The Tennessee Vols have hit a rough stretch after a pretty good start in the SEC baseball race.
The Vols lost for the seventh time in their last nine games as they fell to Mississippi State 7-1 in Starkville. They are now 7-10 in league play.
Tennessee managed just a season-low tying three hits off of Mississippi State starter Kendall Graveman, who fired a complete game, retiring 13 of the last 14 batters he faced, as the Bulldogs defeated the Volunteers, 7-1, on Friday night at Dudy Noble Field.
"Very discouraging to say the least," UT head coach Dave Serrano said. "We saw it as a coaching staff in BP today. We didn't take good swings in BP and it is very discouraging, but I know that I'm not a quitter, my coaching staff doesn't quit and we won't allow anyone to be around us that are quitters. We are going to play this thing out and we are still fighting for something. Nothing has been taken away from us.
"It's a very discouraging loss, but I am too proud of this university, too proud of this uniform to allow anyone that isn't going to give their best effort each and every day to be in this lineup. If I have to make changes to find the right guys I will, because I am proud of this opportunity that I've been given and someone that is going to play for us is going to feel the same way."
Graveman induced 15 groundball outs and struck out eight as he went the distance for the second time in his career. He improves to 3-2 with the win while UT freshman Robbie Kidd (2-1) suffered the first loss of his collegiate career after giving up six runs on five hits in a career-high 4.2 innings.
Senior southpaw Josh Allman also posted a career high on the mound for the Big Orange, yielding just a single run on two hits over 3.1 innings of work in his second appearance of the season. His longest previous outing was 1.1 frames against Western Kentucky in 2010 and Mississippi Valley State earlier this season.
Mississippi State struck first on Friday, grabbing a quick 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second on a sacrifice fly by Matthew Britton.
Tennessee turned the pressure up in the top of the fourth, using a pair of hit-and-runs to tie the game. Zach Osborne led off the frame with a hard-hit single down the third-base line. He promptly stole second as Davis Morgan swung through a pitch, but Morgan more than made up for it on the next offering, as the Vols went right back to the hit-and-run and he delivered an RBI single through the left side of the infield.
The Bulldogs had an immediate response in the home half of the inning, however, as an RBI double by Wes Rea and a two-run triple by Adam Frazier put Mississippi State up 4-1 after four full frames.
They quickly tacked on two more in the sixth, getting a two-out, two-run double from Rea to go ahead by a commanding 6-1 score. The Bulldogs added another tally in the eighth on an RBI single by Adam Frazier to complete the scoring.
Tennessee will look to salvage a win in the series finale at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday. The Vols will send sophomore righthander Nick Williams (2-4, 3.15) to the mound. Mississippi State has yet to announce a starting pitcher.
"Tomorrow is a big game for both teams," Serrano said. "I thought Nick (Williams) got better as his three innings went on Tuesday and it starts on the mound, but we have to scrap and get better at-bats.
"Give credit where credit is due, (Mississippi State's) pitching has been good, but we just have to have more mentally tough at-bats and fight through some things. Like I try to preach to these young men, that is what life is about. Nothing is going to be easy and nothing is going to be given to you."