May 25, 2024

Tennessee falters late in loss to Georgia

Despite an early lead, Tennessee’s offense took its foot off the pedal while the bullpen faltered late in a loss to Georgia.

Tennessee stumbled down the stretch on Saturday afternoon as the Vols (15-9, 1-7 SEC) lost to Georgia (12-16, 2-6 SEC) in game two of the weekend series, 7-5.

With Tennessee leading 4-0, Georgia scored six of its seven runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth inning. Three of the Dawgs’ runs came on wild pitches from Tennessee pitchers.

“I didn’t feel we had enough guys come in with fire,” Vols head coach Dave Serrano said of his bullpen following the game. “We continued to create our own mess. When negativity steps in, and negativity happens in this game, you need to step and stop it. We couldn’t find the answer to do that today.”

Georgia shortstop Cam Shepherd finished 4-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI. Third baseman Aaron Schunk went 3-for-5 with two runs scored an RBI, while LJ Talley and Mitchell Webb also each finished with an RBI.

Bulldogs right-hander Zac Kristofak picked up his fourth win of the season in 4.2 innings of work on the mound. Blake Cairnes picked up his second save of the season.

The Vols jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Jordan Rodgers got things going for Tennessee, smacking an RBI double into center, scoring Justin Ammons from second, who had reached on a double in the previous at-bat. After advancing to third on a wild pitch, Rodgers scored on a ground ball to shortstop off the bat of Andre Lipcius to give Tennessee a 2-0 lead. Lipcius advanced to second on the play after the Georgia shortstop air-mailed the throw into the Vols dugout. In the next at-bat, catcher Pete Derkay drove in Lipcius from second on an RBI single.

In the bottom of the third inning, Lipcius drove in his third RBI of the series with a single, scoring Rodgers. Tennessee led 4-0 at the end of three innings.

The Dawgs pushed their first run across in the top of the fourth inning on a sac fly off the bat of second baseman LJ Talley to cut the Vols’ lead to 4-1.

The bleeding wouldn’t stop, and the Bulldogs scored seven unanswered runs by the eighth inning.

Tennessee got things going in the eighth inning, but the Vols’ rally was short-lived. With runners on first-and-second, Jeff Moberg lined an RBI single into left field, scoring Brandon Chinea from second and cutting the Georgia lead to 7-5. In the next at-bat, Ammons popped up to the second baseman to strand runners on first and second, ending the inning.

Down 7-5 and with the middle of the order due up in the bottom of the ninth inning, Tennessee got the leadoff hitter on after Cairnes dropped a pop up. With Rodgers on first, Santiago, Lipcius and Derkay were unable to come through.

Moberg finished 3-for-5 with an RBI. Ammons finished 2-for-5 and Santiago finished 2-of-4 at the plate. Rodgers finished 1-for-4 and has now reached base in 23 consecutive games to go along with a 12-game hit streak.

Freshman Garrett Stallings received his first career start for the Vols this afternoon. In 4.2 innings pitched, Stallings allowed six hits, gave up one run, walked two and struck out four. Stallings is the third true freshman to start for Tennessee this season.

“I liked the way Garrett competed,” Serrano said of Stallings’ first start. “Garrett gives us everything he can every time he goes out there, whether it’s a start or as a reliever. I was excited as anybody for his opportunity today.”

“It was really exciting,” Stallings said following the game. “My changeup really picked me up today, keeping them off-balance and throwing my slider in there as well.”

Will Neely, Daniel Vasquez, Zach Warren, Jacob Westphal and Will Heflin all made appearances in relief for the Vols. Vasquez received the loss and is now 2-1 on the season.

2,671 were in attendance on Saturday afternoon, the Vols’ biggest crowd of the season.

Tennessee will look to win their first SEC series of the season on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. ET in the series finale. Freshman right-hander Zach Linginfelter (1-2, 4.97 ERA) will be on the mound for the Vols.

Edited by Robert Hughes

Featured image by Craig Bisacre, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

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