FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (release) -- Zack Godley struck out eight in his SEC-leading fifth complete game of the season and a five-RBI night by Ethan Bennett paced a 13-hit offensive attack as Tennessee went on the road to defeat No. 14 Arkansas, 8-3, in front of 9,110 on Friday night at Baum Stadium.
The eight runs and 13 hits were the most allowed by the Razorbacks in a single game this season as they entered the contest with an NCAA-best 1.77 ERA as a team.
“We were kind of kicking ourselves a little bit early and then we strung some things together,” UT head coach Dave Serrano said. “Zack held them at bay and then we extended it in the [ninth] inning off their relievers.
“It is huge. I told the team that this is one of the best atmospheres you can play in in college baseball and if we were going to have trouble to come out and play in this we had some issues. I thought we handled it extremely well and played good baseball.”
For the fourth time in the last five weeks, Godley went the distance for the Volunteers, striking out eight and allowing just three runs on four hits to pick up his fifth win of the season. He has now thrown a league-leading 99.1 innings this season and becomes the first Tennessee pitcher with five or more complete games in a single season since Jamie Bennett had six in 2000.
“Godley is good,” Serrano said. “He has good stuff and he mixes pitches well. I’m a little disappointed that he walked two guys to lead off an inning once we got the lead but he was able to fight out of it. He’s just good. He battles for us, our team has a lot of confidence behind him and he gives us a chance most of the time to win.”
Bennett, meanwhile, led a 13-hit offensive attack against the nation’s best pitching staff, going 3-for-5 with all three hits driving in runs as he finished with a career-high tying five RBIs, matching his total from a game against Manhattan on March 13, 2011.
“[Bennett showed] his leadership,” Serrano said. “He’s been banged up a little bit with some soreness in his leg and hasn’t played in a few days, but he’s been important for us since we put him in the middle of the order and he gobbled up some runs tonight which was huge.”
Will Maddox also had a three-hit contest while Vincent Jackson hit his second home run of the year and A.J. Simcox scored three runs in the triumph.
After three scoreless stanzas to open the game, the Big Orange was the first to crack the scoreboard as Bennett pulled a 1-0 pitch through the left side to plate Simcox for the first run of the evening in the top of the fourth.
The Razorbacks stole the lead right back when Dominic Ficociello ripped a two-strike, two-out, two-run home run in the home half of the frame to put his team up 2-1, but that advantage would be short-lived as Bennett struck again in the sixth. With two runners on base, he cleared them with one swing as he took the first pitch he saw and crushed it for a double that short-hopped the wall in straight-away center and put the Orange and White up for good.
Tennessee took advantage of an Arkansas error to extend its lead in the top of the seventh. Pierce Bily opened the frame with a leadoff double and moved up to third two batters later on a fielding error by the Razorback pitcher. Simcox then laid down a perfectly executed safety squeeze to bring him in and make it a 4-2 ball game.
Arkansas would get one run back in the following inning thanks to a run-scoring groundout but Jackson answered immediately by blasting a solo shot over the right field wall in the top of the eighth.
The Vols would then put the game away in the ninth, scoring three more times to go up by a count of 8-3. Yet again it was Bennett who struck the big blow as he roped a huge two-run single to left. UT’s final run of the game would score moments later when Arkansas uncorked a wild pitch with the bases loaded.
Godley would go on to retire the side in order in the bottom of the ninth to finish what he started and preserve the victory for the Orange and White. With Missouri and Georgia both losing on Friday night, the Vols now move into the 12th in league play with five SEC games remaining.
Tennessee will go for the series win over the 14th-ranked Razorbacks at 7:05 p.m. ET on Saturday night. The Vols will send junior right-hander Nick Williams (2-3, 4.94) to the mound while Arkansas will counter with a junior right-hander of its own in Ryne Stanek (6-2, 1.87).