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