The Tennessee baseball team completed a two-game, midweek sweep of Mississippi Valley State with an 8-4 victory Wednesday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
The Vols (15-10) rallied from an early 3-0 deficit to take down the Delta Devils (6-20) for the second consecutive night and regain some momentum heading into their three-game weekend series against Alabama beginning at 6 p.m. Eastern time Friday.
Here's a complete recap of Wednesday's game, courtesy of UT sports information:
VOLS OVERCOME SLOW START, WARD OFF DELTA DEVILS, 8-4
Tennessee shook off a slow start to complete a midweek sweep of Mississippi Valley State, doubling up the Delta Devils, 8-4, on Wednesday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Junior Drew Steckenrider went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and fired 1.2 innings of shutout relief in the win.
“Well, you know I didn’t like how it started,” Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano said. “I don’t think anyone on the field or in the dugout liked how it started, but when I look back I would rather take that type of game than if we were to come out and really beat them up early on and have a blowout game. Our team needed that. They need to respond to negativity to be good.
“(MSVU) put a three on the board in the first and then from the second inning on, we won five straight innings. That is important to chip away and we talk a lot about winning innings over the course of a game. The way I like to describe it is, the game of baseball is nine one-inning frames. We have to win nine one-inning frames at a time. I thought we did a good job with that.”
Freshman Conner Stevens earned the first win of his collegiate career, yielding just one unearned run on three hits in three strong innings, while junior Nick Blount posted two perfect frames, striking out four to claim his second save in as many days and third of the season.
Senior Josh Allman made his first appearance of the season, tossing 1.1 scoreless out of the pen as well.
Junior Steve Weaver was a perfect 2-for-2 with a run scored at the plate for the Big Orange, and fellow classmate Chris Fritts drove in a pair of runs to improve his team-leading total to 20 on the season.
The contest was the 186th of senior shortstop Zach Osborne's career, tying him with Chris Burke for 10th all-time in school history.
The Delta Devils (6-20) came out of the gates swinging, taking advantage of a pair of walks and getting RBI single from Trey Lacy and Allen Cheek to race out to a 3-0 lead. The Vols (15-10) were able to bounce back to tie the contest at 3-3, however, with a run in the second and two more in the third.
With one out in the second, Wes Walker one-hopped a double off the left-field wall and moved to third on a single by Weaver. Fritts followed with a safety squeeze that wasn't quite far enough from the mound, but Walker raced home and just beat the throw to the plate after the pitcher went to first for the out.
An inning later, some strong baserunning helped UT put together a two-run stanza. After getting hit by a pitch, Osborne took off for second as Will Maddox bounced a ball to short. MVSU went to second for the force out, but Osborne slid in safely just ahead of the tag. After a walk loaded the bases, Steckenrider ripped an 0-1 pitch to right for a two-run double that tied the contest at 3-3.
Although MSVU took advantage of a pair of two-out walks and a throwing error to regain the lead in the top of the fourth, Tennessee answered right back in the home half of the inning. Weaver got the ball rolling with a leadoff double to right. Fritts followed with a bouncer to short, but the throw got away from the first baseman, allowing Weaver to score to tie things back up at 4-4.
Following a sac bunt by Wormsley and a pop-up to second, Maddox came through with a big two-out double to right-center to plate Fritts and give UT its first lead of the game at 5-4.
The Vols then added another two runs in the fifth, getting a two-out single to center by Fritts and scoring on a wild pitch to take a three-run advantage, 7-4. Steckenrider finished off the scoring with an RBI single to center in the eighth, driving in his third run of the game.
Tennessee will return to SEC play this weekend when it hosts a three-game series against Alabama, March 30-April 1. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. on Friday, 1 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. The second game of the series will be televised live on CSS with Bernie Guenther and former Vol Rusty Ensor on the call.
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