KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee finished off the series sweep of Northern Illinois with a 7-2 victory in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
“I was proud of the way we played,” Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano said. “Doubleheaders are hard to sweep. Sweeps are tough to come by, no matter who you are playing. This is our first series, our first weekend of the year and we have a lot to get to. Some stuff came out that we will have to get back to the drawing board and fix, but we still walk away with three wins and are excited about that.
“This was a big step and answers some questions. I saw some really good things and I saw some things that we are going to have to clean up a little bit. I got to see where our shortcomings are, but I am really excited about what I see materializing in this young pitching staff.”
On the mound, junior Nick Blount tallied the victory with four scoreless frames. With his effort, Tennessee’s three starters this weekend combined for 12.0 shutout innings.
Sophomore Carter Watson also added four strong innings of relief, striking out a career-high four batters while allowing just one run on two hits.
Leading the way offensively were junior Zach Luther who scored two runs and collected three hits, including a pair of doubles, and senior Chris Pierce who drove in three runs and stole a base. First-year Vols Will Maddox and Steve Weaver each had two hits as well.
After posting six RBIs in the first game of the day, junior Chris Fritts added another in the nightcap to give him seven on the day, exactly half of his entire total from the 2011 campaign.
“There was really nothing different at the plate for me except mentally, the sense of togetherness we have as a unit,” Fritts said. “When I get in the batter’s box, it’s never one-on-one. Being in the right-handed batter’s box, I have a direct view of the dugout and I feel like I have my teammates in the batter’s box with me.
“It’s really cool because I have never experienced that before and it’s a really cliché thing to explain, but I know that if I don’t get it done someone behind me is going to get it done. There is just faith in our teammates that we are a unit and the togetherness the coaching staff is bringing us is paying dividends for us now and will in the long run. We put so much work into our off season and our game as a team and really learning the system and buying into what out coaching staff brings to the table. It feels great to get a taste for how effective it is and understand that.”
Tennessee put at least one runner on base in all 16 innings in which it came to bat in Saturday’s doubleheader and has done so in 20 straight frames dating back to Friday’s season opener. Over the first three games combined, the Big Orange offense was retired in order just twice.
“In a new system with a lot of new guys there is still a lot we have to get ironed out,” Serrano said. “We had a lot of breakdowns, but still come away with three wins. We won’t brush it under the rug and say we’re 3-0. There is work still to be done and there will always be work to be done.”
The Vols will be back in action on Tuesday when they host Western Kentucky at 3 p.m.
FRITTS’ SIX RBIs LEAD VOLS PAST HUSKIES IN DOUBLEHEADER OPENER, 10-5
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Junior Chris Fritts pounded out a career-high six RBIs with a bases-loaded double and a three-run home run to lead Tennessee to a series-clinching, 10-5, victory over Northern Illinois in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Fritts’ first blow came as part of a six-run UT second inning in which the Vols sent 11 batters to the plate. His second helped fend off a Husky rally after they cut the lead to just one with five unanswered runs in the fifth through seventh frames.
Fellow classmate Drew Steckenrider also had a strong day at the plate, going 2-for-2 with a single, double, RBI, run scored and two walks, while senior Wes Walker drove in a pair of runs, both coming on safety squeezes. Freshman Parker Wormsley added an RBI single in his first collegiate at-bat to round out the scoring.
Making his first career start as a Vol, junior Zack Godley twirled four shutout innings to pick up the win, striking out three and allowing just three hits on an ultra-efficient 40 pitches, including 29 strikes.
“I had a little bit of anxiousness before I started stretching and throwing but when I got on the bullpen mound and started warming up coach said he could tell that I started to settle down and started throwing good low strikes and I just took that out to the mound with me,” Godley said.
Sophomore Nick Williams closed out the contest with 2.2 innings of perfect relief to pick up his fifth career save.