published Monday, May 14th, 2012

Baseball Vols out of SEC hunt thanks to Ole Miss Rebels

OXFORD, Miss. -- Tennessee's baseball team got a triple dose of heartbreak on Saturday.

That made a rainy Sunday all the more fitting.

Ole Miss' Sikes Orvis hit a game-tying pinch-hit home run, Matt Snyder gave the Rebels the 7-4 win with a three-run bomb in 11th and Vanderbilt eliminated the Volunteers from SEC tournament contention with an upset win at 4th-ranked LSU hours later.

"That was a tough one," first-year UT coach Dave Serrano said after Saturday's loss. "It's kind of the script of the difference between not being successful and being successful. When they had to get it done, they got it done. We were givers again today."

The Vols (24-27, 8-19 SEC) began the weekend three games back of Auburn for the 10th and final SEC tournament spot. The Tigers took two of three at Arkansas, and the Commodores won their series against LSU. Though reaching Hoover was UT's top goal all season long, the Vols will miss the postseason for the fifth consecutive season.

UT's 4-2 loss to the 24th-ranked Rebels (34-18, 14-13) on Friday night made the rest of the weekend more difficult, though Dalton Saberhagen was solid in a complete-game performance. In just the third start of his career, the son of former Major Leaguer Bret scattered 11 hits, but UT could manage just five hits of its own. The Vols have struggled in the absence of the injured Zack Godley, the Vols' normal Friday-night starter.

The Vols, who were once 7-8 in SEC play, led 3-0 on Saturday, and Ethan Bennett's ninth-inning home run off the left-field foul pole gave UT an insurance run for a two-run cushion. Drew Steckenrider, one of the Vols' most talented players who provides pop at the plate and value on the mound, gave up both of the backbreaking home runs. Snyder, one of the SEC's home-run leaders, blasted the winner over the right-field wall.

Amid a persistent drizzle, the Rebels jumped out to a 3-1 lead after two innings and held on for a 4-2 win. Freshmen pitchers Joseph Vanderplas, Robbie Kidd and Conner Stevens combined to allow just six hits, but the Vols managed just four hits. Both of their runs were unearned following errors.

"I'll be honest, I think after yesterday, knowing that we were mathematically eliminated, I saw the toll it took on our guys," Serrano said after Sunday's game. "I told them before the game that we are going to finish this thing the right way. Everything that we do good is building toward the future of this program. I'm in it for the long haul, not just the short term."

UT closes a five-game road swing on Tuesday at Middle Tennessee State before closing the season next weekend against Arkansas in Knoxville.

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