KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (School release)– Tennessee jumped on top of No. 29 UNLV 4-0 after four innings and never looked back as it completed a series sweep over the Rebels with a 4-2 victory in front of 2,439 fans at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Sunday.
The Vols are now 7-0 for just the fourth time in program history, including twice under third-year head coach Dave Serrano. In total, 7,163 fans came to watch the Vols sweep the Rebels (4-3) at Lindsey Nelson Stadium this weekend.
"It was a good weekend for us in many aspects," said Serrano. "We held on to a lead so we proved to ourselves that we could do that. We came back after giving up a lead, and then we held the lead again. I knew UNLV wasn't going to go away, and it showed in the seventh inning today. We are very proud of our guys.
"Our fans were outstanding. I am finally getting to see my dream come true. I am seeing the stands filling up every day. They are loud. To hear the ovation for Andrew(Lee) when he came off the mound and got a standing ovation was outstanding. It brings me back to 1995 when we were getting that last out against Oklahoma State. That was one of my visions when I came back. I want that kind of atmosphere. I appreciate all the fan support."
Sophomore right-hander and Morristown, Tenn., native Andrew Lee threw 6.2 masterful innings for the Orange and White, retiring 14 batters in a row during the middle innings. Lee improves to 2-0 on the season after posting a win over Purdue on Monday, and is now sporting a 2.31 ERA over 11.2 innings. Lee had command of his fastball all game and let the Vols' defense shine behind him. He finished with three strikeouts over 85 pitches.
"It was stellar," Lee said about the Vols' defense on Sunday. "I can't even begin to describe how thankful I am to have A.J. (Simcox), Will (Maddox) and Taylor (Smart) at third base. Smart was making plays left and right all weekend. It really builds confidence when you have defense like that behind you."
Senior third baseman Taylor Smart and sophomore shortstop A.J. Simcox led the way in the field, combining for 12 of the Vols' 15 assists. Smart made impressive stops on the hot corner all series, while Vincent Jackson had a diving catch out in centerfield Sunday. Tennessee also turned five double plays over the series.
Entering the game with no hits in the series, junior Will Maddox had a two-RBI triple in the fourth inning to lead Tennessee on the offensive end. Maddox finished the day with a 2-for-3 performance. Freshman Nick Senzel continued the hot start to his UT career with two more hits on Sunday. After Friday's game-deciding grand slam, Senzel delivered a two-out single through the left side in the third inning to score Simcox and give UT a 1-0 lead in the finale.
Senior right fielder and leadoff hitter Scott Price got the offense started for UT early in the first inning, driving the first pitch right back at UNLV righty Bryan Bonnell and through to center field. That hit extended his hit streak to 19 games, dating back to the Florida game on April 26 of last season. Price also added the Vols' final RBI of the weekend on a sacrifice fly to center in the fourth.
After one-inning games on Friday and Saturday, UNLV made things interesting again on Sunday. With Lee exiting to a standing ovation with two on in the seventh, reliever Trevor Bettencourt gave up a two-RBI double, which cut UT's lead to 4-2. The Rebels scored five in the ninth inning of Friday's game and tied Saturday's contest with two in the final frame.
However, Bettencourt settled in and got UNLV's Connor Clark to fly out to right center field and end the seventh-inning threat. The San Jose, Calif., native returned in the ninth inning and produced two groundouts and a strikeout to sit the Rebels down in order and seal the sweep. It was his first save of the campaign and the fourth of his career.
Tennessee looks to tie the best start in program history (8-0) on Friday, March 1 when the Vols open a three-game series with Quinnipiac at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET. The Vols started both the 1992 and 2003 seasons with 8-0 records under former head coach Rod Delmonico.