KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- Nick Williams gave Tennessee 8.1 hard-fought innings on the mound and Andrew Lee hit his first career home run but four runs by No. 17 Ole Miss over the game’s final three innings allowed the Rebels to clinch the weekend series with a 6-4 win on a picture-perfect Saturday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
“You look across the field, and it's hard for me to say this, but you see a team in Ole Miss that is expecting to win and you're still seeing a team in our dugout that is hoping to win,” UT head coach Dave Serrano said. “That's a big difference right there when you have that going. You know, this game is all about confidence and I'm sure that we're not there yet. We've been beaten down a little bit but we have to find that 'it' factor as a team so that we won't continue to be as frustrated as we have been.
“Tomorrow's a big game for us and I'll going on record as saying that. Tomorrow is a big game for this team and this program. We cannot afford to get swept. We need to salvage a victory out of this and in the end it will pay big dividends for us in my mind.”
Williams (2-3) suffered the loss but he helped keep the Vols in the game all afternoon, finishing with three strikeouts over 8.1 innings in which he allowed five runs on 10 hits.
At the plate, Ethan Bennett tallied his third multi-hit game of the year, going 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored. Christin Stewart, Lee and Vance Vizcaino each contributed an RBI with Lee’s coming on a solo shot in the ninth.
Tennessee took an early lead thanks to back-to-back hits by Bennett and Vizcaino in the bottom of the third. After the first seven Vols had been retired to start the game, Bennett laced a double to left for the team’s first hit. Vizcaino then punched a single back up the middle to bring him in from second.
UT tacked on another run in the next inning to go up by a 2-0 count. Stewart walked on four pitches to open the frame and moved up to second two batters later on a groundout. He then took off for third on a wild pitch and scored easily when the catcher’s throw sailed into left field.
The Rebels refused to go away without a fight though, using a an RBI triple and a sac fly to tie the game back up in the top of the fifth. The Vols regained the lead on a run-scoring double to right by Stewart in the bottom of the sixth but Ole Miss answered immediately with Will Jamison and Sikes Orvis both hitting solo home runs to lead off the seventh and eighth innings, respectively, to give the Rebels their first lead of the game, 4-3.
Ole Miss extended its advantage with a pair of RBI singles in the top of the ninth before calling on its closer Brett Huber in the bottom of the inning. Lee blasted his first career home run on to Todd Helton Drive beyond the wall in right but Huber was able to go on to close out the contest, recording his ninth save of the season and securing the series-clinching win for the Rebels.
Tennessee will send senior right-hander Zack Godley (3-4, 3.26) to the mound for Sunday’s series finale against Ole Miss sophomore Sam Smith (2-0, 3.78). The contest will begin at 2 p.m. and will air live on ESPNU with Tom Hart and former Vol Chris Burke on the call.