KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Ethan Bennett and David Houser each drove in a pair of runs and the Tennessee bullpen combined to throw five innings without allowing an earned run as the Volunteers defeated Morehead State, 6-4, on Tuesday evening at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
“It was good to win,” UT head coach Dave Serrano said. “It's always good to win, but sometimes winning doesn't feel so good when you feel like you purely won that game because you had more talent than your opponent. I don't think we played the game at the level that my expectations are. Even though we've struggled of late and winning is important, what I expect is us to play the game right and I think we won that game because of the fact that we have superior talent than them and we just did enough to win that game.
“Going into a weekend when we play a very good Texas A&M team, who's also playing for something in getting into regionals, we can't show up like we did tonight or we will be embarrassed on our own field and I let the team know that. They need to step up, they need to show up with the right attitude, and it's a shame that I feel I have to challenge them like that in what I think is for one of the bigger weekends that this program's had in a while. And reality is reality, it's the 12th spot of the SEC Tournament but this program hasn't done that in five years and in fact, I think it's been three years since this program has even had anything to play for on the last weekend. If that doesn't excite you as a player, I know it excites me and my staff, I know what we want to do, but it comes down to the players on the field and what their expectations are.”
Bennett finished 2-for-4 at the plate with two doubles, a pair of RBIs and a run scored. Taylor Smart also had two hits for the Vols while Christin Stewart was 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored.
Trevor Charpie gave Tennessee four strong innings in his first collegiate start, allowing just two runs on four hits. Andy Cox, Eric Martin, Dalton Saberhagen and Drake Owenby then closed out the contest with five inning in which they allowed just two unearned runs on two hits.
Owenby pitched a perfect ninth to record his second save of the season and UT's first since Cox closed out a 5-4 win over Virginia Tech in the Hokie-Smokey Classic on April 16.
Tennessee jumped on the Eagles early, plating four runs in the bottom of the first after Charpie opened the contest with a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the frame. After a quick first out, an infield single by A.J. Simcox and a four-pitch walk to Scott Price put two on for Bennett who brought them both in with a sharply-hit double down the left-field line.
After Bennett's two-bagger, Stewart drew UT's second four-pitch free pass of the inning and Moberg was hit by a pitch two batters later. David Houser then came through with a two-out, two-run single back up the middle to put the Big Orange up 4-0 after one inning of play.
Morehead State cut the UT lead in half with a two-out, two-strike, two-run single in the top of the third, but the Vols scored an unearned run in the home half of the frame to push their lead up to 5-2. With Stewart on second with two outs, he saw a pitch hit the dirt and took off for third. The throw from the catcher sailed into left field, allowing him to come home the final 90 feet.
UT's first error in three games came back to haunt it in the top of the fifth as the Eagles would take advantage of it to load the bases. The Vols would then walk back-to-back batters to allow Morehead State to move back within one at 5-4.
Another wild throw by the MSU catcher gave the Big Orange an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth as Smart scored while trying to move up on a wild pitch.
The score would remain 6-4 in favor of the home team into the ninth as Martin and Saberhagen combined for three shutout frames out of the UT bullpen. Owenby would then retire the Eagles in order in the ninth to finish off the win for the Orange and White.
Tennessee will close out the 2013 regular season with a three-game series against Texas A&M, May 16-18. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. on both Thursday and Friday before a 1 p.m. showdown on Saturday. The Vols will hold their annual Senior Day ceremony prior to the season finale as they will honor Zack Godley, Zach Luther and student assistants Andy Yates and Hunter Mitchem.