KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Volunteers gained an advantage over the Bruins early Tuesday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Building on a 2-1 first inning lead, each of the Tennessee starters recorded at least one hit and the pitching staff combined for eight strikeouts in the Vols’ 5-3 victory over Belmont.
Seniors Chris Hall (1-for-3, 2 RBI) and Vincent Jackson (1-for-4, RBI) and junior Nick Senzel (2-for-4) led the 10-hit effort, totaling four hits and three RBI in addition to two runs scored.
With the win, Tennessee improves to 26-23 (7-17 SEC) on the season and Belmont moves to 28-21 with a 14-10 record in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Belmont struck first in the midweek matchup, plating a run on a solo-shot over the left field wall by right fielder Brennan Washington in the first inning.
In the bottom of the first, Tennessee answered, scoring two runs on three hits. Leading off the inning for the Vols, Brodie Leftridge (1-for-3) advanced to first after being hit by a pitch. He then reached third on a throwing error by Belmont’s starting pitcher. With Leftridge in scoring position, Hall singled through the right side to tie the game at 1-1. Senzel then sent a ball into right field to put runners on the corners. Following Senzel, Jackson singled through the left side to give Tennessee the 2-1 lead.
The Volunteers continued their offensive onslaught in the fourth, driving in two runs to extend their lead to 4-1. Freshman catcher Sean Skelly (1-for-3) started the inning off with a double to right field, his second of the season. Brett Langhorne (1-for-4) then singled to center to put runners on the corners for Derek Lance (1-for-4, RBI). On the first pitch of the at-bat, Lance sent a ball up the middle to score Skelly and put Tennessee up 3-1. Leftridge then laid down a bunt and reached first safely to load the bases. Hall proceeded to draw a bases loaded walk and plate run number four to put the Vols up 4-1.
The Bruins threatened in the fifth, putting a runner in scoring position following back-to-back hits and a fielding error by Tennessee with one out. To end the threat, right-handed relief pitcher Daniel Vasquez (2.0 IP) delivered a strikeout followed by a caught fly ball in left field.
In the sixth, Belmont took advantage of Tennessee’s second error of the game to plate a run and trim the Vols’ lead to 4-2. Bruins designated hitter Nick Egli then hit a solo home run to left in the seventh inning to cut Tennessee’s lead to 4-3.
To start the bottom of the seventh, Senzel singled up the middle and then stole second. He advanced to third on a balk. With two outs and Senzel on third, Santiago singled to right field to plate the final run of the game and give the Vols a 5-3 lead.
Sophomore Aaron Soto started on the mound for the Orange and White, allowing one run on one hit and striking out two batters through 2.0 innings of work.
Entering the game to start the third inning, righty Jon Lipinski fired two strikeouts in his 2.0 shutout innings pitched to earn his third win of the season.
Vasquez and Alex Harper-Cook combined for 3.0 innings of work. The freshmen allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits and fanned two batters.
Andy Cox took to the mound in the eighth to close the game. The lefty fired two strikeouts and allowed just one hit in his 2.0 inning appearance. The performance earned him his third save of the season.
Vol Baseball Quick Hits
• Tennessee now holds an 8-4 all-time record versus Belmont, including a 7-4 advantage in Knoxville.
• Left fielder Vincent Jackson recorded his 50th RBI of the season with an RBI-single in the first inning, making it the first time since 2010 that Tennessee has had three players with 50-or-more RBI in a season (Last was P.J. Polk – 51, Cody Hawn – 61 and Blake Forsythe – 57 in 2010).
• Andy Cox tied the school record for most career-appearances with 85. He is tied with Craig Cobb who tallied 85 appearances from 2004-07.
• With his two base hits, Nick Senzel extends his current hit streak to 11 games.
• Tuesday’s attendance at Lindsey Nelson Stadium: 1,221
• On Deck for the Vols: Tennessee takes on conference rival LSU in the final weekend series at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Friday, May 13 – Sunday, May 15 before hosting ETSU for a midweek matchup on Tuesday, May 17. The Vols then travel to Athens, Ga. for their last weekend series of the regular season against Georgia.