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March 22, 2013

Basevols get series opening win

Zack Godley admittedly didn't have his best stuff Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Too many walks. Way too many pitches. Not enough fastball.

What he did have, though, was a complete-game shutout in Tennessee's 4-0 win over visiting Missouri, the Vols' first such outing since 2006 - seven years and two head coaches ago.

"I threw way too many pitches and walked way too many guys," Godley said. "But overall it was alright.

"It was a great night, going nine innings with walking as many people as I did and throwing as many pitches as I did. But overall, it was alright."

Just alright.

Godley walked five in his nine innings, to go with eight strikeouts and five hits while facing 35 batters and throwing 129 pitches.

Missouri (7-11, 1-3 SEC) only had up one extra-base hit, a double to start the seventh. Tennessee (12-9, 2-2) didn't have an extra-base hit, instead using six singles, five walks and three sacrifices to manufacture the four runs scored.

"Tip of the hat to Zack," Tennessee coach Dave Serrano said. "Sometimes I'm tough on my pitchers. You can look at the scoreboard and it's 4-0 and you give up five hits, but he walked too many guys. He walked five guys, he overcame himself.

"He got some big double-play balls after he got himself in some jams. He's worked extremely hard to get a complete game and he finally got one."

What Godley got in the first inning was three insurance runs.

Will Maddox led off the Vols half of the first with a walk. Jeff Moberg followed with a single and Scott Price scored Maddox from third in the next at-bat with another single. Two batters later it was Pierce Bily with a two-RBI single to make it 3-0.

Bily finished with three of Tennessee's six hits. He added a sacrifice bunt in the sixth.

"Will did a great job," Bily said of the opening frame. "I think he walked his first at-bat and kind of started it off. You want to keep a run (going) in the first inning, set the tone."

"Going into the second inning," Godley added, "that's a nice comfort to know, you get to breath a little bit. You're not trying to completely pitch around guys at all. It's a great feeling."

With the help of his defense, Godley went to work from there.

The Vols' senior ace didn't give up his first hit until the fourth inning. He got a double-play in the first, an inning-ending double play in the fifth and a game-ending double play in the ninth.

"I'd be wrong if I didn't complement the defense," Serrano said. "As much as Zack pitched well, if it wasn't for the outfield defense, and the defense overall, it would've been hard to throw that shutout.

"I thought we made some spectacular plays in the outfield."

The complete-game almost didn't happen with two outs in the ninth, when Missouri designated hitter Scott Sommerfeld kept fouling off pitches.

But Godley induced a ground ball up the middle, where freshman shortstop A.J. Simcox was there to scoop the ball, step on second and throw to first to end the game.

"Going into the ninth I kind of had a plan," Serrano said. "Then the plan got skewed a little bit when that guy kept fouling off pitches. And then finally he hit a ball that went right up the middle and A.J. made the play, turned the double play."

Without his fastball working, Godley relied on his other two pitches, his curveball and change-up.

"I had command of my curveball tonight," Godley, who entered with a 3.78 ERA and a 1-2 record, said. "I had really good command of that. My change-up was a lot better, we didn't throw it as much as I hoped we would. But I had a lot better command of that tonight."

LONG TIME COMING

Craig Cobb was the last Tennessee pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout, doing so in a 19-0 win over LSU on April 8, 2006.

"Wow," Serrano said after hearing the stat, "that's a long time."

Where was Godley in 2006?

"I couldn't tell you," he said. "High school."

Godley's previous career-long outing was 8.1 innings in a 3-2 loss to Notre Dame earlier this season.

"That's one thing I've been wanting to do," Godley said. "I'm glad coach gave me a chance. I know I didn't show that I deserved it tonight because I walked way too many guys.

"I think, with him giving me that chance, I'm glad I did and I'm glad I took advantage of it."

OPENING STATEMENT

Tennessee's three first-inning runs made 17 times in 21 games that the Vols have scored in their opening at-bat.

"I thought we took some good at bats," Serrano said. "Anytime our lead-off hitter gets on, and especially if its Will Maddox, we seem to score. And we got some clutch base hits."

It calmed down Serrano's team, too, a team that the Tennessee coaching staff has challenged as of late.

"I think it settled our team down a little bit," the second-year coach said. "I'll be honest with you, we've talked a lot this week as a team, we've worked on a lot of things, we talked about holding them accountable.

"And I think we were kind of tip-toeing around a little bit," Serrano continued. "Coaches noticed it during BP. It was like they were afraid to make mistakes.

"The three (runs in the first inning) allowed them to take a deep breath and exhale and just think, 'OK, now let's put it in Zack's hands and get a Friday win for the first time this year.'"

Tennessee was 1-4 on Fridays entering the series with Missouri, including losses to UNLV, Arizona State, Notre Dame, Alcorn State and Alabama.

MANUFACTURING RUN SUPPORT

Tennessee and Missouri combined for just one extra-base hit Friday night.

Tennessee catcher Ethan Bennett drove a deep fly ball to the center-field warning track in the fourth before Missouri's Brannon Champagne tracked it down.

"I think we've created our extra-base hits with how we run the bases," Serrano said. "No matter how we find ways to win games, I'm not going ... would I like guys to hit doubles off the fence and hit home runs? Yeah. But I think that's coming."

Maddox went first to third on Price's single in the first, opening the door for the Vols' three-run first.

The weather - with temperatures in the mid-40s Friday night - didn't help the lack of production at the plate, either.

"It's difficult to hit this time of year to hit balls like that," Serrano said. "This time of year the ball doesn't travel well. I thought they got into some balls and we (got in to some balls). Ethan Bennett got into that ball that went to centerfield.

"This time of year the ball isn't going to go very far. We're going to do what we need to do to be successful."

SCHEDULE CHANGE

Due to forecasts of inclement weather on Sunday, Tennessee and Missouri will play a double-header beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday to wrap up the weekend series, making Godley's complete-game Friday night that much more valuable.

"When you anticipate we're going to play a doubleheader (Saturday), you hope your Friday guy goes deep into the game," Serrano said. "We get two guys up (in the bullpen) that don't come in the game, it's still a little wear and tear on them, but we didn't have to use anybody else. Which bodes well for us (Saturday).

"(Missouri) had to use three guys tonight. We had to use one."


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