After battling through six and a half scoreless innings against the No. 5 seed Arkansas, Tennessee fell in a dramatic, first-round matchup by a score of 2-1 at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium on Tuesday night.
With the loss, Tennessee drops to 25-23 all-time in SEC Tournament play and a 1-2 postseason record in games played against Arkansas. The loss marks the second straight year for the Vols to reach the first round of the tournament and be eliminated. Tennessee closes out its 2015 campaign with a 24-26 overall record.
“I think this game was kind of an example of our season,” Head Coach Dave Serrano said. “Nothing came easy for us. We struggled to score runs against good pitching. I thought (Trey) Killian was good tonight and way better than we saw him two weeks ago, and obviously (Zach) Jackson is as advertised. You credit their pitching staff. We have a lot of guys hurting right now. It’s always hard when it comes to an end, especially when you don’t reach goals that you should have reached.
“I do walk away from here with a little bit better feeling because I think these guys fought for us. And I’m proud of them for that. That was a good baseball game and it was a tough baseball game to lose, especially when your season is over with.”
Offensively, the Vols scattered four hits on the night, recorded by catcher Benito Santiago (1-for-3, RBI), right fielder Jordan Rodgers (1-for-2), first baseman Parker Wormsley (1-for-2, 2B) and shortstop A.J. Simcox (1-for-3).
In the third matchup between the schools this year, Tennessee and Arkansas held each other hitless into the third inning.
With a single to center field in the fifth, sophomore Jordan Rodgers recorded Tennessee’s first hit of the game and snapped Arkansas starter Trey Killian’s no-hit outing. Senior Parker Wormsley led off the next inning with a standup double hit into the left-center gap, but a fielder’s choice and caught stealing ended the opportunity for the Volunteers.
The Razorbacks then put together back-to-back base hits to start the seventh and broke through Tennessee’s defense, as a fielder’s choice chopper to short scored an Arkansas runner from third to make it a 1-0 ballgame.
Tennessee continued to press against Arkansas starter Killian and with one out in the top seventh, catcher Benito Santiago put the Vols on the board to tie the game at 1-1 with an RBI-double into left field.
The Razorbacks answered Tennessee’s seventh inning rally in the bottom of the ninth. Second baseman Rick Nomura singled to right field before shortstop Michael Bernal hit the walk-off double, giving Arkansas the 2-1 victory.
Starter Andy Cox dealt 3.0 scoreless innings in his start against the Razorbacks, allowing just one hit while striking out four batters, including back-to-back strikeouts against newly-named SEC Player of the Year Andrew Benintendi.
In the bottom of the fourth, righthander Kyle Serrano entered the game in relief of Cox. After loading the bases via two base hits and a walk on two outs, Serrano recorded a huge strikeout to get out of the jam and hold the score at 0-0.
Serrano went on to pitch 3.0 innings, surrendering six hits and one run before lefty Drake Owenby was called upon in the bottom of the seventh. After inheriting runners on the corners with no outs, Owenby worked to retire three of his four batters faced including a swinging strikeout for the third out.
With the game tied at 1-1, designated hitter Andrew Lee went to the mound in the bottom of the eighth. He struck out one batter to end the inning and in the ninth, proceeded to deliver one strikeout before allowing Arkansas’s Nomura a single. In the following at bat, Arkansas’ Bernal knocked a ball to the left field wall, plating the winning run.