It was a historic night for ETSU baseball, but it was Tennessee who left happy.
Tennessee (14-17) held off ETSU (18-12) in Johnson City in a hard fought game on both sides to pick up the 4-3 win. The two teams played in front an electric crowd of 1,752 fans, the largest home crowd to watch an ETSU baseball game at the newly opened Thomas Stadium.
“We came in here struggling and you know as a coach, I’ve been around this game long enough, I knew this game wasn’t gonna be easy.” Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano said. “I respect ETSU. They’ve given us battles and to be honest with you they’ve won a lot of them over the past five years in this matchup.”
Both teams showed power early on in the game. ETSU recorded a solo home run off the bat of left fielder Dylan Tritsch in the bottom of the first and then got another from catcher Mason Hershey in the bottom of the third.
UT got a solo jack of their own in the top of the second when first baseman Scott Price hit an opposite field shot that just cleared the left field fence.
Tennessee was able to build a lead on the strenght of two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth to make the game 4-2. ETSU was able to pull within one after getting a run on two hits in the bottom of the sixth, but the Vols pitching staff was able to bare down and keep the Bucs off the board.
Southpaw Andy Cox got the start for the Vols but only lasted three innings after giving up two solo home runs. Eric Martin, Dalton Saberhagen and Trevor Charple were able to hold the Bucs to just one run on four hits between the fourth and eighth inning before handing the ball over to right hander Trevor Bettencourt for a flawless ninth.
Tennessee was able to play a solid game defensively, despite the Bucs hitting the ball hard. The Vols did not commit an error and the pitching staff did not issue a walk.
“We threw a lot of first pitch strikes, we minimized our pitch count and we minimized our walks, and that’s the difference. We gave up two big solo homeruns, but that doesn’t beat you in college baseball most of the time. It’s when you give up the free passes and you make errors and it culminates a big inning.” Serrano said.
The Vols came into the game having lost seven-straight games and the Vols players showed a lot of the emotion after the midweek win. Tennessee designated hitter Christin Stewart helped lead the Vols offensively, getting on base three times with two singles and walk. The freshman also stole a base and scored two of the Vols four runs on the night.
“It definitely boosts our confidence a little bit. It was good win all around, we all did our jobs and got it done.” Stewart said.
The Vols look to carry this momentum into a three game series against Kentucky this weekend in Lexington.
“It was a clean game and it was exactly what this team needed,” Serrano said.