NASHVILLE, Tenn. (utsports.com) -- No. 3 Vanderbilt pounded out 21 hits to claim the series finale from Tennessee, 19-3, on a soggy Sunday afternoon at Hawkins Field in Nashville.
“They just out-played us, out-hit us and played better defense,” UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. “I don’t think the scores (this weekend) indicate the gap between these two programs. I think it’s a combination of things. We aren’t playing with a lot of confidence, they are. They are at home, we’re away. Everything is going their way right now. I think the games were better (than the scores might indicate). We beat them in a series last year and swept them last time we were here (two years ago), so it’s not like we can’t get over the hump against them. They just beat us. That’s all there is to it.”
Tennessee had a number of opportunities offensively, but just never broke through until it was too late. The Volunteers had a runner reach second in each of the first five innings, but didn’t get the hit needed to bring them home. In all, the Big Orange had seven hits, but was just 1-for-22 with runners on base.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Raleigh said. “If you would have told me we would have (41) baserunners (this weekend) against their pitching staff, I would have thought we would have a pretty good chance to win the series. We had chances. Some of it today was just them making some great, great plays, so you have to tip your hat there.”
Freshman Ethan Bennett paced the UT offensive effort with his second straight multi-hit performance, notching a single and an RBI double. For the weekend, he swung the bat at a .455 clip with a team-high five hits, including a home run, and recorded two of the team’s three RBIs.
Sophomore Drew Steckenrider also had another hit to give him an even .400 batting average (4-for-10) on the weekend as he saw action at the plate for the first three times this season. He added 1.2 innings of scoreless relief, striking out two, as well. Over his last five appearances, he has not allowed a run and has nine punchouts in 5.1 innings of action.
Vanderbilt built an early lead, using a leadoff walk, two groundouts and an RBI single to score the first run of the game in the home half of the first. It then got three more two-out runs in the second with a two-run home run by Sam Lind and an RBI double by Jason Esposito. In the bottom of the third, Vanderbilt added four more tallies to the scoreboard with five straight hits and a sacrifice fly to open the frame.
The Commodores really broke the game open in the bottom of the sixth when they sent 17 batters to the plate and scored 11 runs to take a 19-0 lead. Tennessee finally got on the board in the top of the eighth when Bennett came through with a two-out RBI double. The Vols then got two more runs a batter later when Steckenrider laced a pitch to center that was dropped for an error, which allowed senior Matt Duffy and Bennett to score, accounting for the final tally of 19-3.
With final exams this week, the Big Orange will not have a mid-week contest. UT will return to the diamond next weekend when it welcomes Mississippi State to Rocky Top for a three-game set starting with a 6 p.m. contest on Friday, May 6.
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Tennessee drops to 22-20 overall and 5-16 in SEC play…UT is now 167-143-2 all-time against Vanderbilt, including a 43-49 mark in Nashville…The leadoff hitter reached base for the Vols six different times…On the weekend, the leadoff hitter reached base 16 times in 27 total innings…Just three of those runners scored…The Vols had a total of 41 runners reach base on the weekend…Just five of those came around to score though…UT was 1-for-22 with runners on base on Sunday and 2-for-48 in those situations over the weekend…Vanderbilt was 16-for-27 with runners on just on Sunday alone…The Big Orange was 1-for-20 with runners in scoring position on the weekend…The Orange and White played its second straight and 17th total errorless contest of the season…Both teams stranded eight runners in the contest…Tennessee stranded a runner on second in each of the first five frames…Official game time was two hours, 43 minutes.
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