After the Bucs won two games in Knoxville, the Vols repaid the favor with a 6-2 win Tuesday night at Thomas Stadium.
Tennessee starter Will Heflin (4-1) gave the Vols (22-17) six solid innings, allowing just four hits and two walks. Benito Santiago came through at the plate, driving in three runs.
"He asks for the ball in a starting role because he wants to help the team," Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said about Heflin. "Even at this late point of the season, we're still searching for some roles to be pinned down. Even the umpire said, 'Hey, I can't play favorites, but I like the way your guy competes.' We knew when he got the job in the fall, he was going to be a guy we could count on. He has good presence on the mound."
ETSU (18-15) had seven hits, but much of the night the Bucs had hard swings only to hit the ball right at Tennessee's players.
"We squared a couple of balls up and got it at somebody," ETSU coach Joe Pennucci said. "I feel some guys are hitting the ball better than the numbers show, and we could have had a timely hit here or there and it would be a better game. But, that's the way baseball is sometimes and what makes it so hard."
SANTIAGO LEADS VOLS
Pete Derkay singled up the middle to score Justin Ammons for a 1-0 Tennessee lead in the top of the first inning.
The Vols added two more runs in the second with Wyatt Stapp's RBI single to left field and Brandon Chinea reaching on an error as Brandon Trammell scored. Tennessee added to its lead in the fifth inning on a bases-loaded walk by Santiago, scoring Ammons.
Santiago added a two-run single to score Derkay and Ammons in the ninth. He went 2 for 4 with three RBIs to lead the Vols, while Ammons was 2 for 4 with three runs scored. Trammell was also 2-for-4.
"It's been miraculous how good he has been on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for us," Vitello said about Santiago. "We just need him to be that way on the weekends (during the SEC series). The way he can be that way on the weekend is that last at-bat. He was fully committed to do what he had to do to put that ball in play and he got not one but two RBIs out of it."
BUCS FINALLY ON THE BOARD
ETSU finally scored in the eighth inning on Caleb Longley's sacrifice fly to right field, bringing home Aaron Maher. However, the Bucs left seven runners on base, including David Beam on third to end the eighth.
The Bucs missed other scoring opportunities, including runners on second and third bases in the second inning. They had the bases loaded in the sixth when Heflin struck out Cullen Smith for the third out. Smith led ETSU by going 2 for 4.
"There's no drill to drive somebody in," Pennucci said. "What it is, is competing and getting it done, and we didn't do it."
Daniel Sweeney (1-1) suffered the loss after giving up nine hits and four runs over 3 2/3 innings. Russell Koesters pitched the next 1 1/3 innings, while Drew Korzybski, James Giambalvo, Matt Mercer and Dominick Stefanacci all saw action.
Tennessee will return to SEC play in a three-game series against Texas A&M starting Friday. ETSU will head to New Orleans on Friday for a non-conference series against Tulane.