The first inning was all the Diamond Vols needed on Tuesday.
The Tennessee Volunteers (8-7) earned their fourth consecutive win and second shutout in as many games. The Vols picked up three first inning runs and added one in the eighth to secure the 4-0 win against Western Kentucky (7-8).
"You want to score every run but you're not gonna be perfect," head coach Dave Serrano said. "We strive to be perfect but we know we're gonna come up short of that ... We just want our guys to give us quality at bats in every situation, especially when runners are in scoring position."
Trevor Bettencourt earned the win in his first start for the Vols. The freshman right-hander pitched around trouble in the top of the first with help from catcher David Houser, who threw out a base runner trying to steal third. Bettencourt allowed zero runs on six hits and recorded three strikeouts in three and 2/3 innings. Dalton Saberhagen, Drake Owenby and Eric Martin added five and a third scoreless innings, with junior Nick Williams finishing the game in the ninth.
"At the start, I felt like I was throwing right at the guys aggressively," Bettencourt said. "Then I started losing it a little bit, but I just went out there trying to throw strikes."
The bulk of the offense for the Vols came in the bottom of the first inning. Jeff Moberg started the inning with a walk, followed with a single by Will Maddox, who extended his hitting-streak to 10 games.
An error by WKU shortstop Steve Hodgins cost the Hilltoppers a double play and loaded the bases for Tennessee. After back-to-back strikeouts, freshman right fielder Christin Stewart forced in a run with a walk, and sophomore left fielder Parker Wormsley cracked a two-run single into right field to put the Vols up 3-0 after one.
"I just always take advantage of my opportunities, whether it's late in the game or I get a start, I just try to play as hard as I can every pitch, win every pitch for the team and just take pride in that," Wormsley said.
Serrano said he thought the climax of the game came as early as the first inning.
"I thought the back-breaker of the game was they get the first two guys on in the first inning and we come out of it unscathed," he said. "Then we load the bases, we get two punch-outs against us and then we get a run and Parker Wormsley comes up with a big base hit. Those are back-breakers."
Wormsley would finish the day with three of Tennessee's four RBIs. The sophomore added the Vols' fourth and final run in the bottom of the eighth on a sacrifice squeeze play that scored freshman center fielder Pierce Bily.
Western Kentucky out-hit the Vols nine to six and despite hitting the ball hard, the Tennessee pitching and defense held strong.
The Hilltoppers' pitching staff came into the game averaging over 10 strikeouts per game. While Tennessee's offense struggled in the middle inning, it was able to put the ball in play and struck out just six times.
"Their guys made some quality pitches and it's gonna happen throughout the course of a game, but as we say we always try to win innings," said Serrano.
The Vols and Hilltoppers will play game two of the series Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.