The Tennessee baseball team took care of business at home this weekend, as they swept Alabama for only the second time in UT history.
The SEC series win was the Vols’ (18-10, 5-4) first since sweeping Georgia in 2010.
“I’m very proud of our guys — it wasn’t an easy week by any stretch of the imagination,” Serrano said. “We came out 5-0 ... more importantly we were 3-0 in the SEC this weekend, and to get above .500 puts us in the hunt.”
Despite being out-hit in the series 31-27, the Vols used big innings at the plate and buckled down on the mound when they needed to against the Tide (9-19, 1-8).
The first game of the series set the tone for UT.
After struggling from the mound and making a couple careless plays in the field, the Vols trailed 6-0 heading into the bottom of the third inning, but didn’t hesitate to cut into the lead.
UT led off the third with four consecutive extra-base hits, highlighted by a two-run home run that hit off the right field foul pole by sophomore second baseman Will Maddox. The offensive surge trimmed the Tide lead to 6-4.
“It couldn’t have come at any better of a moment,” Maddox said of his first career home run. “It was a situation to help us come back and get some momentum.”
The game-changing play came in the sixth, when senior left fielder Chris Pierce stole home safely.
It was the first straight-steal of home since Khayyan Norfork did it in the 2010 season for the Vols.
“I think that was the momentum-changer that allowed us to win this game,” Serrano said. “When things like that happen it’s demoralizing and I think that really got our team to the level that it felt like this could be ours tonight.”
UT ace Zack Godley settled down after giving up five runs in the third, as the junior went seven innings and gave up 11 hits, eight runs (seven earned), and struck out five while laboring through 103 pitches.
“You got to tip your hat to Zack,” Serrano said. “It wasn’t his best night but he gave us a chance to win, and he held them where we needed to be able to catch up.”
The Vols finished off the comeback in the eighth inning by plating four more runs, which came off a walk, groundout and two wild pitches.
Junior pitcher Carter Watson picked up his second win of the season with a scoreless eighth, and fellow junior Nick Blount picked up his fourth save of the season, closing out the 10-8 victory for UT.
“We fought and clawed and did a lot of good things, and then in the end they kind of gave it to us with the pass balls, but we’ll take it any way we can get it,” Serrano said.
The Vols carried their momentum into Saturday’s game, which was picked up in the bottom of the sixth on Sunday at noon after being postponed due to bad weather.
After trailing early 2-0, they scored four runs in the fourth inning to take the lead for good.
UT’s bullpen shut down the Tide the rest of the way without giving up a run in six innings.
Junior Drew Steckenrider earned the victory pitching 3.2 scoreless innings, in which he threw 44 of his 67 pitches for strikes.
Blount pitched a scoreless ninth for his fourth save this week and fifth on the season.
Senior first baseman Davis Morgan led UT’s offensive attack with a 3-for-3 showing and an RBI double in the 4-2 win.
With the series already clinched, the Vols headed into the final game of the series looking for the sweep.
They did just that as Osborne’s two-run single in the sixth with the bases loaded led UT to a 5-3 victory to end the series.
UT starting pitcher Nick Williams’ scoreless innings streak as a starter came to an end at 13.2 in the fourth, as the Tide got to him for three runs to tie the game. Serrano was ejected in the inning as well for arguing missed calls and delaying the game on a mound visit. It marked his first ejection during his tenure at Tennessee.
The Vols broke the tie in the bottom of the sixth off a two-out bases loaded single by Osborne that plated two to take a 5-3 lead.
Blount closed out the game in the seventh for the save, his fifth in the team’s last five games. The bullpen didn’t allow a single run in 11.1 innings.
Watson got his second win of the series by pitching 2.1 scoreless innings.
“Our pitching staff has been great and it was the reason why we swept,” Osborne said. “They kept us in all three games and Blount was huge for us and hopefully he can keep that going.”
UT hit .325 as a team in the series. Osborne paced the offense going 6-for-9 with three RBIs.
The next game for the Vols will be at home against the Memphis Tigers on Wednesday. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.