STARKVILLE, Miss. – Recent graduate Nick Williams gave his all for Vols baseball on Saturday, twirling nine shutout innings – a career high – but two Mississippi State pitchers matched him all the way before a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th gave the 21st-ranked Bulldogs a 1-0 win to even the weekend series at Dudy Noble Field.
Williams was absolutely fantastic for the Volunteers (29-19, 11-15), striking out eight while scattering seven hits and walking three. Most impressively, he worked out of multiple jams, stranding nine Bulldog baserunners during his time on the mound.
Unfortunately, MSU starter Ross Mitchell (6.1 IP, 2 H, 5 K) and reliever Jonathan Holder (3.2, 0 H, 7 K) kept the Tennessee offense off the scoreboard until Seth Heck chopped a one-out single to left that plated a runner from third for the game’s only run.
“Tough loss,” UT head coach Dave Serrano said. “We didn’t think it was going to be easy coming in here today to try to get the series but we will be back tomorrow to try to get what we sought to do when we came here. I’m very proud of what we have done but we are 1-1. That was a good baseball game, like last night was a good baseball game. They got a hit when they needed it tonight.
“I can’t put into words what [Nick Williams] did tonight. The home plate umpire and their coaching staff talked about what a warrior he was all night long. He continues to show his senior leadership and what he has inside of him. I’m very proud of him. He gave us every opportunity [to win].”
Sophomore Derek Lance had the only two hits of the game for the Volunteers, going 2-for-2 with a pair of singles and a walk. Freshman Kyle Serrano (3-3) suffered the loss as he allowed the walk-off single.
After six stellar innings by both starting pitchers, Tennessee finally got something going in the top of the seventh when walks to Christin Stewart and Lance put two on base with just one out and chased Mitchell from the contest. Although a successful double steal moved both runners into scoring position, Holder came out of the bullpen to strike out the next two batters and keep the game scoreless.
The game again got interesting in the bottom of the seventh as the Bulldogs loaded the bases with just one out after a pair of singles and a passed ball. Following a visit to the mound by Serrano, Williams was able to escape without any damage done, however, getting a lineout and a groundout, both to Will Maddox at second.
Williams pulled out his Houdini act in both the eighth and ninth as well, stranding runners on second and third in both innings. In the eighth, he got back-to-back groundouts to escape but he really had to buckle down in the ninth, eventually striking out Matthew Britton to send the game to extra innings where Heck’s heroics ended it.
Sophomore southpaw Andy Cox (4-1, 1.85) will get the ball when the Vols baseball go for the series win on Sunday. The contest will be televised on CBS Sports Network with Joe Castellano and Paul Byrd on the call with first pitch set for 2:30 p.m. ET.