April 24, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. Austin Peay took advantage of unearned runs in both the seventh and eighth innings before breaking the game open with a three-run ninth as it defeated Tennessee, 8-4, on Tuesday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
"We are not playing with any confidence," UT head coach Dave Serrano said. "We aren't playing fundamental baseball and that is very bothersome to me. We work too hard on a daily basis on the fundamentals for us to continue to go out there and not succeed on them. It really bothers me when you see other teams pound the strike zone and execute. Nothing against those other teams, but I don't think they work on it and take as much pride as we do as a coaching staff and as a program. We are getting beat in every phase of the game right now. We are not getting in the right position on cutoffs and relays, we aren't running the bases well and obviously we aren't executing.
"I just noticed we had another seven walks. That isn't typical for winning baseball. We are kind of getting what we deserve right now and there is no time to feel sorry for ourselves. We have a big weekend coming up. We have to go on the road again and we are going to have to turn it around quickly. Maybe this is a great test. Maybe this team needs to hit rock bottom like I feel we are right now and find a way to get back up to the top. We have to find a way to get tougher and I take full responsibility for that."
Junior Chris Pierce launched his second home run of the year to pace a Volunteer offensive attack that managed just six hits against eight Austin Peay pitchers on the night, while sophomore Dalton Saberhagen (4-1) suffered the tough-luck loss, the first of his collegiate career, despite allowing just one unearned run in an inning of work.
Freshman Conner Stevens posted the best relief appearance of his young career, holding the Govs off the board for a career-high 4.1 innings, while striking out two. Junior Drew Steckenrider continued his terrific work out of the bullpen as well, fanning three in two frames of action.
Pierce's longball was UT's first since Steckenrider hit a two-run shot off of Michael Roth at South Carolina on April 8. The Big Orange drops to 22-19 on the year with the loss, while the Governors improve to 25-15 overall.
Austin Peay opened up a 3-0 lead in almost no time at all, striking with a two-run home run by Jon Clinard and an RBI single from Cody Hudson before Stevens came on to get the final out in the top of the first.
The Vols answered right back with a two-run blast over "The Porch" in left by Pierce in the home half of the frame before a bases-loaded RBI groundout by Will Maddox tied the contest in the bottom of the second.
From there, the combination of Stevens and Saberhagen held the Govs off the scoreboard for the next five frames before they grabbed a 4-3 lead thanks to an unearned run in the seventh. After getting a leadoff single, Austin Peay took advantage of UT's first error on the night to put runners on the corners with nobody out. A bloop single to right by Reed Harper then put APSU back out in front by a run.
Steckenrider came out of the bullpen to limit the damage though, getting two big strikeouts, sandwiched around a tapper back to the mound, to hold the Governors to just the one run.
Austin Peay used another unearned run in the eighth to tack on some insurance. After two quick outs to start the stanza, a walk, a stolen base and UT's second fielding error in as many innings allowed another run to cross the plate and push the APSU lead to two at 5-3.
The Vols looked to cut into their deficit in the bottom of the eighth, putting the first two runners on, but couldn't execute a sac bunt, striking out on a two-strike attempt. The runner at second was picked off by the catcher on the play before a groundout ended the inning.
The Governors then exploded for three additional runs in the top of the ninth, using three straight hits to start the frame and five total to jump out by a commanding 8-3 advantage.
Tennessee tried to post a last-minute comeback in the bottom of the ninth, using a pair of hit batters to put two on with one out before Ethan Bennett stroked an RBI single to left to put the score at 8-4, but APSU closer Tyler Rogers, twin brother of Kentucky pitcher Taylor Rogers, came on to induce a game-ending 6-4-3 double play for his eighth save of the season.
The Vols will hit the road again this weekend as they make the trek to square off with Auburn, April 27-29 at Plainsman Park. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. CT on Friday, 3 p.m. CT on Saturday and 1 p.m. CT on Sunday.