, for the longest streak by a UT player this season.
The Vols raced out to a quick 3-0 lead in the contest, scoring in the home half of the first and twice in the third. The first run came without the benefit of a hit as UT cracked the scoreboard after a leadoff walk, sac bunt, wild pitch and a sac fly by Chris Pierce.
Following a scoreless second, Tennessee tacked on two more to jump ahead 3-0. After loading the bases with nobody out, Steckenrider and Fritts each brought in a run with a run-scoring double play and single back up the middle, respectively.
ULM cut the UT lead to one shortly thereafter, however, when Joey Rapp launched a two-run home run to right-center, his fourth of the season, in the top of the fourth.
Just two innings later, the Warhawks took their first lead of the weekend, putting up a four-spot in the top of the sixth. Jeremy Sy led off the stanza with a triple to the corner in left and then scored on an RBI single by Corben Green.
Another single and a walk prompted Serrano to call Steckenrider out of the bullpen with the bases loaded and nobody out. The flamethrowing righty almost escaped the jam without any further damage, striking out the first two batters he faced but Logan Fiasco laced a 1-2 pitch to the gap in right-center to clear the bases and put ULM up 6-3.
The Vols and Warhawks will play again at 2 p.m. on Sunday with the series win going to the victor. Freshman right-hander Robbie Kidd (2-0, 2.93) will make his first collegiate start for Tennessee, while ULM will send senior southpaw Fraser Adams (0-0, 4.50) to the mound.