STARKVILLE, Miss. (UT release) -- For the second time in three games, Tennessee dropped an extra-inning heartbreaker at Mississippi State, falling 3-2 after a bases-loaded wild pitch in the bottom of the 14th inning brought home the winning run in front of 9,233 on a chilly Saturday afternoon at Dudy Noble Field.
“That was tough,” UT head coach Dave Serrano said. “There really aren’t words to describe what transpired this weekend. We’ll go back to the drawing board and have to come up with some things to get this team over the hump of what we’ve experienced this weekend, but we are not dead in the water.
“It’s a tough feeling right now, it’s a horrible feeling to be honest with you, but I think we’ll have their attention that there are some details that we need to continue to get better at. It is demoralizing when you look across the field and see a team executing inning after inning when we had some opportunities and didn’t execute.”
The contest was just the fifth of 14 or more innings in Volunteer history and the first since May 9, 1999 against South Carolina. UT is now 2-3 in game of 14+ innings.
Tennessee falls to 22-18 overall and 7-11 in SEC play with the loss, while Mississippi State ups its record to 24-16 on the year and 8-10 in league action.
The bases-loaded wild pitch spoiled a brilliant relief effort by junior Nick Blount (2-3) who allowed just the one run on three hits in four strong innings. The run was unearned after a throwing error earlier in the 14th and was just the third he has yielded in 22.0 innings out of the bullpen this season (1.23 ERA).
Sophomore starter Nick Williams and junior Drew Steckenrider also posted great efforts on the mound for UT. Williams went six strong, giving up just two runs on five hits and striking out three, while Steckenrider fanned four in 3.1 hitless frames.
“I thought Nick Williams threw extremely well,” Serrano said. “I thought Steck came in after a brilliant effort on Thursday and threw well despite being low on the gas tank and then you can’t ask form much more out of Nick Blount. We can’t blame anyone but ourselves for this weekend. We did it to ourselves so we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to get back on the horse on Tuesday when we play Austin Peay at our place.”
Luis Pollorena (2-0) emerged as the winning pitcher for the Bulldogs with three scoreless innings of his own.
Tennessee actually out-hit Mississippi State, 11-8, in the contest, getting multi-hit efforts from Davis Morgan, Jared Allen and Parker Wormsley. Chris Pierce and Wormsley drove in UT’s only two runs in the game.
The Vols got the scoring started in the third, as Pierce came through with a two-out single to left to drive Zach Luther after he drew a one-out walk, stole second and moved up to third on a groundout by Will Maddox.
Mississippi State threatened in the fourth, putting two runners in scoring position with just one out. Williams was able to wiggle out of the jam though, as Luther threw a runner out at the plate on a chopper to third before a flyout to right ended the frame.
Tennessee tacked on another tally in the sixth, getting a two-out RBI single from Wormsley to go up 2-0. After back-to-back one-out singles by Morgan and pinch-hitter Allen, a dribbler in front of the plate moved both runners into scoring position. Facing a full count, Wormsley punched a single to right to score Morgan. The Bulldogs would throw Allen out at the plate to end the inning, however.
The Bulldogs put together a two-out rally in the home half of the sixth to return the game to a deadlock. After Williams got two quick outs to start the stanza, a pair of hit batters, sandwiched around a single, loaded the bases for Matthew Britton. Down in the count, 1-2, he pushed a seeing-eye single up the middle to bring in two and tie the game at 2-2.
That is where the score would remain as both bullpens were tremendous, sending the game to extra innings.
In the top of the 11th the Vols had a prime scoring opportunity slip away as back-to-back singles by Allen and Chris Fritts put runners on the corners with just one out. After having a runner thrown out on a potential sac fly in the 11th on Thursday night, the Vols opted for a safety squeeze this time. It came with the same result however, as the Bulldogs were able to get the runner at home before a strikeout ended the threat.
After escaping a two-on, one-out jam in the bottom of the 11th, the Big Orange got a leadoff single from Luther to start the 12th. They tried to bunt him into scoring position but the State third baseman made a nice play to get the force out at second. A strikeout and a pop-up then ended the inning.
Following a three-pitch frame by Blount in the bottom of the 13th, UT had the same thing happen in the top of the 14th. Once again, the Vols got a leadoff single, this one by Wormsley, only to see an unsuccessful sac bunt and a double play end the inning, setting up Mississippi State’s walk-off win in the home half of the stanza.
Tennessee will look to get back into the win column when it hosts Austin Peay at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville.
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