March 16, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Tennessee held off a late-inning push by Alabama to pick up its first Southeastern Conference win of the year and even the weekend series, downing the Crimson Tide, 7-6, on Saturday night at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
The Volunteers (10-8, 1-1) carried a four-run lead into the bottom of the eighth only to see the Tide (10-9, 1-1) score three times to cut that down to a single tally. Freshman Drake Owenby came out of the pen to get the final out of that frame and retire Alabama in order in the ninth to pick up the first save of his young career and give UT its sixth win in the last seven games over Alabama.
"After last night's loss I challenged the team and told them we needed to become a more mentally tough team," UT head coach Dave Serrano said. "As cliché as it sounds, I thought the game of baseball tested us tonight and we overcame some adversity throughout the game. I'm very proud of how we handled that because I thought this team walked off the field last night pretty ashamed and embarrassed like they should have been. The first game in the SEC wasn't a pretty one, but it's what we did the next day.
"My next challenge to them is to feel good until you put your head on the pillow tonight and we need to show up tomorrow. Our expectation is, as bad as we felt Friday night after the game, we can still feel jubilation tomorrow afternoon if we get this done."
Another freshman recorded the win for Tennessee as Trevor Bettencourt (2-1) allowed just one run while striking out two in 2.1 innings of relief of fellow classmate Aaron Quillen who yielded three runs in 4.2 innings as UT's starter.
Junior Scott Price led a seven-hit offensive attack for the Orange and White, going 2-for-4 with a run scored and a walk. Freshman A.J. Simcox drove in a pair of runs with a big double late in the game, in addition to stealing a base and walking once.
The Vols got the scoring started by staging a two-out rally in the second inning to grab a quick 2-0 lead. Taylor Smart singled to left, Parker Wormsley drew a walk and Ethan Bennett ripped an RBI single through the left side for the first run of the game. Just seconds later, Wormsley came home to score on a delayed double steal thanks to an Alabama throwing error.
The Crimson Tide answered right back with a run in the third and proceeded to take the lead with two more in the fifth, but the Vols weren't about to go away that easily.
Trailing 3-2, Tennessee got three straight hits to start the top of the sixth to tie the game. Price got things rolling with a single through the right side and Christin Stewart followed with a double to put two on with nobody out. Pierce Bily then provided a rude welcome to Alabama reliever Keaton Haack, punching an RBI single to right to bring the game back to a tie.
It wouldn't stay that way for long though as a throwing error on a squibber back to the mound by the very next batter allowed Bily to score all the way from second and put the Vols up, 4-3.
The Big Orange continued to extend its lead in the next two innings, plating a run in the seventh and two more in the eighth. Simcox got the seventh started with a four-pitch walk and moved to second on a sac bunt by Jeff Moberg, his team-leading fifth of the year. Simcox then swiped third and scored on the same play as the throw bounced past the third baseman down the left-field line.
The following frame, a walk, a hit batter and a successful double steal put two runners in scoring position for Simcox who came through in the clutch once again, lacing a two-out, two-RBI double to right-center to make it a four-run UT lead at 7-3.
Alabama made things interesting, cutting the Tennessee lead down to a single tally with a three-run eighth, but Owenby came on to get the Vols out of a jam, recording the final out of that inning and retiring the Tide in order in the bottom of the ninth to close out the game.
The win sets up a rubber-match with the Crimson Tide at 2:05 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon. Freshman southpaw Andy Cox (1-1, 5.62) will get the start for the Vols while Alabama will counter with sophomore right-hander Spencer Turnbull (0-1, 5.30).