ATHENS, Ga. (release) -- Sophomore Nick Williams fired six shutout innings in his first career start and Davis Morgan launched his first home run of the year as Tennessee shutout No. 19 Georgia, 3-0, to give head coach Dave Serrano his 300th career win and first SEC victory on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Foley Field.
“You forget how good winning feels,” Serrano said. “That felt good. When you see what happens around this conference with a lot of teams getting swept, when you can walk out of here with a win you feel good about it. I told the team before the game that it is never going to be easy for us. Where we are at right now, it is never going to be easy, so let’s prepare for the toughest battle each and every day and they did it. My hair is going to continue to fall out and my stress level will go up, but if we can continue to feel some of these moments I will give it all up for that.
“We are at a stage right now where it is about mentality and I thought that (Nick) would give us the best opportunity (to win),” Serrano said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think that he would go out there and give us as many innings as he did on a hot Sunday afternoon, probably the hottest day we have played on so far. I have to give him all the kudos in the world.”
Williams allowed just four baserunners as he doubled his previous career high for innings pitched with six on Sunday. The Knoxville native yielded just a pair of singles, walked one batter and hit another, while striking out five to match his previous high. He retired 13 of the final 15 batters that he faced.
“It was a good day,” Williams said. “I was just trying to go out there and help our team battle and compete on the mound. I was just trying to win the next pitch. I was telling myself to win the next pitch, win the next inning.”
Sophomore Carter Watson came on to record the final two outs with two on and the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth to claim the first save of his collegiate career. Nick Blount also added 1.2 scoreless out of the bullpen while Conner Stevens and T.J. Thornton recorded one out each to give the Big Orange its second shutout of the season.
In addition to Morgan’s home run, freshman Will Maddox led the Vols at the plate as he tallied his second three-hit contest of the weekend, going 3-for-5 with a run scored.
The win was Serrano’s 300th as a Division I head coach as his record improved to 300-147-1 (.670) over eight seasons at UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton and now Tennessee.
“I’m very thankful for the many coaches that have been around me for all those years, players and my family who has been through the rigors with me,” Serrano said. “It’s not about me, it’s about a lot of people that have contributed to those 300 wins and I appreciate all of them.”
The Vols first threatened in the third inning with three consecutive one-out singles, but Georgia starting pitcher Michael Palazzone was able to record a strikeout and get a call on a bang-bang play at first to escape the bases-loaded jam.
Morgan got the Big Orange on the scoreboard in the fourth when he followed a one-out single by Chris Fritts by launching a fastball from Palazzone over the 370-foot marker in left-center. It was the second home run of his UT career, both of which have come off of Palazzone.
Tennessee added an insurance run in the seventh when Maddox came around to score after a leadoff single, sac bunt by Chris Pierce, a wild pitch and a balk. It marked the fifth time this season that the Orange and White has scored a run on a balk.
Georgia threatened in each of the three final innings, putting two on with either no outs or just one down. Blount buckled down in the first two instances, inducing a pair of double plays to escape unscathed in the seventh and eighth.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Bulldogs got back-to-back singles to start the stanza but Thornton came on in relief of Blount to get a huge strikeout when he fanned pinch-hitter Justin Bryan on a curveball. Watson then got Curt Powell to fly out to left and struck out pinch-hitter Jared Walsh looking to end the game.
The win is UT’s first SEC victory of the year as the Vols improve to 11-8 on the season. Georgia falls to 15-6 with the loss.
Tennessee will next be in action when it returns home to Knoxville to open a 10-game homestand with a 7 p.m. contest against Florida International on Wednesday, March 21.
For the most up-to-date information about the Tennessee baseball program, visit UTSports.com/baseball and
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