(Photo and story courtesy of Tennessee Sports Information)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A laced line drive down the right field line byVincent Jackson gave Tennessee baseball its fifth walk-off victory of the 2014 season, as the No. 29 Vols rallied from six down to defeat No. 8 Alabama 10-9 on Sunday afternoon in front of 1,845 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
“I’m very proud of the team,” said head coach Dave Serrano. “I wasn’t so sure about an hour-and-a-half ago that I would be standing here saying that in front of you guys, but boy, we have a way of doing things.
“Like I said to them after, if we’re not learning from the way the game is treating us and the things that are going on then we just aren’t focused. We gave up a 6-1 lead last night and feel horrible at the end of the game. Then it’s 8-2 in the middle innings [today] and I think we were kind of feeling sorry for ourselves a little bit and all of a sudden something just clicked and a lot of good things happened for the Vols. I felt our at-bats started turning and we got more confident. That was a big, big win – a much needed win for this this program to keep us alive in what our dreams of doing are at the end of the year.”
Jackson, who entered the game as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning, finished 2-for-2 on the day with two RBIs, including the game winner.
The Vols (25-13, 7-11 SEC) came back from an 8-2 deficit in the eighth inning putting six on the board behind hits from A.J. Simcox, Christin Stewart, Taylor Smart, Jackson and Will Maddox to tie the game up at 8-8. The Big Orange batted around in the frame, with three of the five hits going for extra bases.
Alabama (28-12, 12-6) retook the lead in the top of the ninth off a solo home run to set up the Vols for the walk-off win.
Stewart started the ninth off by drawing a four-pitch walk, reaching base for the fourth time on the day. He came around to score in the next at-bat on a beast of a double to deep left center by freshman Nick Senzel. With one out, Jackson took the first pitch of his at-bat and sent it to the right field corner scoring Senzel to give the Vols the victory.
Alabama, which used-up its closer Thomas Burrows in the opening two games of the series, turned to middle infielder Kyle Overstreet in the ninth. Overstreet, who had one inning pitched and a save to his name this season, suffered his first loss. Sophomore right-hander Andrew Lee got the win for UT, improving to 4-1 on the year.
Stewart finished the game 3-for-4 with three runs scored and a triple. The sophomore hit .428 (6-for-14) with three RBIs and two extra-base hits on the weekend. The Lawrenceville, Ga., native leads the Vols with 15 multi-hit games. Senzel also had a pair of hits on Sunday, while Maddox extended his hit streak to eight games with the RBI double in the eighth. UT out-hit the Crimson Tide 13-11 in the finale.
Freshman right-hander Kyle Serrano got off to a good start for the Vols, retiring the game’s first two batters on just three pitches, both via flyouts to Stewart in left field. Serrano then had trouble finding the zone, walking Ben Moore on just four pitches. Alabama’s Wade Wass drove the first pitch he saw in the next at-bat deep to right, where Pierce Bily couldn’t make the play as the ball bounced out of his glove. The error allowed Moore to come all the way home for the game’s first run.
The Vols took the lead in the bottom half of the frame. After two quick outs to start the inning, Tennessee picked up back-to-back singles by Stewart and Senzel. Both runners moved into scoring position on a failed pickoff attempt and UA starter Jon Keller loaded the bags with a four-pitch walk to Smart. Keller continued to help UT by walking Bily to tie the game and giving the Vols the 2-1 lead with a bases-loaded balk.
Kyle Overstreet singled to left field to open the fourth inning for the Crimson Tide and first baseman Austen Smith took back the lead with a two-run shot to right center on a 0-2 count, giving Alabama a 3-2 advantage.
Smith capped a five-run, five-hit sixth for the Tide with yet another two-run blast, this time to left center. Moore also drove in two runs for the Tide in the frame with a double to the gap in right center to give Alabama its biggest lead of the game at 8-2.
The Vols put a six-spot on the board in the bottom of the eighth inning. Simcox led off the inning with a double down the left field line, marking his first extra-base hit in 138 at-bats this season. He advanced to third on Alabama’s second balk of the day and came home on a liner up the middle by Stewart, his third hit of the day.
After a walk to Senzel put runners on first and second, Smart blasted a double down the left field line scoring Stewart, which prompted Alabama’s first pitching change of the inning. Yet another balk brought home Senzel and Jackson followed with a pinch-hit single through the left side to score Smart and make it an 8-6 game.
Tyler Schultz, also pinch-hitting, laid down the sacrifice bunt, which was gobbled up by Alabama’s pitcher and hurled into right field. Schultz moved up to second on the error while Jackson took third.
Parker Wormsley tapped one back to the pitcher’s mound, but Jackson was caught in a run down between third and home on the play, allowing Schultz to move to third and Wormsley to take second, putting the first out of the inning on the board for the Vols.
In the next at-bat, junior Johnny Youngblood brought home Schultz on a ground out to short, making it a one-run game for the Vols. That deficit was erased in the Vols’ next at-bat. Maddox, swinging for the fences at the first pitch, extended his hit streak to eight games with a double up the middle on the next pitch he saw. The liner brought home Wormsley, who slid head first under Alabama catcher Will Haynie’s glove to tie it at 8-8.
Alabama regained the lead in the top of the ninth with Moore’s solo shot off the scoreboard, but the Vols fought back to take the win on Jackson’s walk-off.
The Orange and White starts a four-game road swing on Tuesday, April 22 when it travels to Johnson City, Tenn., to take on ETSU. UT will be looking to avenge a 2-1 loss to the Bucs at home this season. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET. Tennessee continues SEC action in Baton Rouge, La., with a three-game series at LSU from April 25-27.