May 3, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Trailing by five runs going into the bottom of the ninth, Tennessee rallied to within a single tally and loaded the bases before Will Maddox was caught trying to steal home with two strikes and two outs to end the game with Georgia on top, 8-7, on Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
"Like I said to the team out there -and this is kind of an ongoing thing- if somebody told me that I had nine days to live, I wouldn't wait until my ninth day to start enjoying it and focusing on things," UT head coach Dave Serrano said. "The focus changes when we're down and our back is against the wall in the ninth inning. I've seen this happen quite a bit throughout the year. Some of our best innings are in the ninth inning when we're down. In my mind, our backs are against the wall from the beginning of every game we play from here on out."
The first six Volunteer batters reached base in the game's final frame with bases-loaded walks to Derek Lance and Vincent Jackson book-ending a four-run outburst that also saw Maddox and A.J. Simcox record RBI singles before the game ended on a rundown between third and home. Maddox took off for home with the count at 2-2 to Taylor Smart, but Georgia pitcher Jarrett Brown calmly stepped off the rubber and fired home to start the game-ending play.
"I could tell by Will's body language that something was about to happen, maybe even the pitch before," Serrano said. "I could tell that he was starting to work to see what he could do. They were obviously on it because I saw their coach continue to come out and tell him to check. You know, I can't fault Will. It was an aggressive play and it backfired on us.
"The count was two strikes on Taylor [Smart] and who knows what could have happened. We'll never know what would have happened, but you know, we tried to roll the dice a little bit. Again, that's the mentality that I'd like us to have early in the game, to play with some aggression earlier in the game and not wait until our back is against the wall to try to create something of some excitement to help us win."
The one-run contest was UT's 17th of the season, marking the second-highest total in school history, behind only the 2005 and 2007 season when the Vols played 18 one-run games. The Big Orange is 6-11 in those games this season with the 11 one-run losses standing as the most in the 104-year history of the program.
The Bulldogs pounded out 16 hits on the evening - their highest total in an SEC game this season - and got five strong innings of relief from Patrick Boling who picked up his third win of the season. Jarrett Brown recorded the final three outs to earn his second save.
For the first time since April 7, UT senior Zack Godley did not finish a game he started as the Bulldogs touched him up for eight runs on 14 hits in six innings of work. He fell to 4-6 on the season and saw his streak of consecutive complete games end at three.
Freshman southpaw Andy Cox gave the Orange and White a strong relief effort, striking out two and allowing just two hits in three shutout frames. He has now fired 6.0 scoreless innings over his last three outings.
All 11 UT players to get an at-bat on Friday reached base at least once, with nine different batters recording one hit each, another drawing two walks and Scott Price finishing with a pair of hits and an RBI. Christin Stewart drove in two runs with a double in the second inning.
Georgia scratched across runs in both of the first two innings to take a quick 2-0 lead but the Vols answered right back in the home half of the second to tie the game.
Bennett opened the frame with a long single to left and Taylor Smart followed with a double two batters later to put two runners in scoring position with one out. Stewart brought them both home with a two-RBI double to the gap in left-center.
The tie would be short-lived, however, as Daniel Nichols hammered a two-run home run to right-center in the top of the third to put the Bulldogs back up by two. The longball struck again in the fifth as Jess Posey launched a three-run shot to right to push the UGA lead to five at 7-3.
The Vols got one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning as Maddox was hit by a pitch, moved to second on a sac bunt and scored on a single back up the middle by Price. The second sacrifice fly of the game by Georgia's Kyle Farmer would negate that tally just half an inning later though.
Tennessee threatened to cut into its deficit in the bottom of the sixth, putting two runners in scoring position with nobody out but a strikeout, a tremendous diving play by the UGA right fielder and a groundout to short allowed the Bulldogs to escape unscathed.
The Vols also got a leadoff baserunner in the seventh as Lance opened the inning by dropping a double down the right-field line. Maddox followed by scorching a line drive back up the middle but it was snagged by the pitcher who turned and fired to the shortstop covering second for the double play.
Georgia would then retire UT in order in the bottom of the ninth to set up the dramatic bottom of the ninth.
Tennessee will look to even the series at 7 p.m. on Saturday night when junior right-hander Nick Williams (2-4, 4.94) takes the mound for the Big Orange. He will face Georgia freshman righty Sean McLaughlin (4-5, 3.14). The game will be televised on CSS with Mike Morgan and former Vol Rusty Ensor on the call.