The Dave Serrano Era at Tennessee is off and running as the Volunteers wrapped up a three-game series sweep of Northern Illinois by winning 7-2 in the second half of a doubleheader on Saturday in front of 2,335 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville.
Thus far the Big Orange bats appear to be taking heed of the coaching of assistant Bill Mosiello by showing tremendous patience at the plate. They put at least one runner on base in 20 straight innings. Wolves pitchers were forced to throw 445 pitches (148.3 per game) in 24 innings of work.
In the series finale, Zach Luther led the Vol hit parade that totaled 13 hits by singling twice, doubling and scoring twice. Chris Pierce had two hits and three RBIs. Will Maddox and Steve Weaver added two knocks apiece.
Tennessee's three starting pitchers tossed a total of 12 shutout innings, including four from Nick Blount in Game 3. He didn't allow a walk and scattered six hits. Carter Watson gave up just two hits and one run over four frames. Samuel Davis and Dalton Saberhagen worked the ninth.
Tennessee 10, Northern Illinois 5: In the early game Saturday, the Vols jumped on top with a six-run second.
The visitors worked their way back to make it 6-5 before UT exploded for four more runs in the bottom of the eighth.
Zack Godley struck out three and didn't issue a walk in four frames to get the win. Joseph Vanderplas worked 2 1/3 before handing the pear to Nick Williams, who tossed 2 2/3 scoreless to get the save.
Chris Fritts homered, doubled and drove in six as Tennessee tallied 10 hits. Pierce and Drew Steckenrider provided a pair of hits each.
Steckenrider finished the weekend 5 for 8 with a home run, two doubles and a stolen base. The junior switch-hitter also walked four times and was hit twice to give him a current .OPS of 2.036.
Steckenrider also led the arms race with four scoreless frames on Friday. If he can stay healthy, the toolsy Georgia native could provide the Big Orange with a legit, draftable bat and arm.
"If Drew can keep doing that, it's going to make it a lot easier to be successful," Serrano told InsideTennessee. "That's what we dreamed to see out of him. We can't expect that every weekend, but if he can do that it's going to be a lot easier for us to have success. That's the kind of player he wants to be, we think he can be. Know it's just a matter of him doing that."
The Vols trot back onto their home diamond to play Western Kentucky on Tuesday afternoon at 3.
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