Tennessee’s bats were nonexistent in the series finale with Georgia, as the Bulldogs (13-16, 3-6 SEC) defeated the Vols (15-10, 1-8 SEC) 3-1 on Sunday.
“We’re not very good right now, and I take the blame for that,” Vols head coach Dave Serrano said after the loss. “When we’re pitching, we’re not hitting. When we’re hitting, we can’t pitch.”
Offensively, Tennessee managed only three base hits. Despite drawing eight walks, the Vols failed to take advantage of several opportunities with a runner in scoring position. Unfortunately for Tennessee, every hard-hit ball seemed to find a fielder’s glove.
Freshman Zach Linginfelter made his second-career conference start. Outside of a three-run fourth inning, Linginfelter had a solid outing — he posted six strong innings, allowing six hits, three earned runs and one walk while recording four strikeouts. Every inning wasn’t easy, but the freshman managed to work out of multiple jams to prevent the Bulldogs from extending their lead.
In the second inning, Linginfelter picked off a runner at second to stall a potential scoring threat. Then in the third inning, right fielder Dom Thornton threw out a Georgia runner at the plate attempting to score for an outfield assist.
The game remained scoreless through three innings before the Bulldogs jumped on the board with three runs in the top half of the fourth. After striking out the lead-off hitter of the inning, Linginfelter hit a batter before giving up back-to-back RBI hits (a double and a single) to give Georgia a 2-0 lead. Another RBI single later in the inning extended the lead to three runs.
“I didn’t throw enough strikes,” Linginfelter said. “I kept getting behind hitters and when that happens, that gives them the advantage.”
Thornton responded with a solo blast to left field in the bottom of the fourth inning to trim the lead down to 3-1, his fourth home run of the week. Thornton finished the game 2-for-4. This turned out to be the final run scored by either team.
Georgia’s starting pitcher Chase Adkins had a big day on the mound, earning the win. In six innings of work, the junior allowed only three hits and one earned run. While he did walk four Tennessee hitters, he also struck out ten Vols, a career high for the junior college transfer.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Jeff Moberg and Justin Ammons drew back-to-back walks to give the Vols runners on first and second with the middle of their order due up. Unfortunately, back-to-back strikeouts by Jordan Rodgers and Benito Santiago stranded the runners and ended Tennessee’s best attempt at a late inning rally.
Kyle Serrano came on in relief for Linginfelter and pitched the seventh and eighth innings. In his two innings of work, Serrano gave up just one hit and recorded five punch outs, striking out the side in the eighth inning. Freshman Will Heflin pitched a scoreless ninth inning as Tennessee’s bullpen did an excellent job in preventing Georgia from extending the lead.
Unfortunately, Tennessee’s bats failed to produce after only totaling three hits and one run on the afternoon. While Thornton and Pete Derkay combined to go 3-for-8, the rest of the Vols’ lineup finished the day hitless in 18 total at bats.
With the loss, Tennessee drops its third consecutive series to start SEC play and the 1-8 record in conference puts them dead last.
Tennessee hosts Middle Tennessee State on Tuesday, with first pitch set for 6 ET. Following the mid-week tune up, Tennessee will travel to Gainesville next weekend for a conference series against No. 9 Florida.
Edited by Nathan Odom
Featured image by Austin Perryman, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics.