Zack Godley was pretty good Friday night aside from a few pitches.
Tennessee freshman shortstop A.J. Simcox is tagged by Arizona State senior catcher Max Rossiter during the fourth inning of the 20th-ranked Sun Devils' 4-0 win over the Vols on Friday night in Lindsey Nelson Stadium. (UT photo)
Even his biggest “mistake” wasn’t really a mistake. It just got hit like one.
Tennessee’s senior ace served up a three-run home run in the top of the fourth that paved the way for No. 20 Arizona State’s 4-0 win Friday night in Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
UT (1-4) will hope for more at the plate the next two days against the Sun Devils (3-1), though. Godley didn’t get anything resembling support Friday night, and a crowd of 2,202 watched the Vols drop their home opener for the first time since 1999.
“I thought that was a typical SEC Friday night game right there,” second-year Vols coach Dave Serrano said. “Both (pitchers) locked up.”
Arizona State’s ace was just a bit better, though.
The Vols’ youngest-in-program-history roster failed to get much going against Sun Devils junior ace Trevor Williams, but Godley nearly matched him pitch-for-pitch in seven solid innings, allowing just four hits while striking out nine, walking four and throwing 55 of his 94 pitches for strikes.
But Godley would like to have a couple of them — at least one of them — back. Sophomore right fielder Trever Allen poked a low, first-pitch curveball just over the wall and into The Porch in left field for a three-run home run that pushed the Devils’ lead to 4-0 with one out in the top of the fourth.
“I threw a good curveball. It was down,” Godley said. “It just ... it looked like he was expecting it. I don’t know if I had tipped the pitch or whatnot, but he just looked like he was right on it. He squared it up and got a good swing on it.”
UT freshman OF Christin Stewart (UT photo)
Godley worked out of a couple jams and settled in to keep UT in the game, and freshman right-hander Trevor Charpie held ASU scoreless in the eighth and ninth, but the Vols only threatened the Devils a couple of times and failed to score on any of them on a chilly night in Knoxville.
“I definitely located my fastball down a lot better than what I did last week,” Godley said. “UNLV got a lot of good swings on me last week on my fastball, simply because I was leaving my fastball up. I did a lot better locating that down this week, but I’ve still got to work on my change-up. I’ve still got to get better with that. It’s a work in progress every week, and hopefully I’ll keep coming back and getting better.
“It wasn’t too bad (tonight). Still, it could have been better. I have to cut down on my walks. I walked five people, and that’s not acceptable through seven innings. I’ve got to cut those down.”
Serrano wasn’t thrilled with Godley’s four walks and one hit batter, but he said his ace “battled” and pitched well enough to give UT a chance against a “really good” opponent.
“I thought Allen hit a great, first-pitch curveball,” Serrano said of the Devils’ three-run blast. “It was a good pitch down in the zone. He just went down and got it and beat him on that pitch. It was a big hit.
“You just need to tip your cap where it needs to be tipped. Their pitching out-dueled us tonight, and it was a well-played game by them.”
Williams (1-0), who played with Godley (0-1) this summer on the USA Collegiate National Team coached by Serrano, was even better, surrendering three hits and no runs while striking out eight and walking just one in seven sharp innings.
“The difference in the game was that Trevor Williams, who I think was lights-out tonight, I think was ball one on only two of our hitters in his seven innings of work,” Serrano said. “That was probably the difference. He’s already got good stuff, and our guys were getting defensive when it was 0-1 already. It’s typical of the game of baseball.
UT senior pitcher Zack Godley (UT photo)
“I had an experience with (Williams) this summer on Team USA, and I knew he was gonna be good. But Zach Godley was good, too. They just made him pay more than we made Trevor pay.”
Freshman left-hander Brett Lilek struck out the side for ASU in the eighth and then overcame back-to-back, one-out walks and another walk with two outs to ultimately retire the Vols in the ninth.
UT freshman right fielder Christin Stewart worked Lilek deep into the at-bat before grounding out to the first baseman, who jogged to the bag to record the final out.
“I went in with confidence,” Stewart said. “(Lilek) is a good pitcher, but he started to get a little wild. He came with a fastball, and I fouled it off, and then he came with a slider at the end and got me off-balance a little bit.”
The Vols came close to getting going a couple of times, but Williams and the Devils made plays to shut them down every time. Allen made a running catch at the wall in right center field to rob UT junior first baseman Scott Price of extra bases in the first inning, and center fielder Kasey Coffman made a leaping catch at the wall to take a hit away from Stewart in the second inning.
“It was a little frustrating, but you’ve got to give kudos to their center fielder,” Stewart said. “He made a few amazing plays out there. ...The wind played a little factor, too. It was blowing in all day, so you really had to hit it on a line (to get it out of the park). You couldn’t really get any air under it.
