Vols top Middle Tennessee State 5-3 at home

Tennessee (5-3) squeaked out a 5-4 win over Middle Tennessee State at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Tuesday night. The Volunteers were led by the sophomore outfield duo of Jay Charleston and Justin Ammons, who had all five of the team’s RBI’s in the victory.

Things weren’t easy for Tennessee pitcher Daniel Vasquez to start the game, as he walked two batters and dealt a wild pitch. Still, MTSU left two men stranded on base despite forcing Vasquez to throw over 20 pitches in the long first inning. The two teams combined to throw over 60 pitches in the first inning, but neither team made a dent on the scoreboard.

It only took two pitches in the second inning for the Blue Raiders to get on the board, as right fielder Blake Benefield hit a deep solo shot to center field to make it 1-0. Vasquez managed to finish out the inning with no further damage allowed.

After walking a batter in the top of the third inning, Vasquez was taken out of the game after being looked at by the trainer. Redshirt junior Richard Jackson took the mound for the Vols, as Vasquez finished with three walks and one earned run through two innings.

“He had been sore earlier in the week, and it’s something that’s tough for us to pinpoint,” said Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello about Vasquez’s injury. “He (the trainer) didn’t have an answer for Daniel earlier in the week, so we put him out there.”

Jackson struck out his first batter but gave up two earned runs in the top of the third inning. Freshman Will Heflin took over for Jackson and finally stopped the bleeding for the Vols in the third inning, but MTSU still took a 3-0 lead. However, Tennessee was unable to answer back, as they left runners stranded in each of its first three innings.

Heflin was tested in the top of the fourth inning, as he walked and hit a batter to load the bases for the Blue Raiders. However, Heflin got out of the pinch with a ground out to second baseman Andre Lipcius.

Tennessee finally awoke out of its slumber in the fourth inning after Charleston hit a two-run double to cut the deficit to 3-2. Charleston’s rip was just the second hit for Tennessee in the game. Before Charleston’s hit, the team was 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

The Volunteers finally hit their stride in the fifth inning after Heflin delivered back-to-back strikeouts to end the top of the fifth inning. Charleston came up clutch for Tennessee once again, as he tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth with a one-run single. Ammons finally gave the Vols a 5-3 lead with a two-run triple.

“Our coach always says those are the easy RBI’s, just put the ball in play,” said Charleston. “I think that really changed the momentum of our team, it was a big boost.”

Heflin was inevitably replaced in the top of the seventh inning by Donovan Benoit. He finished with an impressive six strikeouts, two hits and just one walk allowed in four innings. However, on Benoit’s first pitch, Aaron Aucker of the Blue Raiders tallied a one-run single to cut the deficit to 5-4.

Freshman pitcher Chase Wallace replaced Benoit in the eighth inning to finish out the game for Tennessee. Wallace quickly found himself with the bases loaded and no outs for MTSU, but he got out of the jam with a strikeout and a double-play.

Wallace once again dodged a bullet in the bottom of the ninth inning, as the Blue Raiders had a man on third base with one out but failed to tie the game up.

“He’s (Wallace) is in that position because he can do what you saw,” said Vitello. “But he could’ve also made it a lot easier on himself.”

The Volunteers get back in action on Wednesday afternoon against Arkansas Pine-Bluff at 3:30 p.m. ET in Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Edited by Ben McKee

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Lady Vols sweep Mary Nutter Classic

The 2018 Mary Nutter Classic in Cathedral City, California hosts some of the best softball talent every year. Each team that competes in the yearly classic has a chance to walk away undefeated or without a win. This year was no different.

Tennessee entered the tournament as the No. 11 team in the country with a 10-1 record. Coached by Ralph and Karen Weekly, the Lady Vols were a favorite to sweep their Nutter Classic schedule, and they did just that.

In their first game, Tennessee routed BYU 13-0. Defending SEC Player of the Year Meghan Gregg hit her second home run of the year, bringing in two runs in the top of the first. Ace pitcher Caylan Arnold finished the day with four strikeouts while only allowing three hits.

Tennessee then took on the Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman. In the second inning, junior Abby Lockman hit a solo homer over the right field fence to give Tennessee a 3-1 lead. Matty Moss picked up the win over the Wildcats after allowing one run and striking out four. The 7-1 victory kept the Lady Vols perfect on the first day of the classic.

