May 6, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Free passes, errors and leadoff baserunners hurt Tennessee all afternoon as Vanderbilt took advantage of the Volunteer miscues to claim a 12-6 victory in the series finale on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
"I said to the team that the first three innings were probably the proudest I have been of them all year," UT head coach Dave Serrano said. "For the first time in a while they actually went for something. They went to get it on their own, but the sad fact is that it is a nine-inning baseball game. We did it for three innings and (Vanderbilt) did it for the course of six more innings. I don't know where the momentum changed or the mentality changed or if it was 6-3 and we thought we had it in the bag, but the wheels fell off."
UT tied its season high by issuing nine walks, committed three errors, hit a batter and uncorked three wild pitches in the loss. The Vols also struggled to get the leadoff hitter out all game as Vanderbilt reached to start eight of the nine innings on Sunday with three walks, three singles and a pair of solo home runs. The Commodores proceeded to score at least one run in each of those eight innings.
"You cannot walk nine guys in a game," Serrano said. "You can't walk nine guys in any game. I don't know why this continues to creep in, but with as much as I continue to talk about committing to strikes, we just aren't doing it. I take the blame for that. Obviously it is accountable across the board.
"Nothing is dead in the water and until they tell us that we are eliminated, that is what I am going to believe. I said to the team before the series started to just play and let the results take care of themselves. Let's play so that, no matter what, we can walk away and be proud of something. I want them to hear loud and clear that I have a lot of respect for this Vanderbilt team even though they aren't having the best year, but winning one game isn't going to cut it."
The Orange and White did pound out 12 hits in the contest with Zach Luther leading effort, going 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs and a walk in the loss. Seniors Davis Morgan and Wes Walker each had two hits in the contest as well while Chris Fritts and Drew Steckenrider both drove in a pair of runs.
For the weekend, Steckenrider finished 8-for-14 at the plate with five doubles, seven RBIs and two runs scored. He pulled double duty on Sunday, going 3.1 innings on the mound, but was saddled with the loss after allowing six runs, three earned, on four hits and five walks.
Sophomore Dalton Saberhagen made the second start of his career, first in SEC play, yielding three runs on four hits in 3.2 frames of work.
Both teams came out swinging on Sunday as Tennessee and Vanderbilt traded tallies in each of the first two innings. The Commodores got the scoring started with a bases-loaded walk in the top of the first, but the Vols limited the damage and answered with an RBI groundout by Steckenrider in the home half of the frame after Will Maddox and Zach Osborne led things off with back-to-back singles and a double steal.
A Tony Kemp triple, his first of two on the day, put Vanderbilt back out in front in the top of the second, but the Big Orange had another immediate answer, tying the game back up with a walk by Fritts and consecutive singles by Walker and Luther.
After a solo home run by Conrad Gregor in the top of the third, the Vols used three doubles and a hit batter to plate four runs and grab their first lead of the day in the bottom of the inning. Morgan and Steckenrider opened the frame with back-to-back two-baggers for the first run.
Chris Pierce was then hit by a pitch and Jared Allen moved both into scoring position with a sac bunt before Fritts cleared the bases with a double over the head of the right fielder to the base of the wall. The scoring continued later in the frame as Walker drew a walk, moved to second on a play where Fritts was caught stealing at third and came home on a single to right by Luther, narrowly avoiding the tag at the plate with a terrific slide.
After a scoreless fourth inning, Vanderbilt cut into the UT lead with an RBI double by Connor Harrell in the fifth. The Commodores then scored twice more in the top of the sixth before Kemp's third RBI of the game, a run-scoring wild pitch and an RBI single by Anthony Gomez handed the lead back to VU in the seventh as they took a 9-6 advantage.
Connor Harrell kept the runs coming for the Commodores, blasting a moonshot to left to lead off the eighth and driving in another run with a single to center in the ninth to put his team ahead by a commanding 11-6 score. Vince Conde then added an RBI single to account for the final score.
Tennessee will hit the road for an eight-day road trip next week that will start with a Wednesday night matchup against Memphis at 6:30 p.m. CT at FedEx Park. From there, the Vols will travel to Oxford, Miss., for a three-game set against Ole Miss over the weekend before closing out the trek with a Tuesday tilt at MTSU in Murfreesboro on March 15.