“This happens a lot in baseball. They’ll start falling. Trust me. They’ll start to fall.”
UT’s best chance came in the fourth inning, when the Vols put three runners on base but ran themselves out of a chance to tie the game at 1-all.
UT baseball coach Dave Serrano (UT photo)
Freshman shortstop A.J. Simcox drew a walk to lead off the fourth and advance to second on a fielder’s choice, but from there he misread a bloop base hit from freshman designated hitter Andrew Lee and had to stop a third. Junior second baseman Taylor Smart swung and missed on a hit-and-run moments later, and Simcox darted for home plate when Devils catcher Max Rossiter fired toward second base.
ASU cut off the throw, though, and shortstop Drew Stankiewicz’s throw just beat Simcox to the plate, and the umpire called Simcox out on a bang-bang play that could have gone either way.
“The breakdown probably started that was when (Simcox) was on second,” Serrano said. “The outfielders were playing really deep all night, and it took away some balls that we hit pretty hard. That’s a tough read, because when Lee swings there it was off the end of the bat, but it looked for sure like it was gonna clear the infielder’s head. He probably should have got a better jump from second, and he (scores). And the play at the plate, we were on a hit-and-run, we swing through it, and when they come up and throw (to second) we’re going to the plate.
“(Simcox) tried to slide from the outside in. If he goes power slide into home plate, he beats it, ‘cause he was already close enough. But as I saw when I got out there, his slide, he tried to go around the plate and didn’t go straight into the plate. That’s why he was out.”
UT put runners on the corners again moments later on Smart’s infield single, but Stewart flied out to left field to end the inning and allow the Devils to preserve their 1-0 lead.
“We hit the ball on screws a couple of times, and I know Trevor had to defend himself a couple of times back up the box on some good at-bats by us,” Serrano said. “But I just got done telling the team that we can’t go back to the locker room and say, ‘Boy, we’re unlucky right now,’ ‘cause some of that happened in Las Vegas, too — especially a couple of times at the end of the game.
“You know, we can’t go back and say, ‘Well, the luck’s not on our side right now,’ ‘cause there’s too many times that it’s happened. That’s what teams that aren’t successful say.
“We’ve just got to find other ways to win, and just create some (productive) innings.”
UT freshman OF Vincent Jackson (UT photo)
The Vols will send freshman Aaron Quillen right-hander (0-0, 1.80 ERA) to the mound against Arizona State sophomore left-hander Adam McCreery (0-0, 12.00) in Saturday’s Game Two. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.
UT freshman left-hander Andy Cox (1-0, 4.50) is scheduled to start on the mound against Arizona State freshman left-hander Ryan Kellogg (1-0, 0.00) in Sunday’s Game Three. First pitch on Sunday is also scheduled for 1 p.m.
Serrano said he expects the Vols to come out and play much better Saturday against the rest of ASU’s pitching staff, and Stewart agreed.
“Friday games are usually low-scoring games, and it doesn’t usually run up that high because you have your best pitchers on the mound that day,” Stewart said. “Offensively, I still have confidence in us. I feel like we’re a really good group of guys, and I feel like we’re gonna produce runs when we need to.
“Games like this make us a lot better. Coach Serrano scheduled our first, like, out-of-SEC games against really tough teams. We need to play the best to eventually try and be the best.”
Godley said he’s not too discouraged by a tough start, either, saying the Vols are close to performing well enough on the mound and at the plate to start winning.
“I think we’re definitely gonna keep getting better and keep growing as a team,” the pitcher said. “I’m definitely not worried as far as my performance. I’m just gonna keep coming out and trying to get better each time, and those guys are gonna keep hitting the ball. They’ve hit the ball well every game we’ve played. You can’t fault them. They’ve played well so far.
“We’re just gonna keep getting better.”
UT freshman pitcher Trevor Charpie (UT photo)
Serrano echoed the same thought he’s had since preseason practice, that UT has put a better roster on the field this season and will battle through some tough lessons before putting things together down the stretch.
“This is a good test for us. We knew it wasn’t gonna be easy,” Serrano said. “I said to my staff, I even said it during (pregame) infield-outfield, and I think you guys in the media can see it, you can look out on the field and see a lot of good baseball players out there. They just need to grow up.
“I’m not far off-base. I’m not just saying things to stay positive. This is gonna be a good baseball team. I’ll be disappointed if by the time we get into March we don’t start going in the direction we want us to go. We might not have a great record before then. But it’s not what your record is at the start. It’s what you’re doing from the middle of the season to the end.”
Contact Wes Rucker at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.twitter.com/wesrucker247 or www.facebook.com/wesrucker247