KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UTsports.com)- - Austin Peay took advantage of unearned runs in both the seventh and eighth innings before breaking the game open with a three-run ninth as it defeated Tennessee, 8-4, on Tuesday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Sophomore Dalton Saberhagen (4-1) suffered the tough-luck loss, the first of his collegiate career, despite allowing just one unearned run in an inning of work.
Freshman Conner Stevens posted the best relief appearance of his young career, holding the Govs off the board for a career-high 4.1 innings, while striking out two. Junior Drew Steckenrider continued his terrific work out of the bullpen as well, fanning three in two frames of action.
Tennessee managed just six hits on the night, the biggest of which was a two-run home run by Chris Pierce in the bottom of the first. It was his second longball of the season and UT's first since Steckenrider hit one at South Carolina on April 8.
The Big Orange drops to 22-19 on the year with the loss, while the Govs improve to 25-15 overall.
Austin Peay opened up a 3-0 lead in almost no time at all, striking with a two-run home run by Jon Clinard and an RBI single from Cody Hudson before Stevens came on to get the final out in the top of the first.
The Vols answered right back with a two-run blast over "The Porch" in left by Chris Pierce in the home half of the frame before a bases-loaded RBI groundout by Will Maddox tied the contest in the bottom of the second.
From there, the combination of Stevens and Saberhagen held the Govs off the scoreboard for the next five frames before they grabbed a 4-3 lead thanks to an unearned run in the seventh. After getting a leadoff single, Austin Peay took advantage of UT's first error on the night to put runners on the corners with nobody out. A bloop single to right by Reed Harper then put APSU back out in front.
Steckenrider came out of the bullpen to limit the damage though, getting two big strikeouts, sandwiched around a tapper back to the mound to hold the Governors to just the one run.
Austin Peay used another unearned run in the eighth to tack on an insurance run. After two quick outs to start the stanza, a walk, stolen base and UT's second fielding error in as many innings allowed another run to cross the plate and push the APSU lead to two at 5-3.
The Vols put the first two runners on in the bottom of the eighth, but couldn't execute a sac bunt, striking out on a two-strike attempt. The runner at second was picked off by the catcher on the play and then a groundout ended the inning.
Tennessee tried to post a comeback in the ninth as well, using a pair of hit batters to put two on with one out. Ethan Bennett stroked an RBI single to left to put the score at 8-4, but APSU closer Tyler Rogers, twin brother of Kentucky pitcher Taylor Rogers, came on to induce a game-ending 6-4-3 double play for his eighth save of the season.
The Vols will hit the road again this weekend as they make the trek to square off with Auburn, April 27-29 at Plainsman Park. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. CT on Friday, 3 p.m. CT on Saturday and 1 p.m. CT on Sunday.