KODAK, Tenn.—The Vols’ bats went quiet as their program-record 23-game winning streak came to an end. No. 1 Tennessee (31-2) lost to Tennessee Tech (18-12) 3-2 on Tuesday at Smokies Stadium.
The game was played with wood bats, which might have affected the mindset of Tennessee’s hitters at the plate. The Vols were limited to four hits and two runs.
“It was more approach (that made a difference),” Vols’ second baseman Jorel Ortega said. “We were chasing out of the strike zone a lot, which is something we usually don’t do…Chasing out of the strike zone put us in a hole.”
The two runs scored are tied for the lowest this season by Tennessee’s offense. Wood bats are not as forgiving as metal bats and make it tougher to score.
“What you’re gonna get out of the (wood) bats is, someone’s not gonna pop a cheap one, or you get a few more slower hit ground balls. It’s gonna downscale the score of the game, so maybe if there’s aluminum in your hands you lose 6-5 instead,” coach Tony Vitello said.
However, the quiet night from the Vols’ offense is due largely in part to Tennessee Tech pitcher Carter Gannaway, who entered in the fourth inning. He shut the Vols’ offense down, throwing 5.2 no-hit innings with nine strikeouts.
“He was just mixing the pitches on and off. He was throwing any pitch in every count for strikes, and also making us chase,” Ortega said. “Just making good pitches in certain situations, so props to him.”
Gannaway was successful with his off speed pitches particularly. He collected most of his strikeouts with the slider, which he threw to the back foot of lefties and away to righties.
“It was pretty evident that it was a bunch of spin, and our guys kept chasing,” Vitello said. “He obviously landed enough for strikes, but a ton of them were not in the zone, and our guys for whatever reason seemed to be in a big hurry.”
Tennessee Tech delivered the game-winning blow in the sixth inning. With the Golden Eagles down 2-1, right fielder Eric Newsom hit a towering two-run homer off Vols’ reliever Ben Joyce. It gave Tennessee Tech the lead that it would hold on to for the rest of the night.
The loss ended Tennessee’s 23-game win streak. The last time Tennessee put up two runs in a game was its last loss, which came on March 4 against Texas. The Vols are looking to put it in the rearview.
“I think you focus on the one loss instead of the 23 wins,” Vitello said. “When I was playing, I dang sure didn’t like to lose. So if this doesn’t wake you up out of bed tomorrow morning—probably not with a good feeling or a good taste—I don’t know what will.”
Tennessee returns home this weekend to play Alabama. Game one is set for 6:30 p.m. on Friday.