After sitting out a a rain delay, Tennessee beats Memphis at home, April 4, 2012
Freshman Jake Rowland made his coach, Dave Serrano, look like a genius Wednesday night as Tennessee and Memphis renewed their baseball series after a 17-year hiatus.
The Vols prevailed 6-3 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium to notch their sixth consecutive win and maintain momentum into a weekend series at defending national champion South Carolina.
Tennessee (19-10) parlayed one big inning and — after a 75-minute weather delay — one big pinch-hit to hold the Tigers (12-17) at bay.
The big inning, a four-run second, started in unassuming fashion, a one-out bunt single by Chris Fritts.
Then the big guns came out. Chris Pierce found an opening for an RBI triple in right-center. Wes Walker snuck a double just inside the right-field line to make it 2-0.
Two batters later, Will Maddox stretched the Memphis defense the other way, lining a run-scoring double just inside the left-field line.
Zach Luther's single made it 4-0.
But after six, the lead was only 4-3 and Tennessee's bats had nodded off.
Davis Morgan got something going with a one-out single in the seventh. At which point Serrano called right-fielder Jared Allen back to the dugout and sent Rowland to the plate.
Rowland, a left-handed hitter from Meigs County, was 3-of-24 previously. Career hit No. 4 was a rope into right field for a double that easily scored Morgan, who had advanced to second on a balk.
At 5-3, the Vols were back in stride.
The seldom-used Rowland is giving Serrano a lot of bang for the buck. He has as many RBIs (4) as hits (4).
Tennessee added a cushion run in the eighth when Maddox singled for his third hit of the game and eventually scored on a wild pitch.
Dalton Saberhagen, the third of six UT pitchers, got the win to improve to 3-0.
He earned it. The sophomore left-hander came on in the fifth with the bases loaded with Tigers and no outs. Saberhagen struck out the first man he faced and ended the inning with a double-play ball.
Saberhagen allowed a run in the sixth, his first earned-run yielded of the season in 11 2/3 innings.
Nick Blount worked a 1-2-3 ninth to get his seventh save. Shortstop Zach Osborne delivered the benediction with a stellar play at shortstop, making a diving stop in the hole and throw to first.
The save was Blount's sixth in a row, a school record.
"I enjoy starting as well,'' Blount said, "but closing is fun. You get that adrenaline rush.''
Robbie Kidd started and allowed one run. He left after his 49th pitch with a 4-1 lead.
Carter Watson replaced him and had the misfortune of getting caught in the weather delay.
The run he allowed in the fifth ended the Tennessee bullpen's string of scoreless innings at 17 2/3.
Tennessee outhit Memphis 10-8. The two schools who had not met since 1995 will play again on May 9 in Memphis while the Vols are on their way to a series at Ole Miss.