KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee got some good and some bad all rolled into one from pitcher Zack Godley on Friday night.
The junior right-hander pitched deep into the game and got out of a couple of jams, but fourth-ranked Florida made him pay for two ineffective two-strike pitches.
The Gators scored the decisive runs in the fifth inning of a 3-1 Southeastern Conference win in the series opener at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in front of a crowd of 3,401, the 12th largest in UT program history.
"I thought he threw good," first-year UT coach Dave Serrano said. "I thought he really did good. That's a pretty good baseball team. It's a great offensive team in my opinion, so when you hold them to three runs, it gives us a chance to win.
"They put some good swings on it, and the difference was they put good swings on pitches tonight and we didn't."
The Volunteers (20-14, 6-7) lost for just the second time in Godley's five starts against ranked teams this season. He allowed just a run combined in wins against Louisiana-Monroe and then-unbeaten Kentucky, and the Vols won in his starts against Texas and South Carolina. He also gave up seven and eight runs, respectively, against Georgia and Alabama.
Friday, Godley scattered nine hits in seven-plus innings of work, allowed just three runs and threw 68 strikes in 99 pitches. He allowed three consecutive singles to begin the second inning but pitched out of the bases-loaded jam. It was two-strike doubles, though, by Mike Zunino and Nolan Fontana that drove in the go-ahead runs.
Godley didn't get much help from his offense. UT took a 1-0 lead in the second on freshman leadoff hitter Will Maddox's two-out, two-strike single, but the Vols missed on two opportunities after the Gators (27-7, 8-5)-- who were ranked No. 1 before losing two of three to LSU last weekend -- took the lead. In the sixth and eighth innings, UT had runners on third and second with one out and failed to capitalize both times.
Florida, which beat top-ranked Florida State earlier this week, struck out a dozen UT batters, and the Vols left 12 on base.
"My coaching staff and I want things to happen for this team that they've never experienced, [but] we can't go do it for them," Serrano said. "They've got to go do that. As athletes, they've got to be able at times to step up when it's time to step up.
"That's what disappointing to me, because I foresee in my vision of these young men that have never been to something like the SEC tournament -- we've put ourselves in a great spot to do that, but no one's going to give it to us. We have to step up as young men or men and be able to succeed in these kind of situations. That's been the biggest hurdle that we have to overcome as a baseball program, is that we've got to expect to win and we've got to not accept losing."
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 ...