April 10, 2014
ATHENS, Ga. - Christin Stewart roped two doubles and drove in two runs as the No. 21 Tennessee baseball team put 11 hits on the board en route to a 5-3 series-opening victory over Georgia at Foley Field in the SEC Game of the Week on Thursday night.
The win marked the Vols' first weekend series-opening win since defeating Quinnipiac, 13-2, on Feb. 28. Tennessee improved to 23-9 overall, exceeding last season's win total of 22, and to 6-7 in SEC play.
The Big Orange came out swinging, putting up eight of their 11 hits in the first three innings. The Volunteers plated all five runs in the third frame off five hits. UT had hits of six of nine innings on the night. Tennessee has now had 14 double-digit hit performances this season.
Stewart finished the night 2-for-4 with the two doubles and two RBIs. He now leads the Vols with 10 doubles and 26 RBIs this season. Will Maddox, A.J. Simcox and Nick Senzel all had a pair of hits in the game. Senzel ripped his fifth double in the game and added his 24th RBI.
"I was really excited by the way we came out," said head coach Dave Serrano. "It's a Thursday night game - like a Friday night game - and we jump on them early. Our offensive approach was outstanding early then we kind of shut it down. I don't get that. We've gone through enough as a team already that we know there's never enough. You can never get enough.
"When you have someone down you have to bury them, you have to finish them off. We allowed them to stay in it. In the box score we win 5-3, but we had to use more pitching than we should have in this game. I'm happy about the win, but I wasn't happy with how we tried to finish this game off."
Senior right-hander Nick Williams (4-3) earned the victory, allowing four hits, three runs (one earned) and two walks, while striking out five over five innings. Williams cruised through the first four innings, allowing just one hit and striking out five during the stretch. Sophomore southpaw Andy Cox worked the middle innings, extending his scoreless inning stretch to 14.1 innings with three frames of work on Thursday. Cox, who ranks second in the SEC in hits allowed this season, gave up just one single to the Bulldogs. Sophomore right-hander Andrew Lee picked up his first career save on the night, striking out one and walking one in the ninth.
The top of the order started things off for the Vols in the third inning, as Maddox and Simcox both ripped singles to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Scott Price then squared to drop down the sac bunt, placing it perfectly on the third baseline. Georgia's Hunter Cole let it roll with the hopes of it going foul, but the ball stayed on the chalk all the way down and kissed the bag to load the bases and go into the book as UT's 18th bunt single of the season.
Senzel then ripped a single into right field, bringing home Maddox to put the Vols on the board, 1-0. With the bags still juiced, Stewart slammed a double - another shot into right field - to bring home Simcox and Price and extend the lead to 3-0. Taylor Smart tacked on another with a RBI groundout to second base. Freshman Nathaniel Maggio capped off a five-run, five-hit third inning for UT with a sac fly to left field.
With the five runs in the third, the Vols have now outscored their opponents 81-25 over the first three innings.
After four innings of one-hit ball with just three base runners, the Georgia Bulldogs got to Williams in the fifth. The 'Dogs opened the frame with a hard-hit infield single and a double down the right field line to put two in scoring position with no outs. Georgia got on the board via the sac fly from Sean McLaughlin to cut the Vols' lead to 5-1. A groundball back to Williams should have been the second out, but he threw it wide of Maggio at first for a run-scoring error. Cole then roped a single past a diving Simcox to bring home second baseman Mike Bell to trim UT's lead to two at 5-3 after five innings of play.
Stewart picked up his team-leading 10th double - second of the night - with one out in the seventh, but the Vols couldn't bring him home. With Stewart's double, the Vols had a base runner reach in each of the first seven innings on Thursday.
Georgia brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the eight and the tying run to the dish in the ninth, but Cox and Lee were able to work out of the jams to seal the win.
The Orange and White and Bulldogs will play game two at Foley Field on Friday at 7 p.m. ET. Freshman Hunter Martin (2-1, 2.33) will get the starting nod for UT, while left-hander Ryan Lawlor (2-2, 3.95) will start on the mound for UGA. John Wilkerson, "The Voice of Tennessee Baseball" will be on the call for the Vol Network. The broadcast can be heard live on WNML "The Sports Animal" at 99.1 FM and AM 990 in Knoxville.