Dave Serrano emerged from the dugout wearing a larger-than-usual grin.
“We’ll take the ugly ones, too,” the Tennessee coach said.
Certainly, the “ugly” was easy to spot Tuesday.
The day was cold, wet and dreary.
The Vols’ pitching was equally sluggish, as six different UT pitchers took the mound.
Errors showed up in both the field and the base paths.
But Tennessee’s offense loudly tapped into its potential.
The Vols’ (3-5) bats were explosive and versatile in a midweek, 9-7 victory over East Tennessee State (6-2) at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
The offense allowed the smiling Serrano to temporarily pardon any blunders.
Tennessee tallied 10 hits between six different batters.
“Through the course of a 56-game schedule, not all of them are going to be pretty,” Serrano said. “I’d feel a lot worse if it was an ugly game and we came out on the short end.”
The Vols utilized a versatile offensive barrage in a six-run third inning and a three-run fifth to squeak by their in-state foe.
Tennessee plated runs on sacrifice bunts, singles, doubles, a triple and a hit-and-run.
“I don’t like saying small-ball,” Serrano said. “I like calling it winning baseball. I think good teams are able to beat you in a lot of different facets.”
A Parker Wormsley suicide squeeze and a Vance Vizcaino two-run triple jumpstarted a third inning that saw 10 Tennessee batters.
The six runs in the third were the most UT has scored in a single inning this season.
“The offense definitely picked up the pitching,” Serrano said. “ I want us to play perfect every game — that’s almost impossible.”
But the Buccaneers had an immediate answer to UT’s offensive surge.
Entering the fourth inning trailing by six, ETSU cut the Vols’ lead to just one as Derek Niesman hit a two-run home run to highlight a string of seven consecutive Buccaneers reaching base safely.
Three Tennessee pitchers combined to surrender seven runs.
Vols’ freshman starter Matt Esparza (1-1) picked up the win. Esparza tossed 3 1/3 innings and allowed three hits and two runs.
UT freshman reliever Trevor Bettencourt earned his first save of the season, allowing just one hit in the ninth inning.
“We were able to win the game, that’s the only way you can look at it,” UT third baseman Will Maddox said.
Maddox paced the Vols yet again, going 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run.
But perhaps more impressive than his day in the batter’s box, Maddox made what Serrano deemed “the play of the game” in the eighth.
Tracking down a ball into foul territory down the third-base line, Maddox crashed into the rolled-up tarp along the bleacher wall to make an applause-provoking grab.
“I hope that the way (Maddox) plays, the way his focus is every game, is contagious to these guys that are his teammates,” Serrano said. “If they can become half of what Will is makeup and mentality-wise, we’re going to have a really special team eventually.”