Vols down Cincinnati 7-1, but Kyle Serrano likely out for the season

WHAT HAPPENED: Tennessee defeated Cincinnati 7-1 in its home opener in front of 1,096 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Wednesday, but coach Dave Serrano revealed after the game that his son and right-handed starting pitcher Kyle Serrano is likely out for the season with an injured ligament in his throwing elbow.

The Vols improved to 6-1. Cincinnati fell to 0-7.

Tennessee scored five runs in the first. with the first six hitters of the game reaching base. The Vols scored a run when second baseman Jeff Moberg came home when left fielder Vincent Jackson was hit by a pitch. Junior first baseman Jordan Rodgers then tripled down the right field line to clear the bases. Rodgers later scored on a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Daniel Neal.

Rodgers also doubled to open the third inning, then scored on a wild pitch. In the sixth, shortstop Max Bartlett scored in an infield single by third baseman Nick Senzel.

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Rodgers finished 2-for-4 with double and a triple. His three RBIs give him a team-leading 16 for the season, more than his season total in 2015.

Freshman right-hander Daniel Vasquez was excellent in his first start, striking out seven batters in five innings with good fastball command and a tight slider. He gave up two hits, including a home run to Cincinnati’s Ryan Nada, but those were the only runs the Vols allowed.

WHY DID IT HAPPEN: The Vols were a little sluggish after the first inning explosion, but Vasquez was strong as was the bullpen. Left-handers Aaron Soto and Zach Reid and right-handers Eric Freeman and Steven Kane combined to strike out six batters and allow just two runs and a walk in a combined four innings of work.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: The Vols continued offensive production maintains their momentum as they head to an invitational at East Carolina this weekend. Vasquez’s start is much more important, though, because the Vols are in need of arms with Serrano’s loss.

The junior right-hander started feeling pain in the fourth inning of his start against Memphis on Feb. 20. He allowed five runs and four walks in that inning. He skipped his next start and was also expected to miss this weekend even before an MRI was taken Tuesday. That found that his ulnar collateral ligament was not torn but off the bone and would require season-ending Tommy John surgery.

Serrano’s father and coach Dave said he thinks “70 to 80 innings” are up for grabs with Kyle out, and Vasquez proved he could be in play for those innings.