Using 10 pitchers over nine innings, the No. 22-ranked Vols took a 5-1 victory over the Bucs.
“This gets the bad taste out of your mouth,” said Tennessee coach Tony Vitello, whose Vols (18-4) were swept in their Southeastern Conference weekend series at Auburn. “It was a depressing ride home from Auburn back to Knoxville. This ride is shorter, but it will be easier tonight.”
The Bucs (14-5) entered with a five-game winning streak and a 12-0 home record. ETSU threatened in the final inning, drawing two walks against Tennessee reliever Tanner Kohlhepp, but the Vols’ Richard Jackson came in and recorded a strikeout, followed by the Bucs hitting into a double play.
Ethan Cady led the Bucs, going 2-for-4, including a double in the sixth. He stole third, but the Bucs struck out twice to end the inning. However, ETSU coach Joe Pennucci felt the game was lost on the defensive end.
“We hit a couple of balls hard, but we had a really bad fourth inning where we had an error and a couple of walks which hurt us,” Pennucci said. “When you face a good team that pitches as well as they do, you can’t give them free bases. The error and two walks led to three runs, so there was 3-for-3.”
The Vols’ tenfold pitching strategy gave up six hits and four walks. Will Heflin (1-0), who came on in the third inning, was credited with the win.
Daulton Montagna (1-1) suffered the loss.
“It was dramatic at the end. ETSU was smelling a comeback and who knows if that ball finds a hole, it could have turned into a whole different situation,” Vitello said. “But Richard did a nice job.”
The Vols struck first in the second inning when Pete Derkay hit a ground-rule double to center field and was brought home by a RBI single by Ricky Martinez. ETSU tied it in the bottom of the inning with a triple by Noah Hill, followed by David Beam's RBI groundout.
Tennessee pulled ahead in the third on Andre Lipcuis' sacrifice fly to score leadoff Justin Ammons, and the Vols added three more runs in the fourth. Martinez finished 2-for-4, and Derkay and Nico Mascia each had two RBIs to lead the Vols.
Both teams host weekend series against league opponents. ETSU has a three-game Southern Conference series against Western Carolina. The Vols host SEC rival South Carolina.
Tennessee will host the rematch with ETSU on Tuesday, March 26 in Knoxville.