KNOXVILLE — The rain stayed in a holding pattern, and so did Tennessee's baseball season this weekend.
Besieged by storm clouds that parted only when the opposition's charter bus left campus, the Volunteers' weekend Southeastern Conference series with Arkansas ended the same way the series with Vanderbilt ended the weekend before: in a wash.
Rain eliminated a game, and the teams split the two that were played, leaving the Vols (24-19, 7-15) treading water in their pursuit of postseason berths. Tennessee won 5-4 and lost 2-0.
"There's disappointment, but on the other side the team did what we had to do, and that's get at least one of these two games," said Tennessee coach Dave Serrano, who is in the last year of his contract. "We would have liked two. You can't win enough. I can't win enough, and I hope the players get that feeling sooner rather than later."facebook
The Vols arrived at Lindsey Nelson Stadium at 7:30 a.m. Saturday to pull the tarp off the infield. A long day ensued.
Thursday night's series-opening game was suspended due to rain and resumed at 10 a.m. with the Vols trailing the No. 18 Razorbacks 1-0 in the bottom of the second inning.
Tennessee's bats woke up quickly. Will Heflin singled to center field, scoring Pete Derkay. Jeff Moberg followed with a double to right center field that scored Waldren and Heflin.
Hunter Martin returned to the mound after throwing 27 pitches on Thursday and pitched into the seventh inning to earn the win, even after the Razorbacks (35-13, 14-9) surged ahead 4-3 in the sixth inning.
Tennessee loaded the bases and scored two runs on an error in the bottom of the frame. Martin got two outs in the seventh before relievers Zach Warren and Zach Linginfelter closed the door on the SEC's home run leaders.
"Very excited after game one that was extended over three days that we were able to jump out early; then they come back and take the lead, then we retake the lead and hold on to it," Serrano said.
Game two belonged to Arkansas pitcher Trevor Stephan.relatedarticlethumb
The 6-foot-5 right-hander gave up just one hit while pitching the entire seven-inning game, which started nearly four hours after the first game ended, because of persistent rain.
Tennessee freshman Garrett Stallings threw a solid six-plus innings but took the loss as the Razorbacks touched him for runs in the fifth and seventh innings.
The Vols threatened to tie it when designated hitter Will Heflin lifted a fly ball to deep left center field in the bottom of the fifth. But Arkansas' Dominic Fletcher tracked it down to preserve the Razorbacks' 1-0 lead.
Tennessee right fielder Luc Lipcius drove a pitch to the warning track in the bottom of the sixth after Jordan Rodgers drew a walk, but Fletcher was there again. Matt Waldren drew a two-out walk to bring the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but pinch-hitter Dom Thornton struck out swinging to end the series.
"This weekend was a positive, as of right now," Stallings said. "We're not too happy with losing that game. Our offensive approach wasn't that great. I could have done a little bit better today. But it's always good when you can tie or win the series. We've just got to keep moving forward and get ready for Belmont next week."
The Vols host Belmont on Tuesday and travel to Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday before starting a three-game SEC set at No. 4 Kentucky on Friday. They close the regular season by hosting Missouri May 18-20.
Tennessee needs to finish 12th or better in the league standings to make the SEC tournament. The Vols entered the weekend in 12th and appeared likely to stay in that position, pending the results of Saturday's and today's other conference games.
"We're always in touch with what's going on, but we're in control of our own destiny right now," Stallings said. "We just have to stay true to ourselves, give the best we have and it will all pan out."
Contact staff writer David Cobb at firstname.lastname@example.org.