A ninth-inning spark didn't ignite and Tennessee lost to visiting Cincinnati 2-1 on a cold Friday night in the first game of a three-game series.
Back-to-back singles in the bottom of the ninth inning by freshmen Pete Derkay and Will Heflin came with two outs but another knock was needed.
Tennessee (9-2) saw its eight-game winning streak come to a close. The Bearcats (6-6) got their first victory over the Orange & White in 14 contests.
Junior catcher Benito Santiago led off the Big Orange half of the second by taking a 2-0 pitch over the new, green wall at Lindsey Nelson Stadium for their lone run.
Jeff Moberg doubled and singled for a third of the Vols' hits.
Tennessee starter Hunter Martin (3-1) went six full innings. The senior from Murfreesboro struck out six, gave up two earned runs on seven hits and walked a pair.
In his first outing since going down with an injury over a year ago, Kyle Serrano made quick work of the Bearcats in a perfect seventh. The redshirt junior used 18 pitches to strike out all three batters he faced.
"I felt pretty good," said Serrano, who had Tommy John surgery a year ago to the day. "I mean I was a little anxious. I knew today that I was hot. I just tried to go back to using my experience like I've been out there all season. But you know it was good to get the first one out of the way. It was unfortunate we didn't get the 'W.' But it was good to get out there again."
Daniel Vasquez got the final six outs for Tennessee with for Ks, no walks and two hits allowed.
Connor McVey's first-inning homer put Cincinnati up early.
Tennessee sophomore Will Neely is dealing with a cracked nail and may not pitch this weekend. That means freshman Zach Linginfelter will likely start Game 1 of the Saturday doubleheader with junior Zach Warren toeing the rubber in the second half of the double-dip. Things get going in Knoxville at noon Eastern.
"I think right now I'm going to go Lingo in Game 1 and Warren in Game 2 of the doubleheader," Serrano told IT. "They're both slated to throw tomorrow."