KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- In their first extra-innings contest of the season, Tennessee used a combined 13 strikeouts by its pitching staff and a walkoff, RBI-double by Nick Senzel to grind out a 4-3 win over UNC Asheville on Tuesday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
With the win, Tennessee improves to a 21-25 on the year and is 8-18 in SEC play, while UNC Asheville slips to a 21-31 overall season record.
Junior shortstop A.J. Simcox, hitting in the cleanup spot for the first time this season, led the Vols' offense against UNC Asheville with a 2-for-4, two RBI night. Collectively, UT recorded nine hits against the Bulldogs including a leadoff, solo home run from designated hitter Nick Senzel (2-for-6, 2 RBI).
After UNC Asheville jumped ahead early on a solo homer from Tommy Houmard, Senzel answered for the Vols in the first. On a 2-1 count against Asheville's lefty Spencer Orr, Senzel cranked a solo home run into the streets behind left field, evening the scoring at 1-1. With the homer, Senzel became the first Volunteer to hit a leadoff home run since Scott Price did so on March 4, 2014 against La Salle.
"The win is important. You want to win every chance you get the opportunity to play and compete against somebody," Head Coach Dave Serrano said. "I was happy for him [Nick Senzel]. Nick has swung the bat well over the past three or four games. It helps us offensively when he's doing well. He's going to be a guy who's going to hit some homeruns and hit a lot of balls over the fence and I think right now he's in that groove."
The Bulldogs came back to plate one run in the fourth and held a lead until the bottom of the fifth, when third baseman Jared Pruett and left fielder Christin Stewart reached via back-to-back walks by Asheville's Orr. In the next at-bat, Simcox ripped a two-run double down the left field line to give UT the go-ahead run, 3-2.
Asheville again came back to even the score at 3-3 in the sixth and the schools battled through three scoreless frames until the 10th inning. Right fielder Jordan Rodgers led off with a double down the third base line and reached third on a fly ball to center field by Chris Hall. With one out, Nathaniel Maggio pinch hit for David Houser. Maggio was intentionally walked to put runners on the corners. After Parker Wormsley fouled out to the catcher, Senzel delivered a walkoff, RBI-double to give the Vols a 4-3 victory.
"The way Nick (Senzel) got into it, that's just what Nick does," Rodgers said following the game. "He just drives balls in the gap. As soon as it left his bat, I knew we won the ballgame and ran up to Nick to tell him congratulations. That's what we needed. He picked us up."
Starter Kyle Serrano threw 3.0 innings against the Bulldogs, allowing one run on two hits with three strikeouts.
In the fourth, Tennessee went to the bullpen for lefty Aaron Soto, who threw 1.1 innings. Righthander Steven Kane entered the game in the fifth and went 1.2 innings before freshman lefthander Zach Warren went to the hill in the seventh. Warren tossed 1.0 inning with two strikeouts until senior Peter Lenstrohm was called upon for the eighth and ninth, collecting four strikeouts.
In extras, Andrew Lee moved from first base to the mound and fired a scoreless frame to earn his third victory of the season.
Tennessee looks to close out regular-season SEC play this weekend, as they welcome Mississippi State (24-27) for a three-game set at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Game One of the series begins on Thursday, May 14 at 6 p.m. ET, while the Vols will also celebrate Senior Day on Saturday, May 16 prior to a 1 p.m. ET start.