KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UT Release) – A pair of two-run home runs proved too much for Tennessee to overcome on Sunday as No. 20 Arizona State claimed the series finale at Lindsey Nelson Stadium, 5-1.
"When I look back, probably the difference in this series is that seven of their 11 runs came on three different swings,” UT head coach Dave Serrano said. “A three-run home run on Friday night that I thought was a good pitch by Zack Godley, and two two-run homeruns that I thought Andy Cox spotted up right where he was supposed to and they put a good swing on it. The difference in today's game was that we struck out 10 times, which is something we need to improve on.
“Then - in those two at-bats – they saw 19 pitches. That first home run that [Trever] Allen hit was on the 10th pitch and the home run that [James] McDonald hit was on the ninth pitch and we're not there as a pitching staff, stuff-wise, for a hitter to see that many pitches and us have success. You walk away and I don't think we're that far off. We lost the series, bottom line, but we're not that far off from where I believe we're going to be sooner than later.”
The Vols actually took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, before ASU got two-run home runs to left from Trever Allen and James McDonald in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively.
As has been the case all season, Tennessee made the game interesting in the ninth, using three consecutive two-out walks to load the bases and bring the tying run to the plate. Sun Devil pitcher Matt Dunbar was able to get a strikeout to end the game though.
Freshman Andy Cox suffered the loss for the Vols after yielding the two longballs and six total hits in 4.1 innings. He struck out four and walked just one in his second collegiate contest.
The Orange and White also got strong relief efforts from freshman Trevor Bettencourt and junior Nick Williams. Bettencourt fired 3.1 innings of one-run ball while Williams needed just 10 pitches in working a 1-2-3 frame in the top of the ninth.
At the plate, Will Maddox led the way for UT, going 2-for-4 with a double and scoring the team's only run as Christin Stewart knocked him in with a two-out single in the bottom of the first. Defensively, Tennessee played its first errorless game of the season.
It was a record-breaking weekend in the stands for the Vols as 6,508 Orange and White faithful clicked the turnstiles at Lindsey Nelson Stadium over the three games, including 2,355 on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
That mark breaks the Tennessee record for most fans at a home-opening series, topping the previous mark of 6,111 set in 2011 against Milwaukee.
“I really appreciate the people that have come out,” Serrano said. “I hope their leaving like we are, disappointed that we lost two of three, but I hope that they see what the future is going to be. And when I say future, I don't mean two years down the line, I'm saying sooner rather than later.
“The way these guys play hard, the passion they have and the kind of team work we have, just be patient, it's coming. The [fans] are going to be very excited and I appreciate the support that they've given us. It's kind of an adrenaline rush to show up and see that many people that are supporting us, especially when two of the days were not very good weather days.”
Tennessee will look to return to the win column on Tuesday when in-state rival ETSU makes the trip to Rocky Top for a 3 p.m. contest.