Tennessee baseball sweeps first away series of season

In their first series away from Knoxville, Tennessee (11-6) swept the Cincinnati Bearcats (7-8) winning by a combined margin of 12-8 on the weekend. The Vols came into the series untested away from home and proved they can play no matter where their schedule takes them.

Game one came down to the wire in the second extra innings game of the season. Tennessee won 3-2 after 12 innings of play. A pitcher’s duel headlined the majority of the game. Late inning walks and hot bats carried the Volunteers to victory. Freshman Garrett Crochet pitched a career-high eight innings and struck out eight batters on the evening. Tennessee’s bullpen combined for 14 total strikeouts in the win.

Vols Head Coach Tony Vitello felt Friday’s win was one of Tennessee’s biggest of the season.

“They’re all big wins. I would classify this one as a huge one,” Vitello said. “This was a really well-played ballgame led by two great lefties who are two of the better lefties in the country, I feel.”

Game two also went to the Vols with right-hander Garrett Stallings tossing for eight innings. He struck out four batters and allowed four earned runs in the 7-5 victory. Senior Brodie Leftridge, who hit two RBI singles to tie the game up in the fourth and sixth inning, proved to be Tennessee’s Saturday hero.

Leftridge gave the key to completing the series sweep.

“Just being aggressive and not worrying about a sweep and winning the day,” Leftridge said. With a series win already completed, the Vols looked to capture a series sweep Sunday.

On the final day of the series inside Marge Schott Stadium in Cincinnati, junior Will Neely led the Volunteers. He pitched a complete game. Sophomore Justin Ammons hit an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning to push Tennessee to a 2-1 win and a series sweep. Pete Derkay and Benito Santiago both reached base in game three, extending both of their hitting streaks.

“All of my pitches were working today, especially my sinker and slider,” Neely said about his success on the mound. “Both of them had really great movement on them and I was able to throw them for strikes.”

With their first series sweep of the season, the Vols turn their attention to Western Carolina. Tennessee hosts the Catamounts in Knoxville at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Volunteers begin SEC play with road trip to Oxford, Mississippi for a three-game series against Ole Miss on Friday.

Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

No. 4 Lady Vols softball sweeps first SEC series

Fourth-ranked Tennessee (24-1) completed its first SEC sweep of the season Sunday against Missouri (16-9) at Sherri Lee Parker Stadium in Knoxville. The Lady Vols beat the Tigers by a combined series score of 25-7 and tallied their 16th straight win. Tennessee notched 35 hits in the sweep and dodged rain delays despite rough weather.

Things started slow for the Lady Vols in their first SEC game Friday. They recorded just three runs after six innings of play. However, former SEC Player of the Year Meghan Gregg broke through with a grand slam in the sixth inning to power Tennessee to a 7-4 win.

“The feeling of the ball coming off the bat was amazing,” Gregg said about the two-out grand slam. “You just know when it comes off the bat, you barely can even feel it.”

Sophomore pitcher Caylan Arnold contributed as well. She struck out eight batters in six innings pitched to get the win. Both Gregg and junior infielder Aubrey Leach batted 2-for-3 at the plate in the win.

The Lady Volunteers looked better Saturday. They shutout Missouri 7-0. Ace pitcher Matty Moss led Tennessee with seven strikeouts and no earned runs in four innings pitched. Freshman phenom Gabby Sprang finished out the contest with four strikeouts in three innings.

All Lady Vols scoring came in innings three through five, six combined runs coming in the third and fourth inning. Leach and senior outfielder CJ McClain both went a perfect 2-of-2 from the batter’s box on the day. Infielder Chelsea Seggern led Tennessee with two RBI.

Tennessee progressively improved over the weekend, finishing the weekend sweep by a score of 11-3 against the Tigers in just six innings. The Vols tallied 15 hits and got four RBI from both senior Scarlet McSwain and freshman Amanda Ayala.

“I think she is going to be an All-American. I don’t think there is a question,” Tennessee co-Head Coach Ralph Weekly said about Ayala. “It is going to take a while, but I think she has got all the tools. She can run, throw, hit and think.”

