Using 10 different pitchers over nine innings, the No. 22-ranked Vols capture a 5-1 victory over the Bucs. It was quite the bounce back for Tennessee (18-4), which was swept at Southeastern Conference foe Auburn over a weekend series.
"This gets the bad taste out of your mouth. It was a depressing ride home from Auburn back to Knoxville," Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said. "This ride is shorter, but it will be easier tonight."
The Bucs (14-5) came into the game 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 inning. He stole third, but the Bucs followed with a pair of strikeouts to end the inning. However, ETSU coach Joe Pennucci saw the game 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."
Overall, the Vols' 10-fold pitching strategy gave up six hits and four walks against ETSU. Will Heflin (1-0), who came in the third inning, was credited with the win. Daulton Montagna (1-1) suffered the loss for the Bucs (1-1).
"We wanted to use several guys," Vitello said. "Now that we're in league play, we're in danger of some of the young guys not getting action. It's clear in my mind, it's not because they're not good enough. We have a ton of upperclassmen who are going to log a ton of innings in SEC play.
"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. But, Richard did a nice job. He always works hard, not only related to pitching, but fielding his position and it paid off."
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 in the bottom of the inning with a triple by Noah Hill, followed by David Beam's RBI ground out.
Tennessee pulled ahead in the third on Andre Lipcius' sacrifice fly to score lead-off Justin Ammons. The Vols scored three more runs in the aforementioned fourth. Martinez went 2-for-4, while Derkay and Nico Mascia each had two RBIs to lead the Vols.
Both teams will host weekend series against league opponents. ETSU has a three-game series against Western Carolina, while the Vols host South Carolina. Tennessee will host ETSU in a rematch next Tuesday, March 26 in Knoxville.