April 29, 2012
The Volunteers raced out to a 4-1 lead after three innings, but managed just two baserunners over the final six against the Auburn bullpen.
Sophomore Nick Williams got the Vols off to a strong start, allowing just two earned runs and striking out five in the first four innings before handing the ball over to the bullpen.
"Nick gave us a chance," UT head coach Dave Serrano said. "He was on a pitch count because of throwing 50-plus pitches on Friday so I had to get him out and go to the bullpen. It's not a good sign when you go to the bullpen and walk the first guy, especially when it was a 4-3 game. That kind of just opened up the floodgates.
"That's been our bugaboo. We create things for the other team and they take advantage of it. We're getting those opportunities too, but aren't taking advantage. For some reason we are going through this. I can only look at it one way and that is that we will become stronger because of it. We just have to continue to grind through it."
"Ethan is a fine young man in every aspect," Serrano said. "The guy is all about the right stuff. He's had his struggles offensively, but there is a reason why he is catching and that is because he understands the system. He is working his tail off for us each and every day and I love to see guys like that come through."
Carter Watson (3-3) suffered the loss for the Big Orange after surrendering three runs on two hits and three walks in an inning of work. Slade Smith (3-4) picked up the win for Auburn with three frames of one-hit ball. Derek Varnadore worked the final two innings for his first save.
For the first time this weekend, Tennessee got on the scoreboard first, plating three runs and knocking Auburn starter Trey Cochran-Gill out of the game after just 1.2 innings. Davis Morgan opened the frame with a sharply hit single to center before coming around to score on a sac bunt and a pair of wild pitches.
Just before the second wild pitch, Rowland was hit by a pitch. After advancing to second on the pitch to the backstop that scored Morgan, Rowland came around the final 180 feet when Pierce punched an RBI single to center. A walk would end Cochran-Gill's day and Maddox made it a 3-0 lead as he greeted Auburn relief pitcher Dillon Ortman with a run-scoring double to right-center.
The Tigers got one of the runs back in the home half of the second, but Williams was able to wiggle out of a jam to escape further damage. After a leadoff triple and a strikeout, a double on an "excuse-me" swing by Blake Austin scored AU's first run of the game. He advanced to third on the play due to a UT error, but Williams left him stranded there, getting a squibber back to the mound and striking out Zach Alvord to end the inning.
The Vols pushed the lead back to three in the very next stanza. Drew Steckenrider led things off with a four-pitch walk before a single on a perfectly executed hit-and-run by Chris Fritts put runners on the corners with one out. Rowland then brought Steckenrider home with an RBI groundout to second base.
The UT lead would not last much longer, however, as Auburn got a two-run home run from Austin to cut it to one in the fourth before three Tennessee walks all came home to score in the fifth to put the Tigers out in front, 6-4.
A sac fly in the bottom of the seventh pushed the AU lead to three before the Tigers broke the game open with a four-run frame in the eighth.
The Vols will turn in their ball caps for their studying caps this week as they prepare for finals. Tennessee will next be in action when it hosts in-state rival Vanderbilt, May 4-6, at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
"We'll have a couple of days off as a team because academics are important," Serrano said. "It is important for our guys to graduate and finish strong in the classroom. This is a big week for them academically, but we also have to keep our athletic mind in the forefront because we have a rivalry weekend coming up against Vanderbilt. There would be nothing better than to turn it around against Vanderbilt coming into our own place."