Tempers, emotions flare as Vols even series with Alabama
There was no lack of drama on Saturday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The series between Tennessee and Alabama is knotted going into game three on Sunday.
The old saying is, “you never know what you will see at a baseball game.” At Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Saturday, that was a severe understatement. No. 1 Tennessee (32-3, 13-1 SEC) defeated No. 24 Alabama (23-13, 8-6 SEC) 9-2 in a chaos-filled game.
Sophomore starter Chase Dollander entered the game hoping to pick the Vols up after a disappointing performance in game one on Friday. His night was cut short, however, after he was hit with a comebacker on the mound and had to exit the game after only one inning.
That is the moment the game went haywire.
The Alabama dugout’s reaction to Dollander having to leave the game infuriated Tennessee’s coaching staff. Tony Vitello was ejected from the game after arguing with the umpires. Pitching coach Frank Anderson was tossed directly after.
With Vitello and Anderson both being ejected, assistant coach Josh Elander was forced to slide into the head coach role for the rest of the night. Elander is the Vols’ third base coach and primary hitting coach.
“I’m glad Tony does it, not me, to be honest,” he said. “It’s just a lot of things going on. Usually, I’m coaching third, running offense…all of a sudden I had to focus on what to do with the pitching or whatever it may be.”
In the fourth inning, an Alabama assistant coach was thrown out of the game. The umpiring crew issued warnings throughout the rest of the night for taunting, celebrating and basically anything else the teams did. That left everyone in the ballpark, besides the umpires, scratching their heads.
“To be honest, I don’t even know what was going on,” junior Jordan Beck said. “I was kinda confused about that whole deal, but we just kind of (celebrated) in the dugout after that.”
Beck kept the emotion going with a two-run home run in the first inning. That set the tone for the rest of the night as Tennessee was looking to even up the series.
‘That was one of those moments where it needed to be expressed,” Beck said. “I try to control my emotions in the box, and I don’t let that affect me while I’m in there.”
Senior relief pitcher Camden Sewell did not let the moment get to him when he entered to pitch in the second inning. Sewell threw 4.1 innings and allowed two runs.
“I thought he was elite,” Elander said. “Cam’s always a guy, when we’re in a jam, he’s gonna find a way to get us out. Just a great effort.”
Tennessee scored three runs in both the sixth and eighth innings to stamp the win. A couple of home runs paired with three throwing errors by Alabama’s catcher gave the Vols enough offense.
The early action in the game may have been just what Tennessee needed to get back on track. The Vols had lost two straight games for the first time all year and were in danger of dropping their first SEC series of the year.
“(Vitell0) is one of the most fiery guys I’ve ever met. One of the best coaches I’ve ever been with too,” Beck said. “I’m glad I’m his player and I’m glad he’s my coach.”
The series between Tennessee and Alabama is now even at one game each. The rubber match is on Sunday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium at 1:00 p.m.