Tennessee played a huge third inning. They registered seven of their 11 runs in that inning. Missouri responded with a pair of runs the next inning, but the Lady Vols put more pressure on by scoring four runs to complete the run rule.

“We worked with those kids early this morning. We just got up and said we are going to hit a little bit and change your stance a little bit and it worked out,” Weekly said. “If we can hit through the lineup then this team will be pretty awesome.”

The Weeklys and Tennessee hit the field again in Honolulu at the Hawaii Rainbow Wahine Classic Wednesday.

Edited by Ben McKee/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Vols top Middle Tennessee State 5-3 at home

Tennessee (5-3) squeaked out a 5-4 win over Middle Tennessee State at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Tuesday night. The Volunteers were led by the sophomore outfield duo of Jay Charleston and Justin Ammons, who had all five of the team’s RBI’s in the victory.

Things weren’t easy for Tennessee pitcher Daniel Vasquez to start the game, as he walked two batters and dealt a wild pitch. Still, MTSU left two men stranded on base despite forcing Vasquez to throw over 20 pitches in the long first inning. The two teams combined to throw over 60 pitches in the first inning, but neither team made a dent on the scoreboard.

It only took two pitches in the second inning for the Blue Raiders to get on the board, as right fielder Blake Benefield hit a deep solo shot to center field to make it 1-0. Vasquez managed to finish out the inning with no further damage allowed.

After walking a batter in the top of the third inning, Vasquez was taken out of the game after being looked at by the trainer. Redshirt junior Richard Jackson took the mound for the Vols, as Vasquez finished with three walks and one earned run through two innings.

“He had been sore earlier in the week, and it’s something that’s tough for us to pinpoint,” said Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello about Vasquez’s injury. “He (the trainer) didn’t have an answer for Daniel earlier in the week, so we put him out there.”

Jackson struck out his first batter but gave up two earned runs in the top of the third inning. Freshman Will Heflin took over for Jackson and finally stopped the bleeding for the Vols in the third inning, but MTSU still took a 3-0 lead. However, Tennessee was unable to answer back, as they left runners stranded in each of its first three innings.

Heflin was tested in the top of the fourth inning, as he walked and hit a batter to load the bases for the Blue Raiders. However, Heflin got out of the pinch with a ground out to second baseman Andre Lipcius.

Tennessee finally awoke out of its slumber in the fourth inning after Charleston hit a two-run double to cut the deficit to 3-2. Charleston’s rip was just the second hit for Tennessee in the game. Before Charleston’s hit, the team was 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

The Volunteers finally hit their stride in the fifth inning after Heflin delivered back-to-back strikeouts to end the top of the fifth inning. Charleston came up clutch for Tennessee once again, as he tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth with a one-run single. Ammons finally gave the Vols a 5-3 lead with a two-run triple.

“Our coach always says those are the easy RBI’s, just put the ball in play,” said Charleston. “I think that really changed the momentum of our team, it was a big boost.”

Heflin was inevitably replaced in the top of the seventh inning by Donovan Benoit. He finished with an impressive six strikeouts, two hits and just one walk allowed in four innings. However, on Benoit’s first pitch, Aaron Aucker of the Blue Raiders tallied a one-run single to cut the deficit to 5-4.

Freshman pitcher Chase Wallace replaced Benoit in the eighth inning to finish out the game for Tennessee. Wallace quickly found himself with the bases loaded and no outs for MTSU, but he got out of the jam with a strikeout and a double-play.

Wallace once again dodged a bullet in the bottom of the ninth inning, as the Blue Raiders had a man on third base with one out but failed to tie the game up.

“He’s (Wallace) is in that position because he can do what you saw,” said Vitello. “But he could’ve also made it a lot easier on himself.”

The Volunteers get back in action on Wednesday afternoon against Arkansas Pine-Bluff at 3:30 p.m. ET in Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Edited by Ben McKee

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Lady Vols softball travels to California for Mary Nutter Classic

Tennessee Softball (10-1) heads to the Mary Nutter Classic in Cathedral City, California to take on six teams starting Thursday. The Lady Vols are fresh off a 5-1 performance in the Michele Smith Tournament in Florida last weekend, where they lost their first game of the season to Florida Atlantic.

