As the sun set Thursday, Tennessee’s chances of reaching the SEC baseball tournament grew darker and darker.
Texas A&M had nine hits off UT senior ace Zack Godley and handed the Vols a 5-1 loss in front of 1,776 fans at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Not long after the Vols finished, Missouri beat Kentucky 4-2 and edged closer to the 12th and final spot in the SEC tournament.
As a result, Tennessee (21-29, 7-19 SEC) must win the last two games against Texas A&M, and Missouri (17-30, 9-19) must lose twice to Kentucky in order for the Vols to make the SEC tournament.
“We’ve put ourselves in this situation, and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” UT coach Dave Serrano said. “We haven’t made anything easy on ourselves this year, so why should it start now in Game 50?”
Nick Williams (2-4) will start for UT in Friday’s game at 6 p.m. Texas A&M will start Parker Ray (0-1). Game 3 is Saturday at 1.
Godley (5-7) went the distance Thursday and had a career-high 13 strikeouts with three walks. Texas A&M sophomore Daniel Mengden (7-3) threw a seven-hitter, struck out four, and walked two.
“I don’t fault anything tonight,” Serrano said. “We didn’t get hits when we needed to. We didn’t get the outs when we needed to. But that was just a good baseball game that we lost. Their pitcher out-dueled our pitcher.”
All five of the Aggies’ runs were scored by two-out hits.
Cole Lankford hit an RBI infield single for a 1-0 lead in the third.
UT tied it in the fourth when Will Maddox led off with a single and later scored on Ethan Bennett’s fielder’s choice.
The Aggies scored an unearned run in the fifth. Blake Allemand reached on an error with two outs and Lankford hit an RBI single.
Hunter Melton’s RBI single and Troy Stein’s two-run single gave Texas
A&M a 5-1 lead in the seventh.
“I felt good,” Godley said. “My curveball was good, my fastball was good, I was locating it well. When they got a chance, they took advantage of it and came out on top.”
UT had a potential rally stuffed in the seventh.
Bennett led off with a double and went to third on Christin Stewart’s single.
The Vols tried a hit-and-run play, but Pierce Bily didn’t make contact at the plate. Catcher Stein fired the pitch back to Mengden, who threw to third baseman Melton and started the rundown with Bennett getting tagged out on the third-base line.
“With no outs and first and third, I would have ventured to say they would of never thrown back to the pitcher, especially with the score 5-1,” Serrano said. “They just out-coached us with that play. They did a play we didn’t expect to happen. It doesn’t happen if we make contact.”
Dave Link is a freelance contributor.