Series Wrap-Up: Tennessee Sweeps Norfolk State

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    Photo By Craig Bisacre/Tennessee Athletics

    Dave Serrano’s team stayed hot after a blistering start at the Tony Gwynn Classic in San Diego.

    Tennessee (9-1) swept Norfolk State (3-8) in its first home series of the young season this weekend. UT had double-digit hits in all three contests.

    Here’s how it happened:

    Friday: Tennessee 10, Norfolk State 2

    WP: Hunter Martin (3-0, 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 8 K) LP: Alex Mauricio (1-2)

    Jordan Rodgers led Tennessee with two home runs as the Vols won their opening home game of the season. Rodgers launched a two-run homer in the third inning to put Tennessee on the board. The next batter, Benito Santiago, homered as well.

    In the seventh, Tennessee broke the game wide open. UT put five runs on the board, thanks to Rodgers’ second home run of the night and RBI from Pete Derkay and Matt Waldren.

    On the mound, Friday starter Hunter Martin was dominant once again. The Murfreesboro native gave up just six hits and two runs, striking out eight. Tennessee’s bullpen gave up one hit in the last three innings of the game. Freshmen duo Garrett Stallings (2.0 IP) and Andrew Schultz (1.0 IP) struck out five in the last three frames.

    Tennessee’s deeper bullpen is already taking pressure off the starting pitchers. Martin only had to throw 85 pitches, showing that Serrano has faith in his young relievers to finish the job. All weekend, those relievers showed why. UT’s pitchers gave up just 20 hits and five earned runs against the Spartans.

    Saturday: Tennessee 5, Norfolk State 2

    WP: Zach Warren (1-1, 5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 4 K, BB) LP: Devin Hemmerich (1-2) S: Jon Lipinski (1)

    Saturday’s game could not have started better for 2B Jeff Moberg. The redshirt-senior hit a leadoff home run to put Tennessee on the board in the first inning. It was Moberg’s fifth of the season. In his first four years on campus, Moberg had two homers.

    But Dave Serrano isn’t surprised by his second-baseman’s new-found power though.

    “He has such a compact swing. I think he’s feeling it right now. He’s been here five years so the game’s not going fast for him. He’s carrying the load..he’s always had some pop for a real little guy,” Serrano said.

    On the mound, junior starter Zach Warren was perfect through four innings, but allowed three hits in the fifth. A two-out rally including a walk and an error brought home two Spartan runs.

    Other than that, Tennessee’s pitching staff was lights out. Freshman Zach Linginfelter impressed in his three innings of work, striking out seven and allowing only one hit on 10 batters faced. Jon Lipinski closed things out with ease, allowing one baserunner in the ninth.

    At the plate, Tennessee had a hard time extending innings. The Vols tallied 14 hits but only had five runs cross the plate. In the fourth UT pieced together a two-out rally to take control of the game, scoring four runs on four straight singles. Jeff Moberg (2-for-5, 3 RBI) had a two-RBI single to continue his hot start.

    Rodgers and Justin Ammons both extended their hit streaks to nine games. It was the seventh time this season that Tennessee put up double digit hits.

    According to Serrano, Warren pitched “well enough to win,” but not good enough to succeed at the SEC level.

    “I didn’t think we had pitched real well…(Zach Warren) did enough for us to be successful, but I’m looking down the line to teams in the SEC,” Serrano said.

    Warren agreed with his coach’s assessment.

    “When I get in tough situations I’ll focus a little too much…that’s one thing that earlier in the game I would just tell myself to slow it down and make it simple…it’s something to learn from.”

    As a team, Serrano wants his guys to treat every game like a conference matchup.

    “We need to be better across the board…it’s the little details, like not getting bunts down…a win is a win, and we’ll take any win we can, but we want to be successful to the point that we’re going to be successful when we move on into SEC play.”

     

    Sunday: Tennessee 5, Norfolk State 4 (11)

    WP: Jon Lipinski (2-0, 2.0 IP, K, H, BB) LP: Michael Parmentier (0-1)

    Norfolk State put up a fight in the third game, forcing extra innings.

    On Sunday, Serrano added that his team still has work to do when it comes to taking care of the small details.

    “We know as a coaching staff there’s certain things we need to continue to work on.”

    To Serrano, learning those details isn’t “small ball.”

    “That’s just baseball,” Serrano added.

    Tennessee struck first on a Dom Thornton SAC fly in the second. Benito Santiago singled to start the inning and advanced to second on a balk and got to third on a Derkay groundout. The junior catcher showed off some impressive speed to beat out Beard’s throw from right, opening up the scoring.

    After throwing just six pitches in the third inning, Will Neely ran into trouble in the fourth. Despite an acrobatic throw from Reggie Southall, Denathan Dukes (2-for-5, R) scored on this Brian Beard groundout, giving the Spartans their first lead of the series.

    The Spartans took the lead on a Justin Burrell solo shot in the top of the fifth. Neely threw 23 pitches in the fifth, and saw his day come to an end after allowing runners on first and second with one out in the sixth. Garrett Stallings gave up a two-RBI single to Burrell, giving Neely three earned runs to finish the day.

    UT briefly had the lead after a two-run fifth, but only brought home two runs after loading the bases with no outs on two separate occasions. In the bottom of the sixth, Dom Thornton got to third base thanks to two errors and passed ball. Reggie Southall singled him home to tie it at four. UT had another chance to take the lead with two outs, but Brandon Chinea was caught in a rundown trying to advance home on a Charleston single.

    In the top of the tenth, Jon Lipinski gave up a leadoff double, but Southall would come up big once again. This diving catch started a 6-4-3 double play to get Lipinski out of the jam and save a run.

    Southall said after the game that he was confident in his ability to keep the ball in the dirt.

    “I’m always expecting a ball. I knew that with a runner on second base I had to lay out and do everything I can to keep the ball in the infield,” Southall said.

    After loading the bases but coming up empty in the 10th, Tennessee finally ended the game in the 11th. Justin Ammons (2-for-5, 2 RBI) singled in Jeff Moberg to give UT the sweep.

     

    “It should’ve ended in the ninth inning,” Ammons said after the game. “Finally I got up to bat and found a gap.”

    On a 1-1 pitch, Ammons knew a curveball was coming his way.

    “That was his best pitch all day. He threw it outside and I just put it in the left-center gap.”

    UT stranded 11 runners in the game, but Serrano wasn’t frustrated, he was just pleased in his team’s ability to find a way to win.

    “I thought it was a great team effort. A lot of good things happened today…a lot of things we have to work on…Winning never allows me to be frustrated. Doing things efficient frustrates me at time, but winning is good and it never gets boring to me. We haven’t won enough here to get bored of winning. What this team is showing each other is that we find different ways to win games.”

    Tennessee hosts Cincinnati next weekend for a three-game set.