On day two, Tennessee’s first game came against UC Davis. Much like their first game against BYU, the Lady Vols did not allow any runs to the Aggies. Tennessee didn’t waste any time scoring, as RBI’s from Chelsea Seggern and Scarlet McSwain gave the Lady Vols an early 2-0 lead. Matty Moss got the win and improved to 7-1 on the season.

The Vols face the Oregon State Beavers next. Arguably playing against their best competition so far in the classic, the Lady Vols looked to establish their dominance early.

Meghan Gregg blasted a 3 run home run in the top of the first to give the Lady Vols a 3-0 lead. Tennessee’s bats stayed cold until the fifth and sixth innings, when the Lady Vols scored three runs each. Tennessee beat Oregon State 9-3 and remained perfect in the classic.

Day three started with the toughest team that the Lady Vols face this season, the No. 2 Oregon Ducks.

Tennessee knew that if it wanted to win, the Lady Vols would have to score early. The only run in the game came from Jenna Holcomb after Gregg hit an RBI double in the bottom of the first. The Lady Vols beat Oregon 1-0 thanks to strong outings from pitchers Matty Moss and Caylan Arnold.

The sixth and final game of the Mary Nutter Classic for Tennessee came against Northwestern. Caylan Arnold carried the Lady Vols with a dominating pitching performance and her season high 13 strikeouts.

Arnold improved to 6-0 on the season after her performance against the Wildcats. Chelsea Seggern drove in three runs to push Tennessee to a 6-1 win on Saturday afternoon.

With the win, the Lady Vols remained perfect in the Mary Nutter Classic and showed the country how dominant they can be. They improve to 16-1 on the season and look to continue their streak. Their next game will come against Charleston Southern on Friday, March 2 in the Tennessee Invitational in Knoxville.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee baseball drops series finale to UNC-Greensboro

Tony Vitello’s young Tennessee baseball team couldn’t complete its first sweep of the season on Sunday afternoon, as the Vols (4-3) fell to UNC-Greensboro, 3-2.

Despite the loss, the Vols were still able to pick up their first series win under Vitello this weekend thanks to victories over the Spartans (4-3) on Friday and Saturday.

“You had two evenly matched teams,” Vitello said following the loss. “It pains me to say it because I want to be better than our opponents, but it’s a well-coached team. They have different strengths than we do. Their defense in my opinion is what kept them in the game and early in the series.”

With the bats cold for both teams on a dreary Sunday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium, junior Will Neely turned in an impressive performance against the Spartans. A week following his first outing of the season in which he allowed five runs against Maryland, the Knoxville native only allowed one run in five innings of work.

The lone run Neely allowed came in the top of the first inning on an Andrew Moritz sac fly that allowed Austin Embler to score who reached on a lead-off double. Neely settled in after the run scored, striking out four in his second appearance of the year.

“The game slowed down for him,” Vitello said of Neely’s performance. “He’s a guy that’s got experience for us and he will continue to log innings for us.”

Freshman Garrett Crochet relieved Neely to start the sixth. Despite allowing two home runs that proved to be the difference in the game, Crochet turned in another impressive performance. The southpaw struck out three in four innings of work but picked up his first loss of the season.

In the top of the third inning, Tennessee shortstop Andre Lipcius lined out to left, driving in Zach Daniels to tie the game at 1-1.

Neither team was able to break the tie in the fourth or the fifth. That is until UNCG left fielder Dillon Stewart took over the game. In the top of the sixth, Stewart hit a home run to right to give the Spartans a 2-1 lead.

In his next at-bat, Stewart extended the Spartans lead to 3-1 on a solo homer to center field. The redshirt-senior finished 2-for-4 on the day with a pair of homers and RBIs.

“It’s about the pitches we are making,” Vitello said when asked about giving up multiple home runs to Stewart. “One of the at bats today was 10 pitches and the more a guy sees off you, the better he’s going to hit you. The really strong players will make you pay if you make bad pitches.”

Daniels was the lone bright spot for a Vols offense that was 0-for-10 at the plate with runners in scoring position on Sunday. The freshman finished the day 2-for-4 with a solo home run in the ninth that cut the Spartans the lead to 3-2.

After starting the season 0-for-11, Daniels is now batting .357 with a team-high three home runs.

