The Tennessee Vols baseball team continued its hot streak on Tuesday night, defeating Virginia Tech 5-4 in the "Hokie-Smokey Classic."
Pioneer Field in Greeneville, Tenn., on the campus of Tusculum College, hosted the renewed rivalry between the two schools. The park was nearly packed full as fans of both teams got the chance to see the schools' first meeting since 2001, when the teams met in Kingsport.
"I started this back up because it's tradition and I want to bring tradition back to Tennessee baseball," Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano said.
"It was big first of all to play this game again and to play it here," Serrano said. "And then to come out with a victory makes it even better for us. Hopefully we can continue to build on it, Virginia Tech has a good team and we were very fortunate to play as well as we did tonight."
The Vols took advantage of early location issues by Tech starter Colin O'Keefe. The Vols were in business after two walks and a hit batter loaded the bases with only one out.
Then Tennessee second baseman Jeff Moberg surprised everyone when he broke for home plate. O'Keefe's pitch sailed way outside and Moberg slid in safe with a rare steal of home. Pierce Bily and Christin Stewart moved up to second and third, respectively, to complete the triple steal, and on the next pitch third baseman Taylor Smart smacked a double down the left field line, scoring Bily and Stewart to give the Vols a 3-0 first inning lead.
"The guy wasn't checking when I was at third and he was in the wind-up. I was kind of just walking off and (Coach Greg Bergeron) was like 'Hey, steal home right here' and I just kept going and he never checked," Moberg said.
"I was trusting Taylor not to swing," Moberg said. "You know it was a risky play but it worked out."
Junior Blake Thomas got his first start for the Vols this season and pitched 6.1 strong innings. Thomas gave up an RBI single and a two-run homer to Tech first baseman Sean Keselica in the top of the third that cut Tennessee's lead to 4-3.
An RBI single by Stewart in the bottom of the sixth proved very valuable as the Vols extended their lead to 5-3. The Hokies then knocked Thomas out of the game in the top of the seventh and scored a run of their own to cut the Vols' lead back to one at 5-4.
But freshman Andy Cox came in and shut the door on the Hokies, pitching 2.1 scoreless innings and striking out three to secure the win for the Vols.
It is the fourth win for the Vols in their last five games, and one Serrano hopes the team can continue to build off of.
"We're starting to play good baseball," Serrano said. "We're starting to hit our stride and take some steps and I'm very proud of these guys. Winning is always fun."