It wasn’t just a seventh consecutive loss that darkened Dave Serrano’s mood on a gorgeous Saturday for college baseball.
As usual, the how and why of a 12-8 loss to No. 11 South Carolina at Lindsey Nelson Stadium weighed heavily on Tennessee’s second-year coach.
“The reason (the Gamecocks) go to the College World Series is because they can pitch,’’ Serrano said. “That’s why the teams I’ve been a part of have been going regular to the College World Series and regionals, is because you can pitch.
“We don’t pitch right now, and that’s the ongoing problem.’’
The Vols (13-16, 3-8 SEC) have allowed 12 or more runs in five of 11 SEC games this season.
The Gamecocks (25-7, 7-4) pounded a season-high 17 hits and never trailed after Chase Vergason yanked the sixth pitch from UT’s Nick Williams over the right-field fence.
But there was an extra twist of the knife for a coach trying to rebuild a program back to relevancy.
Chalk it up as a missed opportunity.
A five-run third inning — all the damage starting with a two-out walk issued by Williams — spotted the Gamecocks an 8-0 lead.
“We’re never gonna quit,” said UT leadoff hitter Will Maddox. “I think we’ve shown that.’’
The Vols showed it Saturday with a seven-run rally in the bottom of the third. The biggest hit among six in the inning was a base-clearing triple by freshman Vincent Jackson.
Thus Trevor Bettancourt, who had begun warming up in the bullpen trailing 8-0, came in to throw his first pitch down only 8-7.
“It felt great,’’ said Jackson.
“It was huge,’’ said Maddox, “to come back from eight-nothing.’’
Think how huge it would
have been to come all the way back and beat a national powerhouse like South Carolina.
“That,’’ said Serrano, “might have been a game we could have looked back five years from now and said, ‘That was the game that got us to where we are now.’
“But I’m still waiting for that moment to happen.’’
He’s still waiting because South Carolina extended its lead to 12-7. UT’s only response in the final six innings was a solo home run by Taylor Smart.
Adam Westmoreland (4-0) got the win with six strong innings of relief. Williams (1-2) took the loss; Bettancourt allowed four runs in four innings.
At least there is a silver lining.
Serrano flipped his rotation to save ace Zack Godley for Sunday’s 2 p.m. series finale.
“That’s the only thing that’s keeping me up right now,’’ Serrano said. “We have a good shot (Sunday) and it’s a big game for us.
“We’ve got to get over this hump.’’