KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Battling through a back-and-forth series finale against No. 4-ranked Vanderbilt, the Volunteers came out on top to clinch their first SEC series of the season with a 5-3 Sunday win at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
With the victory, Tennessee moves to 23-17 on the season and 6-12 in conference play, while Vanderbilt now stands at 30-10 (10-8 SEC). Tennessee's series win over Vandy marks their first since April 4-6, 2014, when the Vols also took two of three games in Knoxville.
Despite a slower start, Tennessee's offense went on to tag Vanderbilt with nine hits, led by Tyler Schultz (2-for-3, RBI), Derek Lance (1-for-2, 2 RBI) and Benito Santiago (2-for-4).
In the second, Vanderbilt used a two-out error by Tennessee catcher Schultz to plate one run, after moving a runner into scoring position via back-to-back wild pitches. A solo home run from rightfielder Jeren Kendall then put the Commodores up, 2-0, in the third frame.
After being held hitless through four innings, the middle of the order came through for Tennessee in the fifth. With Jordan Rodgers on first, Schultz ripped an RBI-double to the opposite field to score one run and record Tennessee's first hit of the game. In the next at-bat, Derek Lance hit a ball up the middle to score Schultz, tying the game at 2-2 versus the Commodores.
In the sixth inning, a deep fly ball to the center field wall scored one run for Vanderbilt to put the 'Dores ahead, 3-2.
Tennessee again fired right back to tie the game at 3-3 in their next at-bat in the bottom of the sixth. Santiago led off the frame with a double, moved to third on a sac bunt executed by Chris Hall and scored by a sacrifice fly to right field by Nick Senzel.
UT's two-out rally continued in the sixth, as the Vols went on to load the bases via base hit (Jackson), walk (Rodgers) and hit-by-pitch (Schultz). Vanderbilt reliever Ben Bowden then walked Derek Lance on a full count to bring the go-ahead run in for Tennessee. Jared Pruett hit an RBI-single in the next at-bat to push UT further ahead, 5-3, before a strikeout ended the Vols' turn at the plate.
After Hunter Martin tossed 1.2 scoreless innings in relief of starter Will Neely (6.0 IP), senior Andy Cox was called upon in the eighth to close out his second straight game of the series. Cox proceeded to pitch 1.1 scoreless innings for the Vols. He retired four of his six batters faced, including two by strikeout, to secure Tennessee's 5-3 win over conference rival Vanderbilt and pick up his second save of the season.
Making his first collegiate start for the Orange and White, Neely worked 6.0 innings against the No. 4-ranked Commodores, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits while striking out a career-high five batters. With the performance, Neely earned his first collegiate win.
Junior Martin went to the mound in the seventh and recorded two strikeouts over his 1.2 innings, allowing just one hit.