The young Tennessee baseball team continues to experience growing pains. After a monumental 8-6 win over eighth-ranked Ole Miss in the first series game on Friday, the Vols dropped the next two games to lose the weekend series in Oxford, Mississippi.
Despite recording the biggest win in the Tony Vitello era to start off the weekend, Tennessee (13-6) struggled to find success in the final two games of the series. Vitello knows his team faces an uphill battle, especially with the Vols excess of youth on the roster.
“Whether we’re happy with one or two (wins) or disappointed or whatever at this point, it’s moot I guess,” Vitello said. “The series is over, and we’ve got a game against a team on Tuesday that beat us on our home field … We need to be focused on that.”
Recording 10 hits in the first game against the Rebels, the orange-and-white only logged a combined nine hits in the next two games. Inconsistent bats remain one of the Vols’ biggest consistencies this season.
In the first game, the bats got hot late in the game for Tennessee. The Vols tallied six runs in the seventh inning alone.
Sophomore Andre Lipcius recorded a two-run double in the seventh inning and broke open the 2-2 tie. Senior outfielder Brodie Leftridge then launched a three-run triple with the bases loaded to bring in three more runs to end the inning.
Lipcius and Leftridge combined for five RBI’s on 5-of-9 hitting and three runs in the game. Freshman Garrett Crochet pitched 6.2 innings in the game and earned his second straight win on the season. The Vols’ win tallied their first over not only a ranked team, but also a top-10 team since April of last season, when they defeated seventh-ranked Florida.
In the second game on Saturday, Tennessee dealt with cold bats in a 7-1 loss in the Magnolia State. The Volunteers only mustered five hits. Ole Miss pitcher Brady Feigl hit a groove, as he allowed just one run and struck out nine batters in just six innings. Feigl improved to 5-0 on the mound this season after the performance.
With bases loaded and no outs in the sixth inning, Tennessee missed a big opportunity to sway the game’s momentum. Justin Ammons’ solo home run remained the Vols’ only run of the evening. Garrett Stallings notched his second loss of the season on the mound, as Tennessee fell 3-1.
On Sunday, the Volunteers once again struggled from the batter’s box. They tallied just four hits in the 5-0 loss. Will Neely took the mound for Tennessee and dropped to 2-1 on the season after allowing six hits in six innings pitched.
Neely performed solidly, but Rebels pitcher James McArthur, who allowed only two hits in six innings and allowed no runs, out-dueled the Vol.
“Will, after the first hitter hits a home run, (he) really settled down,” Vitello said. “We didn’t play good enough defense behind him … Other than two pitches, he was outstanding for us.”
The Vols will return to action when they host ETSU on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. ET in Knoxville. Tennessee lost its last game with the Buccaneers by a score of 10-9 on March 2.
Written by Cole McCormick
Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little
Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics