Christin Stewart rounded first base, seemingly holding his breath.
“When I first hit it, I thought I hit it pretty good,” he said.
The tight-chested Tennessee right fielder placed both hands atop his batting helmet as he watched the ball he just flung into deep right-center field reach its peak.
The crowd rose, but the ball harmlessly fell into the glove of a leaping Arizona State outfielder at the wall.
Stewart begrudgingly tore off his helmet. His arms hung at his side.
Like Stewart’s blast, the Vols (1-4) fell short Friday.
Tennessee dropped its home opener, 4-0, to No. 20 Arizona State (3-1) in front of the 2,202 fans.
“It was frustrating,” Stewart said.
While a similar fate ended a Scott Price rocket to the warning track in the first inning and a Vincent Jackson liner in the third, UT’s offensive chances were infrequent.
The Vols’ bats were kept at bay by the performance of Arizona State pitcher Trevor Williams.
Williams held the Vols to three hits, scattered over seven innings to go along with eight strikeouts.
When Tennessee’s rare offensive chances did come, they were snagged at the warning track or blandly ricocheted off Williams’ turned back.
“Offensively, I have confidence in us. I feel like we are a really good group of guys and we are really going to produce runs,”
Stewart said. “ Plus, the wind played a little factor blowing in today. You had to hit it on a line, you couldn’t get any air on it.”
The Sun Devils didn’t leave any air under their chances.
With runners on first and second in the fifth inning, Arizona State’s Trever Allen squared up a Zack Godley curveball.
The three-run blast cleared the patio in left field and turned a one-run lead into four.
“Allen hit a great first-pitch curveball,” UT coach Dave Serrano said. “It was a good pitch down in the zone, he just went down and got it. You have to tip your cap to where it needs to be tipped — their pitching.”
Other than the fifth-inning pockmark, Godley’s second outing of the season was strong.
He departed in the seventh inning with nine strikeouts, four earned runs and four walks.
“It wasn’t too bad, but it still could have been better,” Godley said. “I have to cut down on my walks.”
Consequently, the Vols’ offense could have used a few more free passes in the bottom of the ninth.
Trailing by four, Tennessee received three free passes in the inning to load the bases. But with two outs, Stewart rolled over a 2-2 pitch to end both the game and the Vols’ most promising scoring chance.
“We came up on the short end,” Serrano said. “But we’ll definitely show up tomorrow.”
Riley Blevins is a freelance contributor.