MEMPHIS – Davis Morgan hit a home run and drove in a career-high four runs while Drew Steckenrider also homered and recorded his second career save as Tennessee picked up the program’s first win in the Bluff City with an 8-7 triumph over Memphis in front of a record-breaking crowd of 2,107 at FedEx Park on Wednesday evening.
“This was a good win for our guys,” UT head coach Dave Serrano said. “We are on a long road trip and haven’t played tremendously well on the road this year. To me, that was a character game right there. There were a lot of things where we could have said, ‘Oh, no. Here we go again.’ And we didn’t. We stayed with the process and came out on top.”
The win marks UT’s first in 14 attempts in Memphis, although it was the first meeting between the two squads in the city since 1993. The victory also completes the season sweep over the Tigers as the Vols claimed a 6-3 decision in Knoxville on April 4.
“I love this series,” Serrano said. “I want to continue this. I think it is good for both programs. It’s good for us to get over to West Tennessee because we have a lot of supporters over here and it’s good for kids over here to see what the Big Orange is all about.”
Sophomore Dalton Saberhagen improved to 5-1 on the year, picking up the win with 1.2 perfect innings out of the bullpen before Steckenrider came on to get the final three outs of the game in the bottom of the ninth for his first save of the season and second of his career.
Freshman Conner Stevens was tremendous in relief as well, twirling two scoreless innings. Fellow first-year Vol Brandon Zajac made his third career start, allowing three runs, two earned, on three hits in 2.2 frames of work.
At the plate, Morgan drove in a career-high four runs with a three-run home run, his second of the season and a sacrifice fly. Steckenrider followed Morgan’s first-inning sac fly with his team-leading sixth home run of the year to give the Vols just their third multi-home run game of the campaign.
Will Maddox, Zach Osborne and Nick Powell each added a pair of hits in the contest as well. For Powell, a Memphis native, it was his first career multi-hit contest.
It was a late-inning replacement that scored the winning run though as pinch-hitter Chris Fritts opened the eighth inning with a double and scored on a sac fly two batters later to break a 7-7 tie.
The Tennessee pitching staff did a good job of working out of jams all night, stranding 13 Memphis runners on base, including seven in scoring position. The Tigers left the bases loaded three times in the game as well.
The Vols got the scoring started quickly, needing just one hit to plate a pair of runs in the game’s opening frame. Maddox opened the contest by taking a pitch off his shoulder and promptly moved up to third on a wild pitch and sac bunt before Morgan knocked him in with a sacrifice fly to deep center. DREW Steckenrider followed with a solo shot to dead centerfield to put Tennessee up 2-0.
Tennessee tacked on another run in the second as Powell followed a one-out walk and stolen base by Parker Wormsley with a check-swing RBI single through the right side of the infield.
Memphis cut the UT lead to one, using a leadoff single and consecutive one-out walks to load the bases before a sac fly and single brought in two runs to make it 3-2.
The Big Orange had an immediate answer, however, as Maddox and Osborne opened the third inning with back-to-back singles and Morgan followed by crushing an 0-1 offering over the wall in left for a three-run home run that put the score at 6-2.
Another Memphis sac fly gave the Tigers their third run of the game in the third inning, but the Vols got it right back in the top of the fourth when Osborne knocked in a run with a bases-loaded chopper to short that put the Vols up by four at 7-3.
After Jacob Wilson launched a three-run home run to cut the UT lead back down to one once again at 7-6, Tennessee had a prime opportunity to tack on an insurance run in the fifth as Steckenrider drew a leadoff walk and promptly stole both second and third. After a strikeout, the Vols put the suicide squeeze play on but couldn’t get the bunt down and Steckenrider was tagged out.
The Tigers took advantage of the miscue, using a pair of singles and a walk to load the bases with one out for Ethan Gross who singled to right to bring in a run and tie the game at 7-7.
The damage could have been much worse, but Stevens came out of the bullpen and got two quick outs on just four pitches as he got Wilson to pop-up in foul territory and then struck out Adam McClain on three pitches to leave the bases full of Tigers.
Memphis loaded the bases with just one out again in the sixth, but Stevens was able to buckle down for the second inning in a row, inducing a weak pop-up to second and a groundout to shortstop to escape unscathed.
The Vols finally got the lead back in the top of the eighth. Fritts led off the frame with a pinch-hit double, chopping one over the third baseman’s head and hustling out the two-bagger. A groundout to first then moved him up to third and Wormsley brought him in with a sac fly to left.
Tennessee will return to the diamond this weekend as it travels to Oxford, Miss., for a three-game set against No. 24 Ole Miss. The series will start with a 6:30 p.m. CT showdown on Friday. Saturday’s contest will begin at 4 p.m. CT and air on SportSouth while the series finale is set for a 1:30 p.m. CT first pitch.