March 25, 2012
Despite two rainy days, 5,992 fans entered the gates at Lindsey Nelson Stadium over the weekend, the most the Vols have had for a single series this season.
The Tennessee pitching staff held the SEC's top-hitting team to a .211 batting average over the weekend. UK entered the series hitting .335 as a team.
Over the first two starts of his career, sophomore Nick Williams has fired 10.1 scoreless innings, striking out eight and allowing just three hits.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee put the leadoff hitter on base in three of the final four innings and had a runner reach third three different times, but couldn't capitalize as No. 2 Kentucky used a five-run seventh inning to claim the series finale against the Volunteers, 6-0, in a seven-inning contest on a picture-perfect Sunday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
"We had some opportunities that we didn't come through on and to beat quality teams we have to do that," UT head coach Dave Serrano said. "I walk away from my second SEC weekend thinking we have the capabilities to win series and we are not coming through when we have to, in every aspect of our game.
"We need to do that and we need to realize what we have to do to be successful as a team. That is a work in progress. We knew this was going to be a challenge. We have to accept the challenge and have more players accept the challenge."
Kentucky starting pitcher Corey Littrell improved to 3-0 on the year with five strikeouts in six scoreless innings, before Trevor Gott came on to close out the contest with a perfect seventh. Junior Drew Steckenrider (1-2) suffered the loss for the Orange and White despite giving up just one run on one hit. The hard-throwing righthander also struck out three in his 1.2 innings of action.
UT sophomore Nick Williams made the second start of his career, tossing 4.1 scoreless innings with three strikeouts and just one hit. He has yet to give up a run in 10.1 innings as a starting pitcher after firing six shutout frames at Georgia last Sunday.
"I thought Nick Williams was good, plus he gave us a chance to win," Serrano said. "He wasn't quite as good as he was last week. I didn't feel that he had the command that he did last week and Nick is a command guy with some power stuff. A swing here or there and getting on the board early would have given our team a lot of confidence, but we didn't do it and we came up on the short end."
The Vols (13-10, 2-4 SEC) had four hits on the day, all singles, but were 0-for-11 with runners on base. The Wildcats (24-1, 5-1) scored their six runs on just six hits.
Tennessee put a runner on third in both the second and third innings, but couldn't cash in. Chris Fritts got UT's first hit of the day in the second, lacing a double to right before moving to third on a groundout before Littrell buckled down and got a strikeout to end the frame.
In the third, Zach Osborne ripped a one-out single to left and advanced to third on a sac bunt and a wild pitch. Once again, however, Littrell got out of the jam, inducing a groundout to second.
Kentucky put together a threat of its own in the top of the third, loading the bases with two outs. In the first "Battle of the Brothers," Michael got the better of Nick with a single to center before a walk and a hit batter loaded the bases. With the count at 3-2 to Luke Maile, Williams blew a fastball by him to escape unscathed.
The Big Orange got a runner within 90 feet of the plate for the third time in the bottom of the fifth when Chris Pierce drew a leadoff walk, advanced to second on a sac bunt and reached third on a balk. Once again, Littrell was able to strand the runner there though, notching his fourth strikeout of the contest to end the stanza.
Kentucky cracked the scoreboard in the next inning when J.T. Riddle drove in the first run of the game with a double off the wall in left before pulling away with a five-run seventh.
The Wildcats got a solo home run by Austin Cousino before taking advantage of a wild pitch and a fielding error, both with a runner at third, and getting a two-run single by Williams to race out to a 6-0 advantage.
The Vols will return to the diamond at Lindsey Nelson Stadium when they open a two-game set against Mississippi Valley State at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. They will also take on the Delta Devils at the same time on Wednesday.