The Tennessee baseball team remained undefeated with a 5-4, walk-off win over 29th-ranked UNLV in Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Tennessee baseball player mob junior outfielder Johnny Youngblood (25) after he scored the walk-off, winning run in the Vols' 5-4 victory over 29th-ranked UNLV on Saturday afternoon in Neyland Stadium. The Vols are now 6-0. (UT photo)
One day after holding off UNLV (4-2) for an 8-7 win, Tennessee (6-0) allowed the Runnin’ Rebels to tie the game in the top of the ninth before scoring once in the bottom of the inning to clinch the weekend series.
“It just shows you the resiliency of our team fighting back and holding on, and it shows the resiliency of their team," third-year Vols coach Dave Serrano said. “I told them team after the game that (the Runnin’ Rebels) aren't going to go away. They fought back last night to within a swing of tying it, and they tied it today, but we were fortunate enough to scrap out a run on a miscue.”
The Vols started threatening in the ninth when freshman first baseman Nathaniel Maggio drew a one-out walk. He was replaced by speedy junior outfielder Johnny Youngblood, who quickly stole second base. Senior Taylor Smart then walked to put two runners on base for junior second baseman Will Maddox, who flied out to deep right field.
Youngblood and Smart both tagged-up on the play, but UNLV shortstop Matt McCallister sailed his cut-off throw over the bag at second while trying to get Smart at second base and send the game to extra innings. Youngblood kept running and scored to end the game.
“I love these guys. I love this team,” Serrano said. “I just hope I can last through the year with the tension each and every game.”
UNLV took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but the Vols quickly jumped ahead on sophomore catcher David Houser’s two-run single in the bottom of the inning.
Sophomore left-hander [/b]Andy Cox got a quick call out of the bullpen to relieve struggling starter Kyle Serrano — didn’t finish two innings of work in his second career start.
Cox was great, though, allowing no hits and no runs in 5 1/3 innings, walking three but striking out five.
Vols sophomore pitcher Andy Cox (UT photo)
“They had some great double plays. The defense is always going to be good behind me, and I have trust in them every single game,” Cox said.
Dave Serrano gave Cox the credit that the pitcher wouldn’t give himself.
“Today was about Andy Cox," the coach said. "The tempo was not set early on for us with Kyle, but Andy came in and changed the whole momentum of the game. He wasn't allowing good swings. He was pounding the strike zone. That's what wins games. Guys who throw strikes with tempo leads to great defense behind them.
“We turned a bunch of double plays to get out of innings. That’s when baseball gets fun.”
Tennessee held a 4-2 lead heading in to the ninth inning, but UNLV found the answer it needed when junior catcher Erik VanMeetren drove in a pair off Vols closer Drake Owenby to tie the score.
But the Vols found a way to win another close game against the Runnin’ Rebels.
“It was a good test for us,” Dave Serrano said. “That’s why you play good people; it allows you to see where some of your deficiencies are. “I love what these guys are bringing to the table. It’s not perfect — it’s never going to be perfect — but they’re finding ways to win, and that’s what is important.
The final game of the weekend series between the Vols and UNLV is scheduled to start Sunday at 1 p.m. EST. Sophomore Andrew Lee (1-0, 1.80 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Vols against the Runnin’ Rebels’ Bryan Bonnell (1-0, 1.00).