Tennessee is back in action on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon for a pair of midweek games. The Vols will face Middle Tennessee State on Tuesday before turning around and facing Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Wednesday. Both games are slated to begin at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Lady Vols softball travels to California for Mary Nutter Classic

Tennessee Softball (10-1) heads to the Mary Nutter Classic in Cathedral City, California to take on six teams starting Thursday. The Lady Vols are fresh off a 5-1 performance in the Michele Smith Tournament in Florida last weekend, where they lost their first game of the season to Florida Atlantic.

In their first 11 games, the Volunteers outscored their opponents by a combined total of 63-31.

“I just think we need to carry ourselves with a little bit more swagger and realize who we are and why we came here,” co-head coach Karen Weekly said. “We came here to be in tough games and we came here to win those tough games and I think we need to take the field with an attitude.”

Tennessee’s bullpen appears to be its strong suit. Matty Moss, Gabby Sprang and Caylan Arnold have combined for 69 strikeouts and a 2.03 ERA. Moss leads the group with five wins, 22 strikeouts and a 1.35 ERA so far this season. Weekly said her goals and aspirations for the pitchers every game is “no walks,” and so far, they have fared well.

Six Tennessee players are hitting more than .300, as Meghan Gregg leads the team with an amazing .559 average and 14 RBI’s through just 11 games.

“We’ve had some ups and downs, everyone is going to make mistakes every once in a while. But I think as a cohesive unit we are together and I really enjoy that part of the game,” junior infielder Aubrey Leach said. “I think we have some grit and we really enjoy playing together.”

Tennessee kicks off the Mary Nutter Classic with a 1 p.m. game against BYU (4-6) who looks to snap a two game losing streak. The Cougars lost the final two games of the Marucci Desert Classic to Long Beach State and Iowa State by a combined three runs.

Later in the day, Tennessee will take on Bethune-Cookman (3-3) at 3:30 p.m. The Wildcats are currently on a three-game win streak after competing in the Disney Diamond 9 Citrus Blossom Invite last weekend.

The Friday slate includes a rematch for the Lady Vols, as they face UC Davis (7-4) for the second time this season after beating the team 6-0 in the Kajikawa Classic. Since then, the Aggies have a 6-3 record and have won their last four games. Following its game with UC Davis, Tennessee takes on Oregon State (7-4) who is fresh off a one-run loss to No. 7 LSU. The Beavers are 2-2 against ranked teams this season.

Tennessee closes the tournament against No. 5 Oregon (9-1) on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET. The Ducks started the season 9-0 before losing their last game to No. 15 Ole Miss 1-0 in extra innings. Tennessee’s final matchup of the tournament will come against Northwestern (5-4), who has lost two of its last three matchups after starting the season 4-1.

Despite their travel to start the season, the Lady Vols still gather great support.

“The energy we feel from the very start of the game to the very end, they really do influence us and give us that extra energy boost when we need it,” Leach said. “It amazes me every time.”

Edited by Ben McKee

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee defeats in-state foe Lipscomb for second straight win

Lipscomb (2-2) scored runs in five of the nine innings on Tuesday afternoon, but was unable to pull off the win in Lindsey Nelson Stadium over Tennessee (2-2). The Vols were propelled by a huge third inning performance that included six runs and a grand slam.

Freshman Sean Hunley got off to a hot start in his first career start for Tennessee, striking out two of the first three batters he faced to start the game.

Two walks put the outfield duo of Jay Charleston and Justin Ammons in scoring position for the Vols to start the bottom of the first inning. First baseman Pete Derkay and Andre Lipcius kicked off the scoring for Tennessee, both coming up with an RBI single to give Tennessee an early 2-0 lead through one inning.

Hunley cooled off quickly in the second inning following his fast start. Lipscomb’s Josh Martinez sent a ball deep to left field for a solo home run to give the Bisons their first run of the game. Still, Hunley was able to gather himself and stop the bleeding despite Lipscomb having two runners on base.

Lipscomb finally evened the score at 2-2 in the third inning after Zeke Dodson tallied an RBI on a fielder’s choice.

The tables turned in the bottom of the third inning, as Tennessee pulled away again with a two-run single to right field with the bases loaded from second basemen Wyatt Stapp. Then, with the bases loaded once again, center fielder Zach Daniels picked up his first hit of the season on a grand slam to deep left field to give the Vols an 8-2 lead through three innings.

