KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- Behind a combined two-hit shutout by Kyle Serrano, Andy Cox and Andrew Lee, the No. 25 Tennessee baseball team blanked in-state SEC rival and 4th-ranked Vanderbilt, 7-0, to win the series in front of a season-high 3,306 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Sunday.
The Vols' first series win over the Commodores (25-8, 6-6) since 2010 improves UT to 21-9 overall and 5-7 in conference play. It was only the second regular season series lost by Vanderbilt since April 20-22, 2012. The win also marks the Vols’ first nine-inning shutout of Vandy since March 3, 1985 (6-0). UT also blanked the ’Dores 6-0 on May 8, 1993 in seven innings.
Sunday was Tennessee’s best attended game since 3,322 clicked the turnstiles at Lindsey Nelson Stadium against Florida on April 15, 2012. The series win was the first over a top-five team since the Volunteers won the final two games at No. 1 LSU from April 17-19, 2009.
“I'm so proud of [this team] – to beat what I feel is one of the big boys in the SEC – I am very proud of the way we played baseball today,” said head coach Dave Serrano. I said it last night after we won a very ugly but good game – if that makes sense – it was like lifting 1,000 pounds off these kids and this team's shoulders.
“They're working so hard and they want it to happen so much, but we're still growing together. You have to have defining moments and I've been waiting a long time for a defining moment, and I think beating Vanderbilt here at home is a defining moment.”
Serrano gave up just two hits and struck out three over 5 1/3 innings to earn his third win of the 2014 season. Cox tossed 2 2/3 innings of no-hit baseball, striking out three in his team-high 18th appearance. Lee came in to close it out in the ninth, striking out one and getting two fly outs to seal the win.
Christin Stewart and A.J. Simcox had multi-hit games, as Stewart drove in three runs on a triple and a single. Stewart, who entered the weekend ranked third in the SEC in triples, recorded his fourth on Sunday. Knoxville native Derek Lance, who made his third start of the week, blasted his first career home run in the game, and Scott Price added a RBI triple. UT leads the SEC with 12 triples this season.
The Vols hit .375 (3-for-8) with runners in scoring position on Sunday, while Vanderbilt was 0-for-6 in the category. For the weekend, Tennessee struck out just 17 times against the Commodores, whose pitching staff entered the week ranked fourth in the nation with an average of 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings. The UT pitching unit racked up 25 strikeouts for the series.
Serrano worked out of early trouble in the top of the first, as he hit the opening batter of the game and walked the next to put two on with no outs. Following a visit from Coach Serrano, the rookie got a groundball and some help from his defense. Will Maddox fielded the grounder, flipped it with his glove with the backhand to Simcox, who fired it to Nathaniel Maggio at first. With a runner on third and the red-hot Vince Conde at the plate, Serrano got the junior to pop up to Simcox to end the threat.
Tennessee struck first in the second inning as Nick Senzel reached base on a catcher’s interference call to lead off. The freshman took second on a wild pitch and was driven in by Stewart’s RBI single into right field. Stewart then took his turn around the bases, moving to second on another wild pitch from Vandy starter Tyler Ferguson and to third on a Taylor Smart groundout for the first out of the inning. Maggio, Saturday night’s walk-off hero, then drove in Stewart with a groundout to Conde at short to give UT a 2-0 lead.
Lance blasted his first career home run into The Porch in left field to give the Vols a 3-0 advantage to lead off the third. With the dinger, Lance improved to 3-for-5 with three runs scored and five RBIs in the series. Following a Maddox groundout, Simcox ripped a single into center field and then advanced to second on a balk by Ferguson. A triple by Price – his third of the season – scored Simcox to put UT on top, 4-0. The Big Orange would go on to leave the bases loaded in the frame.
Simcox led off the fifth inning with his second single of the afternoon, stole second to move into scoring position and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Senzel drew a one-out walk to put runners on the corners and Stewart delivered the Vols’ second triple of the day and 12th of the season with a lined shot into the right field corner. The Lawrenceville, Ga., native came home on the next pitch – a wild one by Vandy relief pitcher Adam Ravenelle – to put the Big Orange up 7-0. It was Ravenelle’s first pitch of the ballgame.
The Orange and White looks to carry its momentum on the road, playing nine of its next 12 away from home. The Vols return to action on Tuesday in Cookeville, Tenn., when they take on Tennessee Tech at 7 p.m. ET.
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