After experiencing several frustrating moments in Game 1 of the series, including limited offensive production and inexperience, head coach Dave Serrano’s Volunteers were in need of a strong performance to recover from the previous night.
The Orange and White did not disappoint.
Led by a relentless scoring attack that saw eight of the nine offensive starters reach base at least once, Tennessee (2-4) used a five run fifth to pull away and cruise to an 11-2 victory over Arizona State (3-2) in Game 2 of the weekend at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
“I’m proud of the way we responded to last night’s game,” Serrano said. “There was some frustration at the plate (last night), but I thought we came out and swung the bats well. I saw a lot of positive things.”
Headlined by sophomore “veteran” Will Maddox, who finished the afternoon 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored, the Tennessee offense took advantage of Sun Devil mistakes all afternoon, including four Arizona State errors and an equal number of hit batsmen.
The third baseman’s fifth inning RBI single plated two, and ultimately put the final dagger into the Sun Devil hearts, extending the Volunteer lead from four to six.
“My philosophy has always been there is no one guy that’s bigger than the team, but Will (Maddox) does add a lot to our team,” Serrano said. “When he’s on base, he’s scoring. It’s not a coincidence today that he was on base a lot, and we score a lot of runs.”
“I just need to find a way to get on base because I know we have good hitters behind us,” Maddox added. “(We) just need to find ways to score runs, and that’s what we did tonight.”
Despite the lopsided affair, the scoring was back and forth in the early stages of the game. The teams traded single runs in each of the first two innings as early miscues highlighted each squad’s scoreboard debut.
With two down in the first, freshman starter Aaron Quillen surrendered back-to-back hits to put runners on second and third. The Kingsport native seemed to have averted damage after Arizona State third baseman Dalton Dintale swung and missed for strike three, but the wild pitch rolled away allowing Dintale to reach first safely, bringing in the Sun Devils’ first run.
Tim Esmay’s squad returned the favor in the bottom half of the inning as the Volunteers pushed across their first run of the series. Maddox was plunked in the shoulder, and after a sacrifice bunt moved him to second, two consecutive infield errors brought home the Tennessee lead-off man to tie the score at one.
“I was a little sore (after the hit by pitch), but I’m fine now,” Maddox said.
A solo home run in the second from designated hitter Tony DiMartino briefly pushed the Arizona State lead to 2-1, but that would be the final time the Sun Devils scored. After Quillen was pulled before the fourth, relievers Drake Owenby (1-0) and Eric Martin combined for a three-hit shutout over the final six innings.
“Quillen got off to a little bit of a rocky start, but he minimized (the damage) in some innings, and kept us in the game,” Serrano said. “I thought Owenby against that left handed lineup settled them down a little bit to be able to give the ball to Eric (Martin) with a big lead.”
Tennessee answered the DiMartino blast with a Jeff Moberg RBI single in the bottom half of the second, and took the lead for good in the third by way of a Pierce Bily safety squeeze and a David Houser RBI single.
“There’s always going to be something that (the coaching staff) can find that we could do better, but I’m trying to dwell on the good things we’re doing,” Serrano said. “After a tough loss last night and losing four of five games, we come out and play good baseball for nine innings.”
Tennessee will look to clinch the series Sunday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium as they send freshman lefty Andy Cox (1-0) to the mound against Arizona State southpaw Ryan Kellogg. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m.