After a chilling couple of days with the bats on Friday and Saturday, the Tennessee Volunteers baseball team decided to take it easy on Sunday.
When the time came for the Vols to come out and take batting practice, they didn't, opting to stay inside and work with their coaches.
The change in routine worked, as the Vols strung together 13 hits and avoided their first sweep of the season, defeating the Auburn Tigers, 8-6, at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
"We struggled the last couple of games with the bats for whatever reason, but we got back to being us to today," senior third baseman Taylor Smart said on Sunday. "We didn't take BP today and got our work in the cage with our coaches and I think that played a huge role in it.
"It kind of cleared our heads and let us get back to what we do."
Smart kicked off the offensive production for the Vols in the bottom of the second, when he hit a ringing double to left center with two outs to keep the inning alive. Five pitches later, sophomore catcher David Houser brought him home with a single.
Tennessee's fast start continued as two batters later, senior Scott Price, who went 6-of-13 (.462) in the series, hit a triple to right-center, scoring Houser and Will Maddox, who had singled one at-bat earlier.
"It's a lot easier for the pitchers to pitch with a lead," Price said. "Hitting is contagious. It's just one of those things where if some gets up there and gets a quality at-bat and putting good passes on balls; that seems to transfer from person to person and it helps out in the long run."
On this day, the hitting was contagious, especially with two outs, as the Vols managed to string together eight hits and seven of their eight RBI on the day with two gone, something that carried this team early on in the season.
"That was a huge part of the success for the game today," Smart said. "We were really rolling, and that was a huge part of it. We had a lot of two-out RBIs. It ended up being a good day for us and got back to being the Vols."
The two-out magic struck again in the third, as freshman first baseman Nathaniel Maggio drew a 3-2 walk, which allowed Smart to plate him and Nick Senzel, who doubled earlier in the inning.
The Tigers, however, fought back, scoring off a Blake Austin three-run shot in the fourth and a Ryan Tella home run in the sixth.
But Tennessee's two-out resiliency shined again in the bottom half of the sixth when the Vols pushed across one on a triple by Maddox, which was followed up by a Price single on the very next pitch.
UT's two runs in the sixth, as well as its one run in the eighth, proved to be exactly what the Vols needed to avoid the sweep, as Andy Cox and Drake Owenby surrendered two runs in the ninth – both were given to Cox – and stranded two men.
Two out hitting was the only thing going well for the bats on Sunday, however.
The Vols got a big-time contribution from the bottom of the order – Smart, Houser and Maddox – who all combined to go 8-for-11 (.727) and drive in five runs, while crossing home plate six times.
"I hit third all year last year, so when they are on – and I think that's the way our lineup is set up – it's just like I'm hitting third all over again," said Price, who drove in three runs on Sunday. "They did a great job of getting on and fortunately enough, they were on when I got to hit."
Like Sunday, the bats played a large role in the first two games of the series.
However, for the Vols, it was their absence that played a role in their two losses.
The Vols opened up the series by losing 3-2 on Friday, but nearly clawed their way to victory.
After scoring two runs in the eighth to draw within one, Tennessee loaded the bases with only one out in the ninth, but were unable to push any across.
"You couldn't have scripted the ninth inning any better for us," freshman pitcher Kyle Serrano said on Friday. "We had the right guys on base, we had the right guys coming up, we just didn't get the at-bats we needed to come out on top."
Saturday's contest was more of the same.
Tennessee's only two runs came in the eighth as Auburn's starting pitcher Keegan Thompson (5-0, 0.78 ERA) only allowed the Vols to scrap together five hits during his 7.1 innings on the mound, as the Tigers came away with a 4-2 victory.
"He was pounding the outer half," said sophomore outfielder Christin Stewart following Saturday's loss. "He stayed consistent, low in the zone. They didn't come in much unless it was a mistake."
With the sweep avoided, head coach Dave Serrano said he believes Sunday's win will prove to be a bigger deal once the season nears it's conclusion.
"I think when we look back after 30 conference games that this was a big game," Dave Serrano said. "Winning this game was huge. I commend our team. After being down the first two games, we came out and scrapped and clawed and had some much better at-bats offensively."