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February 26, 2013Whether ETSU was going for the tie or the win, the decision backfired Tuesday in a 9-7 Tennessee win at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Tennessee relief pitcher Trevor Bettencourt found himself in a ninth-inning jam during the matinee baseball outing after a bunt put the tying run in scoring position for the visiting Bucs.
Derek Niesman was 2-for-3 with a home run when he took the call to sacrifice the runners over rather than letting the right-handed cleanup hitter swing away against UT's freshman closer. Niesman advanced the pair but Bettencourt retired the next two Buccaneer hitters to clinch his first save as a Vol preserving the two-run win for Tennessee.
"There's that old adage 'you go for the win at home and the tie on the road.' UT coach Dave Serrano said after the game. "In the dugout we were kind of contemplating what they would do and I think they played the percentages, and I think we'd probably do the same."
Two offensive bursts prevented the Vols from having to strategize offensively in the late innings as they improved to 3-5 on the year with a weekend at the USA-Baseball-Irish Classic in Cary N.C. looming ahead.
In the third, ETSU trotted three different pitchers to the mound as the Vols batted through the entire lineup, scoring six runs on four hits, two walks, and a pair of bunts to jump ahead early.
The Bucs returned the favor though in the fourth, starting with Niesman's two-run blast that chased UT starter Matt Esparza (W, 1-1). A brief stint on the mound by sophomore reliever Eric Martin resulted in no outs and three base runners. So like ETSU an the inning prior, UT called for a third pitcher in the same frame.
After surrendering a walk and a single, veteran reliever Nick Williams settled in on the rubber.
"That's a commitment our coaching staff has made," Serrano said, "We're going to do anything we can to win games right away and that's why I went to Nick early was to get that stopped and he kept them at bay and allowed us to extend the lead a little bit."
The insurance runs came in the fifth when UT punished the Bucs for a walk and an error by scoring on a pair of fielder's choices and an RBI double by third baseman Will Maddox to extend their lead to 9-5.
"I think guys just got big hits today," Maddox said. "A lot of people were able to get big hits And when we put the ball in play, good things happen."
A rocky seventh inning from Trevor Charpie, one of the six pitchers UT used, yielded the game's final two runs to ETSU, but a scoreless eighth from junior lefty Dalton Saberhagen set up Bettencourt's save.
"Trevor (Bettencourt) clutched up in the ninth there," Serrano said. "But I said to the team that I thought Nick Williams getting it stopped in the fourth inning was huge to keep that momentum."
Offensively Maddox and designated hitter Vincent Jackson each finished 3-of-4 at the plate, both recording an RBI and a run scored to push the freshman-filled Vols to their third game of eight or more runs on the year.
"We'll take the ugly ones too," Serrano said. "We'll take the ugly ones over the course of a 56-game schedule. Not all of them are going to be pretty.
"And I'd feel a lot worse if it was an ugly game and we came out on the short end."
Tennessee 9, ETSU 7
ETSU 000 500 200 - 7 9 1
Vols 006 030 00X - 9 10 1
WP: Matt Esparaza (1-1). LP: Josh Jacques (0-1). S: Trevor Bettencourt (1).
2B: Freman (3), Maddox (2), Bily (2), Jackson (1). 3B: Vizcaino (1).HR: Neisman (2). LOB: ETSU 8, UT 8. Time- 3:00. Att- 1,039.