Vols walk-off to program's best start

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A walk-off single by senior Taylor Smart in the bottom of the 10th inning propelled the No. 28 Tennessee baseball team to a 4-3 victory over Quinnipiac, giving the Vols a program record ninth-consecutive win to start the 2014 campaign.

Tennessee’s 9-0 record bests the previous mark of 8-0, set in the 1992 and 2003 seasons. Sophomore southpaw Andy Cox improved to 2-0 on the season with 6.2 stellar innings of relief. The Arlington, Tenn., native struck out a career-high eight batters while allowing just two hits in front of a crowd of 2,415 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on sunny Saturday afternoon.

"I was going up and down the dugout when we were down 3-0 and saying how beautiful this game is because it gave us another test that we're going to have to pass,” said third-year head coach Dave Serrano. “It wasn't easy, but we passed. I commend our guys for that. They're not quitting, they're not perfect – they never will be perfect – but they keep fighting because they feel something. Again, we're only through a portion of our schedule but they're feeling good, and confidence can do a lot for anyone, let alone individuals that are 18 to 22 years old."

Smart’s game-winning single capped a UT comeback after the squad fell behind 3-0 in the early innings, and was down to its final out in the bottom of the ninth. After three walks – two of which were intentional – loaded the bases in the 10th, Smart stroked a 2-2 pitch to left field plating pinch runner Johnny Youngblood from third to seal the win.

The walk-off heroics came an inning after the Vols found themselves down to their last out. After Smart was hit by a pitch to start the frame, a sac bunt by Parker Wormsley and a balk moved him up to third, before a seeing-eye single through the right side by A.J. Simcox tied the game at 3-3.

Quinnipiac (0-5) raced out to a 3-0 lead through the first two innings and a strong effort by starting pitcher Justin Thomas allowed the Bobcats to hold the lead until his exit after the eighth inning. Thomas finished with six strikeouts and allowed just one earned run on six hits in his eight innings of work.

Sophomore outfielder Vincent Jackson, freshman Nick Senzel and Simcox paced an eight-hit Tennessee attack with two hits each. Jackson also drove in a run with an RBI single in the eighth and stole his first two bases of the season in the contest.

Senior Scott Price saw his hit streak come to a close at 20 games, tying for the fourth-longest streak in program history. Former Vol Kris Bennett also had a 20-game hit streak during the 2000 campaign.

The Volunteers will look to record their third-consecutive weekend series sweep for the first time since 2005 on Sunday. Freshman and Knoxville native Kyle Serrano will toe the rubber in the series finale against the Bobcats, which is set for a 1 p.m. start at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

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