KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) – Tennessee took a 3-1 lead into the ninth against No. 17 Ole Miss but the Rebels rallied for three runs to hand the Volunteers a heartbreaking 4-3 defeat on Sunday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
“This game can be very cruel, and it's pretty cruel to us right now,” UT head coach Dave Serrano said. “I'm not so sure that we're [not] making it harder on ourselves, which is evident by the things that we've been doing. We hit ebbs-and-flows as a team and we create negative things on our own and it's unfortunate because it really hurts. I know they're hurting right now, the staff is hurting right now, but no one is going to feel sorry for us. We have to find a way to get out of this and be more successful and that's the bottom line.
“In these kinds of situations there are really no words that are going to make [the players] feel better. I mean, there's nothing you can say. What I did tell them is that Tuesday we get another opportunity to get better as a team and that hopefully this adversity can make us a stronger team. I don't think you need to be a baseball genius to realize where we're falling short in being successful. Yesterday was execution offensively, today it was defense.
“We're just finding ways, and I'm not proud to say this at all, we're finding ways to not be successful. Whether it's us putting too much pressure on ourselves to win instead of just sticking to the fundamentals. I'm ashamed to say that we're not a very fundamental team right now and that's hard for me to say. We're not. We could say youth, we could say inexperience, but we're not doing the things you have to do to be successful.”
Everything looked to be going Tennessee’s way on a beautiful Sunday afternoon as a blast by Christin Stewart off the scoreboard in the eighth gave the Vols an insurance run with senior ace Zack Godley heading back out to the mound looking for his second win over a ranked team in as many weeks.
A key throwing error on a sac bunt attempt after the first two batters reached proved costly however, as a run scored on that play and an RBI groundout followed to tie the game.
The Rebels then grabbed the lead on a single to right by Will Allen and Brett Huber was able to retire UT in order in the bottom of the ninth to record his 10th save of the year – second in two days – and finish off the come-from-behind win for Ole Miss.
Godley (3-5) did finish with his third complete game of the season but suffered the loss after allowing four runs – just one earned – on six hits while striking out seven and walking two in nine innings of work. Tanner Bailey (3-1) picked up the win out of the Ole Miss bullpen.
Stewart and Taylor Smart each had two-hit games for the Big Orange with Stewart driving in a pair of runs and hitting his second career home run. Ethan Bennett added a pinch-hit RBI double and threw a runner out trying to steal second from behind the plate.
With Ole Miss leading, 1-0, Will Maddox got the ball rolling for the Orange and White with a one-out double in the bottom of the sixth inning. After a single by A.J. Simcox, Stewart evened the score with a sacrifice fly to center.
The Vols then took the lead in the seventh when Bennett came on as a pinch hitter after a single by Smart and promptly roped a double down the left-field line to score Smart all the way from first. Stewart then hit a blast off the scoreboard to put UT up by a 3-1 count going into the ninth.
With the loss, the Volunteers drop to 17-21 overall and 5-13 in Southeastern Conference action. Ole Miss improves to 29-12 on the year and 10-8 in league play.
Tennessee will return to the diamond on Tuesday when it travels to Murfreesboro to take on MTSU at 7 p.m. ET.