KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano became the first coach in the 103-year history of the UT program to start his Volunteer managerial career with five straight wins as the Big Orange remained perfect on the season with a series-opening, 9-2 victory over Seton Hall at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Friday night.
The 5-0 start is Tennessee’s first since it opened the 2003 campaign with eight straight victories and marks just the sixth time in program history that it has won five straight to open a season (1978, 1987, 1992, 2001, 2003).
I told the team I want them to feel proud of what we have accomplished so far, but don’t be satisfied,” Serrano said. “We still have things to work on. We are overcoming ourselves and showing some toughness as a team. The only thing that will disappoint me as a coach is if we get bored with success. We can’t have enough success. We realize we have to get better every day, I don’t care what the scoreboard says or what our record is. It doesn’t matter. This coaching staff will never let our team get satisfied with where we are at.”
Senior Chris Pierce led the way with his second career three-hit game, going 3-for-4 with a walk and three runs scored. Four other Vols had two hits each as well, including two-RBI efforts from junior Chris Fritts and senior Wes Walker, as the Big Orange pounded out a season-high 15 hits in the game.
“It doesn’t matter to us [how we score the runs],” Serrano said. “I made a comment to coach Mosiello in the dugout half way through the game about how many free bases we were racking up as a team. Whether it’s hit batters or walks, that’s no different than hits. Everyone gets excited for the ball to go over the fence, but maybe we don’t have that capability all the time so we are going to scratch and claw for everything we get. I think offensively we have done a great job. We got 15 hits tonight, got some free passes and put nine runs on the board. With what our pitching is doing, that makes it pretty comfortable for us.”
Freshman Robbie Kidd picked up his first career victory, allowing just one run on two hits in 4.1 innings of relief, the longest outing of his short career. Junior Drew Steckenrider started the contest, trying his career high with four strikeouts in three frames and freshman David Horne closed out the final 1.2 innings of the game.
“I just wanted to get ahead in the count, pitch to contact, get early outs as much as possible and give our offense a chance to score,” Kidd said. “It feels pretty good to get the win. I’m just glad to have the opportunity to help this team. We are having fun every day and just have to keep doing what we are doing right now.”
The Vols applied the pressure early and often offensively, scoring in six different innings, including the final five times in which they came to bat.
They first cracked the scoreboard in the second with an RBI single by one of Tuesday night’s heroes, Walker. After the Pirates answered with a tally of their own in the top of the third, Tennessee struck for two in both the fourth and fifth innings to jump ahead, 5-1.
Fritts and Walker did the damage in the fourth, using a little small ball to bring in runs with a safety squeeze and sac fly, respectively. Fritts came through again in the fifth as both he and freshman Richard Carter drove in runs with infield singles.
The Vols then got a sac fly from junior Zach Luther in the sixth and an RBI single by freshman Jared Allen in the seventh before scoring on a double play and an error in the eighth.
The Vols will go for the series win on Saturday when they will take on the Pirates at 1 p.m. Junior Zack Godley (1-0, 0.00) is set to take the hill for the Big Orange while Seton Hall will counter with junior southpaw Rick Mangione (0-1, 3.60).
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