HOUSTON — The pitch was big.
The fist pump was even bigger.
In need of something special to get through one more frame with Tennessee chasing a significant upset on Saturday at Minute Maid Park, Zack Godley unleashed one of his best deliveries in an outing that featured plenty of them.
Almost as soon as the strikeout was confirmed behind the plate to end the seventh inning, the Vols starter matched the umpire with an emphatic gesture of his own as the emotion spilled out on the way to a 5-4 win over No. 16 Texas in the Houston College Classic.
"I figured I had to get the next guy and do the best I could (in that situation)," Godley said. "When I got the strikeout, I was just pumped to be out of the inning.
"I was really excited about the fact that we were still leading going to the eighth inning. I mean, I was really pumped."
Whether it was the adrenaline from the clutch strike or the fact the junior only needed 68 pitches to get through seven innings, Godley was clearly still pumped even after the Vols (8-2) turned to the bullpen to preserve the victory for him.
In the ninth inning alone, Godley sprinted to right field to chase down a foul ball and then spent the rest of the time perched on a step in the dugout next to coach Dave Serrano, locked into every pitch closer Nick Williams tossed to the Longhorns (4-6).
As soon as the last one produced a routine popup, he bounced out to the field to celebrate with the rest of the Vols after an effort that required some impressive performances from more than their starter.
"I keep trying to tell these guys it's OK to show some emotion as long as it's geared towards our team," Serrano said. "We're never going to do anything to ever make the other team look bad, but I saw that and it was exciting stuff to see a young kid get excited for himself and his team.
"In this atmosphere, I can say any cliché I want, but that was a big win for our team right there. ... There's no ifs, ands or buts about it. We try to say it's just another game — it wasn't just another game."
There's another with an opportunity to knock off a team ranked even higher as UT closes out the weekend today against No. 4 Rice. But on the heels of an underwhelming loss to Houston that obviously bothered Serrano, the ability to bounce back while facing a respected opponent in a hostile building had him smiling as the Vols soaked in the win.
An offense that had been shut down one game earlier jumped on the Longhorns with four runs in the first inning to take control.
A defense that has had some issues lately came up with a handful of gems, including a pair of outfield assists and a diving tag by catcher Ethan Bennett when Texas tried to steal home.
Williams provided the decisive outs with two innings of relief. And then there was Godley, seemingly ready to go back out and pitch again even after the game was over and his spot in the rotation had again been solidified.
"I'm glad to be a part of this team," Godley said. "We are a scrappy team, come out and fight every day, fight until the last pitch is thrown."
Once they got that out of the way to clinch a big win, the Vols then showed off how much it meant to them.