published Monday, April 9th, 2012

UT drops two to Gamecocks

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Tennessee's baseball team went toe-to-toe with South Carolina this weekend.

Given where the programs have been recently, it's hard for the Volunteers to view a series loss as too much of a negative.

The two-time defending national champion and 10th-ranked Gamecocks won Saturday and Sunday to take the series after UT's surprising win in Friday night's series opener.

Despite taking one game, UT coach Dave Serrano was disappointed in Sunday's performance.

"I didn't feel like we showed up with the energy and mental capacity to come out on top," he said after South Carolina's 6-1 series-clinching win. "We didn't do what we needed to do to come out on top in this series.

"That's what's so disappointing for me, is the opportunity we had today to kind of separate ourselves from some of the teams in our division. We didn't take advantage of it. It's just going to make it harder for us down the line, and I just hope that we don't look back and kick ourselves for the opportunity we had and didn't take advantage of it."

UT (20-12, 6-6 SEC) scored just a run apiece on Saturday and Sunday. The Gamecocks (23-9, 5-7) scored four unearned runs in the fifth after pitcher Nick Williams' throwing error on a bunt opened the door. Outfielder Chris Fritts' solo home run was UT's lone offense against Carolina starter Colby Holmes.

Serrano called Saturday night's walk-off 2-1 defeat a "tough loss," though the Gamecocks left 15 runners on base during the first eight innings. L.B. Dantzler delivered the winning hit off UT reliever Carter Watson after a leadoff single, sacrifice bunt and wild pitch put the winning run on third. Freshman Will Maddox tripled to lead off the game and scored on Zach Luther's groundout, though the Vols managed a season-low three hits.

The Vols, who haven't even made the SEC tournament in four years, battled back from a 4-3 deficit on Friday night with a run apiece in the eighth and ninth innings. Luther doubled and scored the tying run, and Zach Osborne scored the winning run when Carolina pitcher Matt Price caught Luther's bunt before throwing wildly trying to double-up Osborne. Drew Steckenrider homered and tossed 2 1/3 innings of two-hit, six-strikeout relief for the win.

"We kind of overcame ourselves, and that's what we've been doing lately," Serrano said. "But I'm very proud of how we overcame."

The Vols travel to East Tennessee State on Wednesday before hosting top-ranked Florida for a weekend series.

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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