“It was exciting… I think he would’ve taken anything at that point,” said Vitello. “He came up to the office yesterday and said he wanted to play, he believes in himself. So if he believes in himself, I do too,”

Lipscomb answered quickly in the top of the fourth inning with an RBI double from Tevin Symonette, who narrowed the Tennessee lead to just 8-3. Vitello and the Volunteers took Hunley out with one out and two men in scoring position as fellow freshman Garrett Crochet took over the mound. Crochet finished the fourth inning with a 6-4-3 double play to escape loaded bases from Lipscomb.

The good fortune didn’t last long for Crochet, as Dodson hit a line-drive home run over the left field wall in the fifth inning to cut the Tennessee lead to 8-4. However, Crochet was able to notch a strikeout and retire the final two batters to escape the inning.

Despite the loss, the Bisons scored in four of the first five innings and four straight innings from the second to fifth inning. However, Crochet and the Volunteers ended that in the sixth inning. The first inning that neither team scored finally came in the seventh inning.

Lipscomb got back on the board in the top of the seventh inning with an RBI double from Dodson to cut the Tennessee lead to just three runs. After three innings, Crochet was replaced by junior pitcher Daniel Vasquez to close out the game. Crochet recorded three strikeouts, two hits and two earned runs in his time on the mound.

The Volunteers failed to score in their last six innings, but it was still enough to finish off the Bisons by a score of 8-5 on Tuesday afternoon.

“First off, I don’t know what kind of trademark I want to leave on this place, but I don’t want it to be one where we don’t know what to do when the ball is put in play,” said Vitello. “There’s a lot of things that winning programs do, and we have to implement those things. The faster we do, the better off we’ll be.”

Edited by Ben McKee 

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee softball drops first 2018 game in Michele Smith Tournament

The No. 10 ranked Lady Vols are off to a 10-1 start to the season after finishing 4-1 in the Michele Smith Tournament in Florida over the weekend. Tennessee beat its opponents by a combined 23-13 margin in the Sunshine State.

Tennessee started off the weekend with a game against No. 15 Oklahoma State on Friday. Catcher Abby Lockman and senior shortstop Meghan Gregg combined for four RBI’s to give Tennessee a 5-1 win over the Cowgirls. Oklahoma State’s only run of the game came from a solo homer to left-center field, as they had just four hits in the entire game.

Junior infielder Aubrey Leach started off the game with a leadoff walk that led to a triple and two RBI’s from Gregg to start the game. Lady Vols pitcher Matty Moss closed out the Cowgirls for good in her fourth win of the season. Tennessee racked up its third straight win over ranked opponents.

In their second game Friday, the Lady Vols took on UMass. Lockman played a huge factor in Tennessee’s win once again, logging a team-high three RBI’s against the River Hawks. Despite trailing early to UMass, the Lady Vols recovered with a Lockman double that drove in three runners in the third inning.

Tennessee pitcher Caylan Arnold finished the game with eight strikeouts in five innings pitched. She recorded her second win of the year. The final run of the game came from Chelsea Seggern who hit an RBI single to score Leach in the fourth inning.

Disaster struck for the first time in the 2018 season, as the Lady Vols dropped to Florida Atlantic on Saturday by a score of 3-2. Despite the loss, Moss registered her 300th career strikeout in five innings. The Owls got off to a hot start with a pair of solo homeruns in the first and second inning.

Tennessee evened the score in the sixth inning, but Florida Atlantic closed out the game with a game-winning run on a fielder’s choice. Outfielder CJ McClain and Gregg led the Lady Vols with an RBI each on a combined 3-of-6 hitting.

Seggern and Tennessee got back on track Sunday with a 7-4 win over South Florida. Seggern hit a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the Lady Vols a win over the Bulls. Arnold once again had a solid day for Tennessee with nine strikeouts in five innings. Moss finished out the remaining two innings and got the win.

Three Tennessee players finished with two hits in the win, including Seggern, who managed to drive in four runs by herself. Tennessee finished the tournament with a game against Marshall on Sunday.

The Lady Vols clinched a narrow 5-4 win over the Thundering Herd. Gregg led Tennessee with a two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning. Arnold tallied seven strikeouts for her 41st strikeout of the season.

Tennessee gets back to action next weekend in the Mary Nutter Classic in Palm Springs, California. The Lady Vols will face six teams, including No. 3 ranked Oregon, in the tournament.

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics