COLUMBIA, S.C. (UT Release) – The No. 21 Tennessee baseball team was shutout for the first time and suffered its first series sweep of the season on Sunday, falling 8-0 in the finale at No. 2 South Carolina in front of a sold-out crowd of 8,242 at Carolina Stadium.
Tennessee is now 19-7 with a Southeastern Conference mark of 3-6 in 2014. The Gamecocks improve to 24-3 overall and 6-3 in league play. The Vols have lost 16 of their last 17 against the Gamecocks, dating back to the 2009 campaign. It was South Carolina’s 11th shutout of the season.
“We had two choices today – mail it in because we feel sorry for ourselves or grind,” said head coach Dave Serrano. “We didn’t grind. We’ve got to become grinders. We’re hard-workers, but we’re not grinders yet. We have the ability to compete in this league, but we have to have the grinder mentality to win consistently. We didn’t have it today. Take the score away; what’s most disappointing is we just didn’t play hard. I don’t think we can get in the showers and on the bus and say we left it all out on the field at this beautiful facility today.”
South Carolina right-hander Wil Crowe improved to 6-0 on the year. The freshman gave up eight hits and struck out three, but allowed no walks over 7 1/3 innings. Tennessee sophomore righty Andrew Lee suffered his first defeat of the season to fall to 3-1. He gave up season-highs in hits (10), runs (7) and walks (4) over four innings pitched.
Offensively, junior catcher Tyler Schultz was the only Vol with a multi-hit performance, as he went 2-for-3 at the plate. Senior third baseman Taylor Smart finished the series with a 1-for-4 game, bringing his hit total to a team-high five for the series.
South Carolina got on the board first for the first time all series with three hits off Lee in the first inning. The Gamecocks led off the frame with a single through the right side by Elliot Caldwell, and he moved into scoring position on Lee’s first wild pitch of the season. Joey Pankake then recorded his fifth hit of the series to drive in Caldwell and give SC the 1-0 lead. Pankake moved to second after Kyle Martin was hit by a pitch, and was then driven in by Saturday night’s walk-off hero Grayson Greiner to put the Gamecocks up 2-0 after one. It was Greiner’s sixth RBI of the series. He would finish with seven RBIs over the three games after a 2-for-5 outing on Sunday.
Lee and the Vols got two quick outs to start the bottom half of the third, but three singles in a row from the bottom of the South Carolina order brought in another run for the Gamecocks. Lee walked Caldwell to load the bags, but got Max Schrock to foul out, leaving SC with the bases loaded for the second-straight inning.
South Carolina loaded the bases again in the fifth inning, and this time made the Vols pay. The Gamecocks scored four runs on three hits to extend their lead to 7-0 after five. After giving up a bases-loaded walk to Tanner English, Lee was pulled for freshman right-hander Kyle Serrano. The big hit in the inning was a two-RBI double down the right field line on the first pitch from Serrano. Pankake added another RBI with a sac fly to right to make it 7-0.
Serrano gave up just the one hit and struck out one over three innings pitched. The freshman walked none and threw 20 strikes in the 28-pitch relief outing.
Tennessee notched up back-to-back one-out hits from Schultz and pinch-hitter Derek Lance in the eighth, forcing the Gamecocks to go to the bullpen. Cody Mincey came in and quickly ended the threat by striking of Jeff Moberg and forcing an A.J. Simcox pop out.
South Carolina tacked on another run in the eight off two hits. Greiner drove in Pankake with a RBI double to right center off Vols’ senior southpaw Dalton Saberhagen.
The Orange and White is back in action on Tuesday, April 1, when it welcomes ETSU to Lindsey Nelson Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET. The Vols won both meetings against the Bucs in 2013.