UT Baseball: Vols Drop Two, Win One in Houston


Tennessee ended the Houston College Classic with a disappointing 11-1 loss to the Rice Owls on Sunday. They finished the weekend with a record of 1-2, beating Texas 5-4 and losing to Houston 7-4.

Friday March 2nd : Houston: 7 – Tennessee: 4

Houston’s ace, Jared Ray, had his finest outing of the season on Friday as the Cougars handed the Vols their second straight loss. He pitched seven innings of 5 hit, no-walk, 1 run ball. He struck out each of Tennessee’s first 6 batters, and 10 of the 25 he faced. Those 10 K’s were a career high for the Senior Right-Hander.

Conversely, Drew Steckenrider had his worst outing of the season on Friday. He allowed 3 runs on 3 hits and 3 walks in 3.1 innings. He did strike 5 Cougars out, but his pitch totals soared. He threw 84 before being taken out of the game in the 4th.

Both teams bullpens struggled to an extent in the game. Robbie Kidd and Conner Stevens finished off the game for the Vols. They allowed 4 runs on 10 hits and 3 walks in 4.2 innings. Stevens allowed 3 of those 4 runs, but he settled down towards the end of his stint and ended up with 4 strikeouts.

Houston’s Matt Hernandez came dangerously close to blowing a comfortable 7-1 lead in the 9th. He threw a perfect 8th, but allowed 3 runs on 5 hits in the 9th. However, Mo Wiley came on and cleaned up the mess, earning his second save of the season by getting the final out of the game.
Tennessee’s offense got off to a very slow start, not getting its first hit until Chris Fritts doubled to Center to lead off the fifth inning. He would later come in to score on a Wes Walker single to make the game 3-1. The offense stalled again until the 9th, but the effort proved to be too little to late. Jared Allen, Davis Morgan, Wes Walker, and Ethan Bennett all had RBI’s for the Vols, and Chris Fritts also had a good game with 2 hits in 4 at bats as well as a run scored.

The Cougars also struggled early at the plate, managing only 2 hits and striking out 5 times in the first 3 innings. They broke out in the 4th, however, scoring 3 runs despite only getting 1 hit. They jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. They matched Tennessee’s run in the 5th inning, before adding 2 in the 6th and 1 in the 7th. Cougar catcher John Cannon had a fantastic night, providing his team with 3 hits and 3 RBI’s in 5 at bats. Price Jacobs got on base in all but one of his plate appearances, amassing 2 hits and 2 walks in 5 attempts. Chase Jensen was responsible for 4 of Houston’s 7 runs, he totaled 3 runs and drove in 1.

The Vols showed heart in the late innings on Friday, but came up just short. This team has shown several times already this season that they do not quit, and this game was just another example of this. No one likes to lose, but this was an important lesson for this young Vols team.

Saturday March 3rd : Tennessee 5 – Texas 4

The Vols showed strength in the face of adversity Saturday afternoon, as they responded to two straight losses with a 5-4 win over Texas. This was especially impressive considering Texas came into the game riding the high of handing No. 4 Rice their first loss of the season on Friday.

The Vols offense picked up right where it left off from Friday in the 1st inning Saturday. They scored 4 runs on 3 hits in the inning. Tennessee also took advantage of a walk, a hit batsmen, and an error. Drew Steckenrider and Davis Morgan each singled in 2 runs to total the Vols’ 4 runs on the inning. The offense stalled after that, managing just one more run when Zach Osborne doubled in Zach Luther in the 5th. The offense compiled 10 hits, 2 walks, and 5 strikeouts on the day.

Zach Godley delivered yet another good outing for Tennessee. He gave up 3 runs on 8 hits and only 1 walk in 7 innings of strong pitching. He struck out 3 longhorn batters, and only threw 68 pitches on the outing. Coach Serrano had nothing but good things to say about the Junior Right-Hander, “”I was excited to give him this opportunity,” Serrano said. “He’s been pretty mellow through this whole deal, especially given the fact that he hasn’t started a game in his career here. I’m proud of how he stepped up here today. It wasn’t perfect, you know, he gave up some hits. I give credit to Texas, they made him pay for some balls up in the zone with two strikes, but he stayed within himself and he deserved that win today.”

Nick Williams came on to finish the game for the Vols. He has looked very strong on the season, but he had a shaky outing on Saturday. He allowed the Longhorn to close the gap to 5-4 when he allowed a 9th inning 1 run triple off the bat of Brooks Marlow. The triple came with 2 outs in the 9th, and Williams was able to re-group and retire Mark Payton to end the game and receive his 2nd save on the season. He allowed 2 hits and 1 run while walking 1 in 2 innings.

