LAS VEGAS, Nev. (release) -- In just the sixth game of 14 innings or more in Tennessee history, a two-out, walk-off single by UNLV's Joey Swanner gave the Rebels a 3-2 win in the final game of a four-game series on Sunday afternoon at Wilson Stadium.
The loss was UT’s third of the weekend with all three coming by a single run. While certainly a tough lesson, it should provide the youthful Vol squad with much-needed experience for upcoming weeks. In all, Tennessee had 17 different players play their first game for the Orange and White over the weekend, including 14 true freshmen making their collegiate debuts.
Sunday’s game was the second 14-inning contest in the last two years for the Big Orange, having also done so on April 21 last year at Mississippi State. It was just the sixth game of that length or longer in school history though with the others coming in 1952, 1953, 1996 and 1999.
“Today was a nail biter for sure,” UT head coach Dave Serrano said. “We fought and clawed for everything we could get today. I commend [the UNLV] pitching staff. They did a great job of filling up the strike zone. They did a better job than our pitching staff. In a 3-2 game, it looks like a pitcher’s duel and I am proud of the way some of our guys did throw, but we have to get back to throwing more quality pitches and taking out that base on balls to lead off innings which is haunting us right now.
“We get back on the plane and we aren’t proud of being 1-3, but we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We have a lot of work to do, but I will say this as the coach of a 1-3 team right now. I wish a lot of people from the Knoxville area could have seen how hard we played this weekend because they would be very proud. They will see it next weekend against Arizona State at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. They are going to be very proud of this group as they continue to grow as a unit and start to figure out how to win games. That’s important because we need to figure out how to win these games. Three tough losses by one run and you can say ifs, ands and buts, but the bottom line is the other team got it done and we didn’t.”
In Sunday’s contest, the Vols were no-hit through six innings by UNLV starting pitcher Mark Shannon before breaking through in the seventh inning. After a one-out walk by Taylor Smart, Christin Stewart roped a triple to straight-away centerfield. It looked like UT would score its first run of the game on the play only to have the Rebels cut Smart down at the plate for the second out of the inning. Just seconds later, however, Pierce Bily came through with his first of three hits in the game, driving an RBI double to right to tie the game at 1-1.
Tennessee then took a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning when Will Maddox scored on a wild pitch after punching a single to center and moving to third on a ground ball to third base when the Rebels forgot to cover the bag.
After UT moved within two outs of victory in the bottom of the ninth, UNLV tied the game back up at 2-2 with an RBI double by Matt McCallister. It looked as if the Rebels might close the game out then with a runner at third and just one out, but UT junior Nick Williams came out of the bullpen to record back-to-back strikeouts to send the game to extra innings.
He would then pitch three more scoreless innings, striking out four, before handing the ball over to southpaw Dalton Saberhagen who twirled a scoreless 13th inning. Swanner then ended the game with his two-out, walk-off single in the bottom of the 14th.
Despite earning a no-decision, freshman Aaron Quillen gave the Vols a strong effort in his collegiate debut, scattering five hits and allowing just one run over five quality innings. Fellow classmate Trevor Charpie also pitched well, yielding just a single run on one hit in 3.1 innings of action.
Tennessee will next return to Rocky Top where it will open the home portion of its schedule, Feb. 22-24, when Arizona State makes the trek to Knoxville.
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