published Monday, April 30th, 2012

UT baseball has rough weekend

AUBURN, Ala. -- Tennessee's baseball team had a rough weekend on and off the field this weekend.

Not only were the Volunteers swept by Auburn, but they also saw closer Nick Blount abruptly dismissed from the team for violating team rules.

The Tigers outscored UT 35-12 in handing the Vols their second consecutive SEC sweep and knocking them down to 11th in the conference standings. UT (22-22, 7-14 SEC) is two games back of Vanderbilt and Georgia for the 10th and final spot in the SEC tournament, which the Vols haven't made since 2007.

"We create things for the other team and they take advantage of it," first-year UT coach Dave Serrano said after Sunday's 11-4 loss in which the Vols led 4-1 through three innings. "We're getting those opportunities, too, but aren't taking advantage. For some reason we are going through this.

"I can only look at it one way, and that is that we will become stronger because of it. We just have to continue to grind through it."

UT will try to snap its six-game losing skid and claw their way back into the postseason discussion without Blount, who had saved 10 games this season. On Friday night, Blount had a hand in Auburn's seven-run eighth, which broke open a 5-all tie. The 6-foot-6 junior allowed four earned runs without recording an out, and Serrano announced Blount's dismissal the following afternoon.

"It's an unfortunate situation for everyone involved," the coach said in the university's release. "As I have stated before this program is moving forward in every aspect. Our players and staff are expected to represent this great university to the highest order.

"Those who do not will not be part of the program."

Blount is the second player Serrano has dismissed since taking over UT's program last summer. Outfielder Andrew Toles, who was an All-SEC freshman team selection last season, got the boot in October. Blount's departure will make an already thin pitching staff even more lean.

With Friday-night starter Zack Godley out with injury, UT was forced to start Nick Williams Friday and Sunday. Freshmen Robbie Kidd and Eric Martin pitched in UT's 12-3 loss on Saturday. Freshman reliever Conner Stevens made two more appearances, his 15th and 16th this season.

"This team is struggling right now in all phases," Serrano said after Saturday's loss. "It's hard to pinpoint what we can do right now, but as coaches we have to stick the processes that we believe in and these guys have to fight their way out of this."

UT has SEC series remaining against Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Arkansas.

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