The Longhorn offense slowly etched away at the Vols’ early 4-0 lead. They added 1 run in the 3rd, 2 in the 7th, and 1 in the 9th before ultimately coming up just short. Brooks Marlow led the offensive charge for Texas. He was responsible for 3 of 4 Longhorn runs. He was 3-3 on the night with 2 RBI’s and one run scored. Jacob Felts and Tim Maitland both provided their team with an RBI apiece, and Felts scored 2 runs as well.

Hoby Milner and John Curtiss split the duites on the mound for the Longhorns. Milner settled down after he gave up 4 runs in the 1st and only allowed 1 more runner to come home to score. He ended up giving up 5 hits, 5 runs (4 earned), and 1 walk in 4 innings. He also struck out 2 batters. John Curtiss replaced Milner in the 5th and provided Texas with 4 innings of 2 hit, no run ball. He struck out 5 and walked 2 in his outing.

Regardless of Texas’ record, this was a huge win for the Vols. Texas is a perrenial powerhouse in College Baseball, and even though their record isn’t great on the season, it is still impressive for this upstart Vols team. Coach Serrano echoed this sentiment after the game. He said, “I mean, the confidence — I’m grateful that we’re able to be in this tournament because it kind of prepares our team for what we’re about to go into in a couple weeks with the SEC competition we have. That was a big win. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. We try to say it’s just another game, it wasn’t just another game. We played the University of Texas and we were able to come out on top.”

Sunday March 4th: Rice 11 – Tennessee 1

The Volunteers couldn’t end the weekend on a high note as they were dismantled handily by No. 4 Rice. Nothing went the Vols way the entire night, and the team left Houston with a sour taste in their mouth.

The Owls were energized by a terrific performance from Freshman pitcher Jordan Stephens. The right-hander spun a gem Sunday night only giving up 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 8 batters in 7 innings of no-run baseball. John Simms allowed the lone Vol run when he came into the game in relief in the 8th inning. He gave up 3 hits and a run in his one inning. J.T. Chargois came on for the Owls in the 9th and delivered a perfect inning with 1 strikeout.

The Rice offense was equally as good, totaling 11 runs on 17 hits and drawing 3 walks. Christian Stringer and Michael Fuda had especially good nights at the plate, each going 3-6. Stringer came in to score 2 runs and he also drove in 1. Fuda came in to score 1 run and he drove in 2. 7 of 9 Owl starters had hits in the contest.

The outlook was much more bleak for Tennessee Sunday night. Nick Blount struggled on the mound, giving up 7 runs (6 earned) and 10 hits in 5.2 innings. Carter Watson delivered 1.1 innings of no run, no hit, 2 walk ball. Left-handed Freshman Joseph Vanderplas struggled mightily, giving up 3 hits, a walk, and 3 runs while only retiring one batter. Dalton Saberhagen came in to clean up the mess and gave up 1 hit in 2/3 of an inning. Eric Martin finished the night for the Vols, he gave up 3 hits and a run in 1 inning.

The Vol batters did not fare any better. They managed only 5 hits and 1 run on the night. Jared Allen scored the only Tennessee run on the night, he was 1-3 on the game. Will Maddox drove in Allen with an infield single in the 8th, he was also 1-3 on the night. Steve Weaver came through for 2 of the teams 5 hits, he finished 2-3.

This was yet another learning experience for the Vols, as they faced a superior opponent and were beaten badly. This is a good look forward to what SEC play will be like, and the question now is: how will the team respond to demoralizing defeat?

The Houston College Classic wasn’t everything Tennessee thought it might be, as they come out with a 1-2 record on the weekend. With that said, there are several encouraging things to take out of this weekend. First and foremost, this is invaluable experience for a young baseball team. They played very good clubs this weekend, and each game should help them going forward into the SEC season. Furthermore, they got a taste of victory Saturday night against a Texas team that is much better than their record might indicate. However, they ended the weekend with a demoralizing loss to an exceptionally good Rice club.

Going forward, this team must put the losses this weekend behind them. It will be interesting to see how they respond to the loss to Rice as they move forward into the season. Tennessee will soon be into SEC play, so they need to put the loss behind them quickly. They will get their chance to respond positively on Wednesday, March 7th when they take on Ball State at 6 PM, and again this upcoming weekend as they have a series scheduled with Louisiana-Monroe. These will be important games for the Vols so I encourage everyone to come out and support the team, Lindsay-Nelson Stadium is a great place to see a ballgame.