In their first 11 games, the Volunteers outscored their opponents by a combined total of 63-31.

“I just think we need to carry ourselves with a little bit more swagger and realize who we are and why we came here,” co-head coach Karen Weekly said. “We came here to be in tough games and we came here to win those tough games and I think we need to take the field with an attitude.”

Tennessee’s bullpen appears to be its strong suit. Matty Moss, Gabby Sprang and Caylan Arnold have combined for 69 strikeouts and a 2.03 ERA. Moss leads the group with five wins, 22 strikeouts and a 1.35 ERA so far this season. Weekly said her goals and aspirations for the pitchers every game is “no walks,” and so far, they have fared well.

Six Tennessee players are hitting more than .300, as Meghan Gregg leads the team with an amazing .559 average and 14 RBI’s through just 11 games.

“We’ve had some ups and downs, everyone is going to make mistakes every once in a while. But I think as a cohesive unit we are together and I really enjoy that part of the game,” junior infielder Aubrey Leach said. “I think we have some grit and we really enjoy playing together.”

Tennessee kicks off the Mary Nutter Classic with a 1 p.m. game against BYU (4-6) who looks to snap a two game losing streak. The Cougars lost the final two games of the Marucci Desert Classic to Long Beach State and Iowa State by a combined three runs.

Later in the day, Tennessee will take on Bethune-Cookman (3-3) at 3:30 p.m. The Wildcats are currently on a three-game win streak after competing in the Disney Diamond 9 Citrus Blossom Invite last weekend.

The Friday slate includes a rematch for the Lady Vols, as they face UC Davis (7-4) for the second time this season after beating the team 6-0 in the Kajikawa Classic. Since then, the Aggies have a 6-3 record and have won their last four games. Following its game with UC Davis, Tennessee takes on Oregon State (7-4) who is fresh off a one-run loss to No. 7 LSU. The Beavers are 2-2 against ranked teams this season.

Tennessee closes the tournament against No. 5 Oregon (9-1) on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET. The Ducks started the season 9-0 before losing their last game to No. 15 Ole Miss 1-0 in extra innings. Tennessee’s final matchup of the tournament will come against Northwestern (5-4), who has lost two of its last three matchups after starting the season 4-1.

Despite their travel to start the season, the Lady Vols still gather great support.

“The energy we feel from the very start of the game to the very end, they really do influence us and give us that extra energy boost when we need it,” Leach said. “It amazes me every time.”

Edited by Ben McKee

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee defeats in-state foe Lipscomb for second straight win

Lipscomb (2-2) scored runs in five of the nine innings on Tuesday afternoon, but was unable to pull off the win in Lindsey Nelson Stadium over Tennessee (2-2). The Vols were propelled by a huge third inning performance that included six runs and a grand slam.

Freshman Sean Hunley got off to a hot start in his first career start for Tennessee, striking out two of the first three batters he faced to start the game.

Two walks put the outfield duo of Jay Charleston and Justin Ammons in scoring position for the Vols to start the bottom of the first inning. First baseman Pete Derkay and Andre Lipcius kicked off the scoring for Tennessee, both coming up with an RBI single to give Tennessee an early 2-0 lead through one inning.

Hunley cooled off quickly in the second inning following his fast start. Lipscomb’s Josh Martinez sent a ball deep to left field for a solo home run to give the Bisons their first run of the game. Still, Hunley was able to gather himself and stop the bleeding despite Lipscomb having two runners on base.

Lipscomb finally evened the score at 2-2 in the third inning after Zeke Dodson tallied an RBI on a fielder’s choice.

The tables turned in the bottom of the third inning, as Tennessee pulled away again with a two-run single to right field with the bases loaded from second basemen Wyatt Stapp. Then, with the bases loaded once again, center fielder Zach Daniels picked up his first hit of the season on a grand slam to deep left field to give the Vols an 8-2 lead through three innings.

