JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Tennessee used a complete team effort to hold off ETSU, 4-3, on Tuesday evening at Thomas Stadium. The victory snaps an eight-game skid for the Vols (14-17) and completes the sweep of the season series over the Buccaneers (18-12).
“It seems longer than it has, but I am so happy for these guys,” UT head coach Dave Serrano said. “We’ve gone through some tough times. This is never an easy atmosphere to play in and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and it wasn’t. It came down to the [wire] with the tying run at the plate. I’m very happy with the way the pitching responded in a mid-week game. We gave up very few, if any, free passes. We gave up two solo home runs but that doesn’t beat you most of the time.
“This was a good win, especially when you have dropped as many as we had in a row, but we just have to continue to keep building. I could see the happiness and the jubilation after the last out was recorded when they were shaking hands and that makes you feel good as a coach. I know how hard it has been on these guys, just like it has on the coaching staff, and it feels good to get back on the bus and feel good about what you accomplished today.”
The Big Orange did not issue a walk for the first time this season, played its first errorless game since March 30 and had four players record two-hit contests. Scott Price led the way offensively, going 2-for-3 with his second home run of the season and two walks.
Freshman Andy Cox improved to 2-2 on the season with three strong innings to open the game for the Vols. Eric Martin followed with two shutout innings, allowing just a single hit and Trevor Charpie followed suit with 2.1 frames of one-hit ball as well. Trevor Bettencourt slammed the door with a 1-2-3 ninth inning to record his third save of the season.
ETSU used a solo home run by Dylan Tritsch to open the scoring in the bottom of the first but the Vols engineered a run in the very next frame to tie the contest back up at 1-1. Christin Stewart got the second inning started with a four-pitch walk, stole second, moved to third on a single by Pierce Bily and scored on a groundout to first by Vincent Jackson.
The Buccaneers got another solo shot, this one by Mason Hershey, to take the lead back, but Tennessee had an immediate answer once again. Price quickly brought the Big Orange back to even with an opposite field bomb to lead off the top of the fourth. Stewart followed that with a single back up the middle and advanced to third just three pitches later on a base hit by Bily. Taylor Smart would then bring him in to score with an RBI groundout to short.
The Vols extended their lead to 4-2 in the top of the fifth as A.J. Simcox was hit by a pitch, moved to third on a single by Will Maddox and scored on a wild pitch.
ETSU inched within a run and threatened to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth but Charpie came out of the bullpen to notch a huge strikeout, getting Alex Phillips swinging to strand the tying run at third.
Charpie and Bettencourt combined to throw zeroes up in each of the final three innings to close out the contest and put a tally in the win column for the Vols.
Tennessee will continue its five-game road swing against Kentucky in Lexington this weekend, April 12-14. The series will open with a 6:30 p.m. contest on Friday before a 2 p.m. showdown on Saturday. The series will conclude at 1 p.m. on Sunday.