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