No. 5 Tennessee dropped the rubber match against No. 2 Vanderbilt on Sunday. The 10-4 loss puts Tennessee in second place in the SEC East.
The game began with a flurry of solo home runs. Vanderbilt first baseman Dominic Keegan gave his team an early lead in the top of the first. The Vols answered in the bottom of the first with back-to-back solo homers by Max Ferguson and Jake Rucker, which gave Tennessee the lead.
After that, it was all Vanderbilt. The Commodores scored nine runs from the third to the sixth inning. Eight of their 10 runs came with two outs.
‘What I saw was a determined team in the other dugout,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said. He said he thought his team was competing well but struggled to finish innings.
Freshman starting pitcher Blade Tidwell had a short-lived outing. He threw only three innings, giving up six hits and four earned runs.
Tidwell got two quick outs but then ran into some trouble in the third inning. Vanderbilt scored two runs in that inning to retake the lead.
“Anyone who has been watching us knows we trust (Tidwell), and he is as dynamic of a pitcher that we have,” Vitello said. “But sometimes you have a day where things aren’t clicking.”
This series is the first series loss of the season for Tennessee. Competition in every SEC series is high, and Vanderbilt proved to be a tough opponent for the Vols. Vitello said the team learned how to play and compete in important games.
Tennessee is now 10-5 in SEC play at the halfway point of the conference schedule, but the Vols still have some work to do to position themselves well for the postseason.
“We need to keep marching towards May. I really feel like this can catapult us,” Vitello said.
The Vols play Tennessee Tech on Tuesday before going on the road to play Texas A&M on April 23-25.
Edited by Christian Knox and Ryan Sylvia
Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Baseball Twitter (@vol_baseball)