In the third inning, Will Maddox left his feet, stopping what looked to be a sure base hit down the third base line.
Ball in glove, the Tennessee third basemen promptly rose and tossed to first to cap the highlight reel out.
The trend would continue.
A.J. Simcox flashed his leather in the seventh, leaping to snag a sharply hit liner.
Taylor Smart added another stellar stop at second base in the eighth.
No matter how firmly hit, if the ball was playable, a Tennessee defender seemingly corralled it.
But there wasn’t anything UT’s defense could do about the balls hit over the left field wall.
Tennessee’s steady hands in the field were no match for No. 20 Arizona State’s (4-2) pair of two-run home runs Sunday.
Despite having its first errorless game of the season, UT (2-5) dropped the series finale to the Sun Devils, 5-1, at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
During the series, UT set a school record for attendance in its home-opening weekend with a total of 6,508.
“This program is always going to be based on pitching and defense,” Tennessee coach Dave Serrano said. “I think that wins championships. And I thought we really flashed the leather today.”
Arizona State’s Trever Allen hit the first two-run home run in the fourth inning, powering the 10th pitch from Vols’ starter Andy Cox over the left field wall. It was Allen’s second homer of the weekend.
In near mirror fashion, James McDonald drove Cox’s ninth pitch in his at-bat over the left field wall in the fifth inning.
Seven of Arizona State’s 11 runs in the series came on three home runs.
Tennessee managed to outscore the Sun Devils, 12-11, in the series. UT also outscored UNLV in its season-opening series, 23-21, but lost three of four games.
“We’re not there as a pitching staff stuff-wise for a hitter to be able to see so many pitches and for us to have success,” Serrano said. “But we walk away and I don’t think we’re that far off.”
The Vols got their first two extra base hits of the series on a pair of doubles from Maddox and Vance Vizcaino, but otherwise UT’s bats were silenced by Sun Devils’ starter Ryan Kellogg.
Kellogg struck out six in five innings. The Vols struck out a total of 10 times Sunday.
“Whether you have pop or not, you can’t strike out 10 times,” Serrano said. “I think we have some pop in this lineup, it just hasn’t come out yet.”
Pop or not, the Vols managed to bring the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth.
After surrendering two easy outs to open the final inning, three consecutive walks loaded the bases for freshman outfielder Vincent Jackson.
But just as Jackson was edging into the batter’s box, Serrano sent out fellow freshman Jeff Moberg to hit in his place.
Moberg struck out on a 2-2 fastball to end the game.
“I don’t regret us doing that,” Serrano said. “I think it’s the right move right now. We went with it and we can’t second guess ourselves.”