OXFORD, Miss. – Tennessee got a complete-game effort from sophomore Dalton Saberhagen but it wasn’t enough as No. 24 Ole Miss squeaked out a 4-2 victory in front of 7,545 at Swayze Field on Friday evening.
Making just the third start of his career, Saberhagen (5-2) allowed just four runs while scattering 11 hits over a career-high eight innings of work. It was UT’s first complete game since Steven Gruver fired nine innings in a 4-2 win over Manhattan on March 11, 2011.
“We could not have asked any more of that young man,” UT head coach Dave Serrano said. “Dalton went out there and he battled from pitch one all the way to pitch (95). If anyone would have told me at the start of this game that Dalton Saberhagen was going to go eight innings, throw (95) pitches and give up four runs against what I think is a good offensive team in Ole Miss, I would have probably questioned that, but you can’t question the heart of that young man.
“It’s unfortunate that we just don’t have enough guys right now that have that heart and that is what hurts me. I can’t continue to try to motivate young men that are given the privilege to play each and every day in a great baseball conference for a wonderful university in a wonderful atmosphere. It hurts me to say this, but I feel that we had a team that went through the motions tonight except for maybe a couple of guys and one of them was Dalton Saberhagen.”
Saberhagen struck out two and walked a pair in his eight innings, which smashed his previous career high of five set against Alabama A&M last season.
Seniors Davis Morgan, Chris Pierce and Zach Osborne accounted for all five of Tennessee’s hits on Friday night. Morgan and Pierce each went 2-for-4 at the plate, while Osborne had a single and scored a run. Pierce and freshman Parker Wormsley each drove in a run in the contest.
Bobby Wahl (6-1), who will pitch for Serrano on the 2012 USA Collegiate National Team this summer, picked up the win for Ole Miss, striking out six and allowing two runs on five hits in seven innings.
Former Serrano pupil at Cal State Fullerton R.J. Hively tallied his third save for the Rebels, striking out four in the final two innings.
Tennessee got on the board first, scoring in the top of the second on a safety squeeze by Wormsley after Chris Fritts and Pierce opened the frame with a walk and single, respectively.
Ole Miss stormed back, however, using four straight one-out hits in the home half of the inning to plate three runs and grab a 3-1 lead.
After three scoreless stanzas from both squads, the Big Orange cut its deficit back down to one with a run in the top of the sixth. Osborne punched the first pitch of the frame to right for a leadoff single before a groundout, a walk and a successful double steal put two Vols in scoring position with just one out.
Although Wahl was able to get a strikeout for the second out, Pierce came through with a high chopper to third that fell for an infield single to score Osborne from third and put the score at 3-2.
Just like the first time the Vols scored though, the Rebels had an immediate answer as Auston Bousfield led off the bottom of the inning with a double before scoring on a sac fly two batters later to push the Ole Miss lead to its eventual final resting spot at 4-2.
Tennessee will look to even the series against the Rebels on Saturday when the two squads go back at it at 4 p.m. CT. The contest will be televised by SportSouth with Bob Kesling and former Vol Rusty Ensor on the call.
The Vols will give the ball to sophomore Nick Williams (3-4, 3.67) who nearly had a complete game of his own last Friday night, going 8.2 innings in a win over Vanderbilt. Ole Miss will send righthander Mike Mayers (4-1, 4.01) to the mound.
“I hope Dalton set the tone for what Nick is going to be able to do tomorrow,” Serrano said. “I will obviously relay to the team that I am very unsatisfied with our effort tonight.
“It has nothing to do with the loss, it was just a lack of effort. We did some special things, Dalton was doing some special things, we made some special plays on defense, and it just feels like we are taking things for granted and you can’t do that in this game. That’s what disappoints me.”
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