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March 23, 2012

Vols grab series opening win over unbeaten Kentucky

Zack Godley wasn't coming out of the game in the eighth inning Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. His teammates wouldn't let him. His coach wouldn't let him, either.

"All the guys came up to me in the infield," Godley said of the eighth-inning meeting on the mound,"and all of them were like, 'you're staying here, let's go. You'll get this. You're staying right here."

Godley stayed on the mound and stayed out of trouble. The junior right-hander got out of the eighth with a pair of fly balls and Nick Blount shut the door in the ninth as Tennessee upended No. 2 Kentucky 4-1 to snap the Wildcats undefeated streak at 22 games.

"I wanted him to know that I was completely confident in where he was at, that he needed to get back to being aggressive with his pitches," first-year Tennessee coach Dave Serrano said. "He did teeter a bit in the eighth, that's why I planned to go to Nick (Blount) in the ninth."

Holding tight to a 2-1 lead, Godley issued a one-out walk to Kentucky's Austin Cousino before Serrano took time for the mound meeting.

Serrano stuck with Godley and he responded by retiring the next two batters he faced on fly balls to get UT out of the eighth with a one-run lead. Zac Zellers flew out to center before Luke Maile put fear into the 1,516 Tennessee fans in attendance with a deep drive to the left field warning track that Drew Steckenrider ran down at the base of the wall.

"He got it pretty good," Serrano said of Maile's long out. "In the daytime, that's gone. In the nighttime, I knew that we had a chance to keep it in the ballpark.

"I'm glad stuck with me," Godley said. "I'm glad I could keep throwing."

Godley (4-1) shut down No. 2 Kentucky to the tune of three hits over eight innings, allowing a lone earned run and striking out four. Blount got the save for Tennessee (13-8, 2-2 SEC).

Taylor Rogers, Godley's dueling partner for majority of the night, took the loss for Kentucky (22-1, 3-1 SEC). The left-hander went 6 1/3 innings while giving up two earned runs on just three hits.

"It's a good win," Serrano said. "I'm not trying to minimize it. It's not about beating the last undefeated team (in Division I baseball), it's about beating another team in the SEC and getting to .500. That's the way I look at it."

Tennessee took a fifth-inning lead on Zach Osborne's RBI groundout that scored Steckenrider. A safety squeeze with runners at the corners gave the Vols insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth. Chris Pierce laid down a bunt and Kentucky couldn't make a play, scoring Ethan Bennett from third. Will Maddox scored on a past-ball later in the inning to make it 4-1.

"I'll say this, because I've been a part of many of them, that to me felt as much like a regional atmosphere as I've felt in a long time," Serrano said. "It was the atmosphere that I felt in the dugout of a regional and of a super regional - getting that last out, and the anxiety of that last out, and something special is about to happen.

"When I started feeling it, and each pitch was thrown, and each out was executed, I started thinking, 'I hope our guys are figuring this out'. This is the feeling I want them to get as we go farther down our journey together."


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