Vols' debut victorious

Get the latest on Tennessee baseball as the Dave Serrano era began today at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Tennessee head baseball coach Dave Serrano has made three debuts at new programs, but this was the most anticipated one yet.

"I told my wife this morning I was the most excited about this one," Serrano said.

But Serrano was not the only one to make his first appearance in Tennessee's 7-1 win over Northern Illinois on Friday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Northern Illinois used freshman relief pitcher Mike Grindstaff, and Tennessee used freshman pitchers Robbie Kidd and Conner Stevens. The Vols also started freshmen Jared Allen and Will Maddox.

"It came at me early. First play, diving, I didn't quite make the play. It was good to get that first one out of the way. Trying to get that first fly and at-bat out of the way," Allen said, "I had a good first at-bat, got good metal on it and put it to right-center. After that, nerves were clear, and it was just back to the basics and playing ball."

But the majority of Friday's firepower came from the upperclassmen.

Tennessee senior Chris Pierce's three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning rode the breeze just over the right field wall to give the Vols a 6-0 advantage.

"Early in the season, the hitting is a little bit ahead of the pitching," Pierce said.

The Vols held a 2-0 lead early despite having no hits after NIU senior starting pitcher Tom Barry hit two batters and walked three. Barry finished his six innings surrendering five hits, earning six runs, three walks and four strikeouts.

Tennessee's junior starting pitcher Drew Steckenrider put the nail in NIU's coffin with a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning off of NIU sophomore pitcher Eli Anderson. It was the last time anyone would score. Steckenrider also started the game at pitcher for the Vols, going four innings and allowing two hits with one walk and two strikeouts before being moved to designated hitter.

"With some of (Steckinrider's) abilities, if he could live up to some of them, it's going to help us become more successful more consistently," Serrano said, "Players say that his demeanor is so much better now than it has been in the past."

"When Steck's in there pounding strike one, it's easy to play defense and get three outs and come back in and swing it again," Pierce added.

But the Volunteer youth drew the most attention.

"We got a lot of good effort from everyone, and I want to give a shout out to our freshmen, the two guys who came in and shut them down in the end there," Steckenrider said.

"We got two freshman's feet wet," Serrano said, "They did a good job of having a bounce in their step. It was crisp."

Tennessee and Northern Illinois will play a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at noon.

To see images of the action Friday, check out the gallery below (click to enlarge):

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