“It was exciting… I think he would’ve taken anything at that point,” said Vitello. “He came up to the office yesterday and said he wanted to play, he believes in himself. So if he believes in himself, I do too,”

Lipscomb answered quickly in the top of the fourth inning with an RBI double from Tevin Symonette, who narrowed the Tennessee lead to just 8-3. Vitello and the Volunteers took Hunley out with one out and two men in scoring position as fellow freshman Garrett Crochet took over the mound. Crochet finished the fourth inning with a 6-4-3 double play to escape loaded bases from Lipscomb.

The good fortune didn’t last long for Crochet, as Dodson hit a line-drive home run over the left field wall in the fifth inning to cut the Tennessee lead to 8-4. However, Crochet was able to notch a strikeout and retire the final two batters to escape the inning.

Despite the loss, the Bisons scored in four of the first five innings and four straight innings from the second to fifth inning. However, Crochet and the Volunteers ended that in the sixth inning. The first inning that neither team scored finally came in the seventh inning.

Lipscomb got back on the board in the top of the seventh inning with an RBI double from Dodson to cut the Tennessee lead to just three runs. After three innings, Crochet was replaced by junior pitcher Daniel Vasquez to close out the game. Crochet recorded three strikeouts, two hits and two earned runs in his time on the mound.

The Volunteers failed to score in their last six innings, but it was still enough to finish off the Bisons by a score of 8-5 on Tuesday afternoon.

“First off, I don’t know what kind of trademark I want to leave on this place, but I don’t want it to be one where we don’t know what to do when the ball is put in play,” said Vitello. “There’s a lot of things that winning programs do, and we have to implement those things. The faster we do, the better off we’ll be.”

Edited by Ben McKee 

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee softball drops first 2018 game in Michele Smith Tournament

The No. 10 ranked Lady Vols are off to a 10-1 start to the season after finishing 4-1 in the Michele Smith Tournament in Florida over the weekend. Tennessee beat its opponents by a combined 23-13 margin in the Sunshine State.

Tennessee started off the weekend with a game against No. 15 Oklahoma State on Friday. Catcher Abby Lockman and senior shortstop Meghan Gregg combined for four RBI’s to give Tennessee a 5-1 win over the Cowgirls. Oklahoma State’s only run of the game came from a solo homer to left-center field, as they had just four hits in the entire game.

Junior infielder Aubrey Leach started off the game with a leadoff walk that led to a triple and two RBI’s from Gregg to start the game. Lady Vols pitcher Matty Moss closed out the Cowgirls for good in her fourth win of the season. Tennessee racked up its third straight win over ranked opponents.

In their second game Friday, the Lady Vols took on UMass. Lockman played a huge factor in Tennessee’s win once again, logging a team-high three RBI’s against the River Hawks. Despite trailing early to UMass, the Lady Vols recovered with a Lockman double that drove in three runners in the third inning.

Tennessee pitcher Caylan Arnold finished the game with eight strikeouts in five innings pitched. She recorded her second win of the year. The final run of the game came from Chelsea Seggern who hit an RBI single to score Leach in the fourth inning.

Disaster struck for the first time in the 2018 season, as the Lady Vols dropped to Florida Atlantic on Saturday by a score of 3-2. Despite the loss, Moss registered her 300th career strikeout in five innings. The Owls got off to a hot start with a pair of solo homeruns in the first and second inning.

Tennessee evened the score in the sixth inning, but Florida Atlantic closed out the game with a game-winning run on a fielder’s choice. Outfielder CJ McClain and Gregg led the Lady Vols with an RBI each on a combined 3-of-6 hitting.

Seggern and Tennessee got back on track Sunday with a 7-4 win over South Florida. Seggern hit a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the Lady Vols a win over the Bulls. Arnold once again had a solid day for Tennessee with nine strikeouts in five innings. Moss finished out the remaining two innings and got the win.

Three Tennessee players finished with two hits in the win, including Seggern, who managed to drive in four runs by herself. Tennessee finished the tournament with a game against Marshall on Sunday.

The Lady Vols clinched a narrow 5-4 win over the Thundering Herd. Gregg led Tennessee with a two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning. Arnold tallied seven strikeouts for her 41st strikeout of the season.

Tennessee gets back to action next weekend in the Mary Nutter Classic in Palm Springs, California. The Lady Vols will face six teams, including No. 3 ranked Oregon, in the tournament.

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics