March 13, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Trailing by one entering the bottom of the 10th inning, a successful safety squeeze by Taylor Smart and a walk-off hit-by-pitch to Christin Stewart gave Tennessee a 5-4 win over Western Kentucky on Wednesday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
The victory is the fifth straight for the Volunteers who improve to 9-7 on the year heading into Southeastern Conference play this weekend. The Hilltoppers fall to 7-9 with the loss.
An error by the Hilltopper shortstop got the ball rolling for the Big Orange in the bottom of the 10th, allowing Parker Wormsley to reach. Although the next batter was unable to get the sacrifice bunt down, Jeff Moberg came through with a clutch single to left-center to put runners on the corners and just one out.
Smart then laid down a perfectly-executed safety squeeze to the right side of the infield to bring in the tying run. Just three batters later, after a fielder's choice and an intentional walk loaded the bases, Stewart took a 3-0 pitch off his right arm to win the game for Tennessee.
"Things went our way in the bottom of the 10th inning," UT head coach Dave Serrano said. "I say we overcame ourselves because we get a guy on and didn't get the sac bunt down. I compliment our guys because it would have been easy for us to deflate a little bit, especially with how things had gone there from that eighth inning on, but we stayed with it and got rewarded for it."
Stewart's game-winning HBP was the third pitch to hit a Tennessee player in the game, marking the eighth consecutive contest in which multiple UT batters have been hit by a pitch. During that eight-game stretch, the Vols have been hit a total of 21 times, giving them 30 on the season. This comes just one year after last season's team set the school record with 92 during the 2012 campaign.
Junior Scott Price reached in all four of his plate appearances on Wednesday, going 3-for-3 with a walk and a run scored before leaving the game as a precaution late in the game. Stewart, Smart and Jeff Moberg also posted multi-hit contests with two hits each while Vance Vizcaino came off the bench to go 1-for-2 with pair of walks, an RBI and a run.
Nick Williams (1-0) picked up his first win of the season with two strong innings out of the bullpen for the Vols. Freshman Andy Cox did not factor into the decision but posted the best start of his young career, shutting out the Hilltoppers for four innings while scattering four hits. Pitching for the second day in a row, sophomore Eric Martin was effective once again, holding WKU hitless in 2.1 innings of relief.
Tennessee jumped out to an early lead, scoring in the first inning for the fifth consecutive game. With one out in the inning, Will Maddox recorded UT's first hit of the day, laying down a bunt single and moving to second on a throwing error on the play. He then swiped third before stealing home just seconds later when the pitcher tried to pick a runner off at first.
Two innings later, the Vols tacked on another run when Vizcaino followed singles by Smart and Stewart with a pinch-hit RBI base knock of his own to make it a 2-0 game. Western Kentucky answered back in the fifth, however, tying the game on a solo home run by Jordan Cessna and a run-scoring single by Scott Wilcox.
The Orange and White grabbed the lead right back in the sixth when Vizcaino walked and then used three wild pitches to advance all the way around the bases and put UT back up 3-2. That lead was short-lived though with WKU three consecutive two-out singles in the eighth to bring the contest back to a deadlock.
With the game suddenly tied at 3-3, Tennessee let a prime opportunity go by the wayside in the bottom of the ninth as the leadoff batter drew a walk only to become the third Vol to be picked off on the day. UT then got a single by Zach Luther and took advantage of a Hilltopper error to put two runners on before a strikeout sent the game to extra innings.
In the first extra frame, Western Kentucky got an RBI single from Ryan Messex to take a 4-3 advantage, setting up the first walk-off win for the Vols since a 4-3 triumph in 11 innings over FIU on March 22, 2012.
Tennessee will next be in action this weekend when it travels to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama, March 15-17. Senior Zack Godley will get the start for Friday's contest which is scheduled to begin at 7:35 p.m. ET. The Vols will then send freshman Aaron Quillen to the mound at 7:05 p.m. ET on Saturday. The series finale is set for a 2:05 p.m. ET start on Sunday.