KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (School release)– Six Tennessee pitchers combined to give up just three hits on Tuesday, but the 25th-ranked Vols couldn't get it going offensively against ETSU, leaving eight runners stranded and going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position to drop a 3-2 decision in front of 2,425 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Tennessee (19-8) has now lost six of its last seven games entering this weekend's rivalry series with No. 4 Vanderbilt (23-6). The Bucs (14-13) snapped a three-game losing streak to the Volunteers with the win.
UT out-hit the in-state foe 6-3 in the game, but only had one multi-hit inning on the night.
"If I could put a finger on it, we wouldn't be going through what we're going through," said head coach Dave Serrano. We have to get out of this and we can't rely on anybody else to help us get out of it. We have to do it ourselves and that's part of athletics. You're going to go through times like this. You can't pull apart, you have to stick together.
"Are we disappointed? Absolutely. Am I disappointed? Absolutely. I hate losing. I want our team to hate losing. We have to start generating something to get some excitement back in the dugout and get some excitement back on the field and part of that starts with offense."
ETSU got both of its runs with one swing of the bat, as Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association National Player of the Week Clinton Freeman blasted a two-run home run over the right-center wall to put his team on top 2-0 in the fourth inning. The senior has homered in three straight games and has five dingers over that stretch. It was his seventh homer of the season.
"I know he's a home run hitter; he has an uphill swing," said Serrano. "I don't think it was a bad pitch that Kyle (Serrano) threw. It was probably more of a bad call on my part. It was a breaking ball that went right into his swing. I kick myself because I was going to go changeup there and I decided to go breaking ball. Probably the thing that bothered me most about that inning was we walked the leadoff hitter. I'm fine giving up a solo home run from time to time but when it's a two-run home run which ended up being the game-winner, it hurts you a little bit."
The Jonesborough, Tenn., native then closed it out for the Bucs with a six-out save, his seventh of the season. Freeman struck out four Vols looking over the final two frames.
Vols' sophomore southpaw Andy Cox got his second start of the season on Tuesday and retired all six batters he faced, including two via strikeouts. Freshman right-hander Kyle Serrano tossed the next two frames, retiring the first three batters he faced in order. Serrano allowed one hit, but it turned out to be the game-winner. Drake Owenby also allowed one hit over two innings, while Trevor Bettencourt gave up one knock in one inning. Bret Marks and Josh Peterson pitched a hitless frame each for UT.
ETSU reliever Jared Burton helped the Vols get on the board with two balks in the fourth inning. Freshman Nick Senzel walked with one out in the frame and was balked over to second. Following a Scott Price strikeout, senior Taylor Smart stayed hot with a RBI single to left center to cut the Bucs' lead to 2-1. Smart, who had a team-high five hits in the South Carolina series, extended his hit streak to five games with the single.
Tennessee looked to rally with two outs in the seventh, as Knoxville native Derek Lance delivered a single through the right side. Lance started his first game of the season for the Vols. Will Maddox then ripped a single through the same hole to put runners on the corners, but A.J. Simcox flew out to right field to end the threat.
The Orange and White returns to the diamond with a three-game series against SEC and in-state rival No. 4 Vanderbilt from April 4-6. The Vols and Commodores open the series on Friday at 6 p.m. and will play a 7 p.m. matchup on CSS on Saturday. The squads will play the finale on Sunday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium at 2 p.m. Tennessee is 168-148-2 against Vandy all-time, but the 'Dores have won eight of the last nine meetings.