Tennessee found itself in a quick hole Wednesday night, but with the doubles rolling off the bats, it didn't seem to matter.
The Vols used four doubles, their second-most of the season, to come back for the two-game sweep of Mississippi Valley State with an 8-4 win at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
"I didn't like how it started," UT coach Dave Serrano said. "I don't think anyone in the dugout or on the field liked how it started. But you know, when I look back, I would rather take that kind of game than if we would have come out and really beat them up early on and have a blowout game."
The Delta Devils (6-20) took a 3-0 lead in the first, sending eight batters to the plate. UT starter Brandon Zajac only lasted one inning, throwing 45 pitches while giving up three hits and walking three, including the leadoff batter.
"Our team needed that," Serrano said. "They needed to respond to some negativity, and we did."
After the Vols (15-10) went scoreless in the first inning, they put at least a run up in the next four frames to take a 7-4 lead. UT finished with 10 hits and six RBIs.
"We talk a lot about winning innings, not winning the game," Serrano said.
Drew Steckenrider's double to right field in the third tied the game 3-3. He was 2-for-3 with three RBIs, while also getting on base with a walk, hit by pitch, and stealing a base.
"We had a lot of ball game left," Steckenrider said. "We knew that we had nine innings to try to put some runs on the board and we just try to go up and put one up each inning, every inning that we could."
Steckenrider also pitched relief in the sixth, coming in with runners on second and third and one out before retiring the side.
A routine grounder to Zach Osborne at shortstop in the fourth went awry, as the short throw to second rolled into shallow right-center field, letting a runner reach home for a 4-3 lead. It was just Osborne's second error of the season, which snapped a streak of 80 converted chances.
Connor Stevens (1-1, 3.05 ERA) picked up the win, pitching three innings of relief.
After Steve Weaver's standup double in the fourth, Chris Fritts reached base after the first baseman tipped the throw, allowing Weaver to get home and tie the game at 4-4. Maddox hit in Fritts on the next at-bat to take a 5-4 lead.
The game started a half hour late after Mississippi Valley State's bus broke down on Alcoa Highway. The team got picked up, but all their equipment was locked beneath the bus.
"That's what's so beautiful about this game," Serrano said. "Here's a team that got here late, wasn't able to take infield/outfield, wasn't able to take (batting practice), and they put up three on the board in the first inning. It's all about a mindset and how bad you want it."
Clay Seal is a freelance contributor.