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Vols cruise past Antelopes, 7-1

2763 days ago
Tennessee Athletics
Photo: Tennessee Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- In the series finale against Grand Canyon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium, the Tennessee Volunteers (6-5) used a five-run sixth inning and 11 hits en route to a 7-1 win on Sunday. With the win, the Vols claimed the series, 2-1.

Right-handed pitcher Kyle Serrano went 5.0 scoreless frames in his Sunday start, allowing no runs on one hit to earn the win, his first of the season for UT.

"The pitching is what excites me because that's what wins," Head Coach Dave Serrano said. "We've been very fortunate. Every guy we ran out, it was Kyle today, Drake yesterday and Brett on Friday. It gives you a ray of hope that when you get to [the SEC] part of the schedule, when we get this all clicking with the defense we're playing and the pitching we're getting, things will start falling into place.

"I was very happy again for a second outing in a row, the kind of command Kyle [Serrano] showed. He was down in the zone, he established his fast ball and his curve ball. He's still not to where he needs to be and he knows that. It's getting better each time. As we keep running him out there and with the experience he's getting, he'll get more comfortable with each and every outing that he goes out."

A switch to the lineup order, putting second baseman Nick Senzel in the three spot and Christin Stewart at cleanup, proved beneficial in the first inning. Shortstop A.J. Simcox reached base on an infield hit to short, followed by Senzel getting to first on a single to Grand Canyon's second baseman. With two runners on and one out, Stewart hit a liner to right-center and scored Simcox, giving Tennessee an early 1-0 lead.

In the fifth, Tennessee pushed another run across to extend their lead to 2-0. Senzel got things started busting a triple off the left-center field wall, before designated hitter Andrew Plunkett drove him in on a deep sacrifice fly to right field.

Tennessee then opened the gates in the bottom of the sixth, plating five runs to earn a 7-0 advantage. Brodie Leftridge reached first on a fielder's choice to start the inning, moving to second as Vincent Jackson was walked in the next at-bat. Simcox then ripped a two-run single to center field, scoring Leftridge and Jackson to make it a Vols lead, 4-0. Simcox stole second base, his fourth of the year, before Senzel took a free base following a hit-by-pitch. With two on-base, Stewart hit a two-run double to bring home Simcox and Senzel. Pinch-hitter Parker Wormsley came up big for Tennessee in the next at-bat, dropping a perfect bunt down the first base side to score Stewart from third, giving the Volunteers a 7-0 lead.

"We're definitely creating a little bit of a rhythm," sophomore Kyle Serrano said. "Our offense has struggled a bit but I faced them all fall and it's a good lineup. I know it's a good lineup. I have all the confidence in the world in them."

"These guys want to do it so bad for each other that I could sense they're pressing a little bit, to get out of this funk that we're kind of in," Coach Serrano added. "I was happy with the way we produced."

The Antelopes chipped away to put one run across in the seventh on right-handed reliever Peter Lenstrohm before a call to the bullpen brought lefty Andy Cox to the mound. Cox shut down Grand Canyon in the seventh and went on to toss 3.0 scoreless innings for the save.

"This was definitely a step in the right direction," junior A.J. Simcox said. "We've still got a long way to go, but today was definitely a positive step. It feels good to win our first series of the season, especially on a Sunday to win it for the fans.I think it's going to help us out."

"These guys want to do it so bad for each other that I could sense they're pressing a little bit, to get out of this funk that we're kind of in," Coach Serrano added. "I was happy with the way we produced."

Tennessee looks to host ETSU (March 10) and Morehead State (March 11) this week, in preparation for the opening of SEC play at Florida the following weekend (March 13-15).