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

Tennessee drops SEC Championship game to Kentucky

No. 13-ranked and second-seeded Tennessee fell to No. 4 seed Kentucky in their first SEC Championship appearance since 2009 by a score of 77–72. Forwards Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield combined for 37 points and 19 rebounds in the loss at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Head coach John Calipari and the Wildcats notched their fourth straight conference on Sunday.

It was all Kentucky to start the game, as the Wildcats couldn’t miss and went on a 13–5 run to start the first half. Tennessee started out shooting just 4-of-20 from the field, while Kentucky began with 50 percent shooting from the field. Freshman phenoms Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox combined for 24 points to start the game.

“We started the game and dug ourselves a hole,” said Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes. “We weren’t playing the way we were capable of. Offensively, we weren’t making shots.”

However, Schofield put the Volunteers on his back with a whopping 17 first half points. The Vols rode a 15–3 run to end the first half to cut the game down to just a five-point deficit at halftime.

The rest of the team combined for just 14 points, as Tennessee went into the half trailing just 36–31 after 20 minutes of play. The Volunteers came back despite shooting just 28 percent from the field and making just 4-of-13 shots from beyond-the-arc.

Barnes and Tennessee came out of the half with a new lease on life, as Tennessee finally took over the lead at the 16:39 mark with a 3-pointer from Schofield. The Wildcats responded with a 14–2 run to set the Vols back once again by a score of 52–43 with over 12 minutes to play.

The Volunteers responded clutch 3-pointer from SEC Co-Sixth Man of the Year Lamonte Turner and a jumper from Williams cut Kentucky’s lead down to just five points once again. A 14–3 run from Tennessee once again gave them a lead, after Turner drilled consecutive 3-pointers to give the Vols a 57–55 lead.

A huge blow was dealt to the orange-and-white after Wenyen Gabriel of the Wildcats landed on Schofield’s head, causing him to go back to the locker room. Still, The Volunteers kept it knotted up at 59–59 with six minutes remaining in the game despite Schofield’s absence. Shortly after, both teams entered the bonus with over five minutes left in the second half.

Schofield re-entered the game at the 4:20 mark, as Tennessee faced a 66–62 deficit with less than four minutes left in the game. Kentucky was dealt a huge blow themselves with 2:45 remaining, as the sharpshooting Gabriel fouled out.

Guard Jordan Bone banked in a ridiculous shot from beyond-the-arc to cut the Wildcats lead to just 68–67 with just over a minute remaining in the game. Gilgeous-Alexander responded with a clutch jumper to put Kentucky up three points and forcing the Vols to send the Wildcats to the free throw line.

Schofield tipped in a shot to bring Tennessee within three points once again, but it wasn’t enough as the Vols lost for the first time in six games.

“It’s hard to flush that, but we’ve got something big to look forward to,” said Schofield. “We wanted to go out and win this for our University, coaching staff, families and fans.”

The Volunteers will get back in action on Thursday as a №3 seed in the South Region in the NCAA Tournament. Tennessee will take on №14 seed Wright State.

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics 

Vols thump Razorbacks, advance to SEC Championship

No. 2 seed and 13th-ranked Tennessee beat sixth-seeded Arkansas in the semifinal round of the SEC Tournament by a score of 84-66 on Saturday. The Vols lost the first meeting of the season 95-93 on Dec. 30th in Fayetteville. With a chance to play for an SEC Tournament Championship, Tennessee looked locked and loaded from the start.

The Volunteers got off to a strong start behind sophomore guard Jordan Bone. In the first half, Bone went 7-of-7 shooting, while hitting three 3-pointers. His strong first half performance helped the Tennessee take a 19-point lead in to the half. Bone finished the game with a team-high 19 points and four assists in the win.

I just think starting off the game we were really aggressive. It’s really just playing within the offense,” said Bone about his performance. “Shots were falling, and we were playing against a really good defensive team.”

Four other Vols ended the day in double- digit scoring along with Bone. Admiral Schofield scored 16 points while Grant Williams, James Daniel III and Kyle Alexander had 12 points apiece. Alexander also had seven rebounds and two blocks to lead the team, while Williams finished with five rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot.

Tennessee is currently on a six-game win streak and have won 13 out of its last 15 games. It seems that head coach Rick Barnes has his team clicking on all cylinders at the right time. The Volunteers have one final game before they find out their fate for the NCAA Tournament, and it comes against their rival to the North, Kentucky.

The Wildcats beat Alabama on Saturday 86-63 prior to Tennessee’s game against the Razorbacks. Tennessee beat Kentucky in the two previous meetings this season. With a championship on the line, the Vols can expect to get the best out of the young Wildcats team.

“They’re a totally different team than they were then. I’ve been watching them,” said Barnes on Kentucky. “His (John Calipari’s) teams always get better late in the year. It looks like they’ve really made a commitment to really play big, strong basketball inside.”

Tennessee has a chance to win their first SEC Tournament Championship since 1979 on Sunday. The Vols beat the Wildcats in their 1979 championship game, as they look to repeat history. Sunday’s game will be the first appearance for Tennessee in the tournament championship game since 2009.

“It’s championship season, fatigue does play a factor,” said Schofield. “But everyone is tired this time of year. The biggest thing is who wants it most.”

With their win over the Razorbacks, the Volunteers continued their perfect record in rematch games on the season. Tip off for the championship game is set for 1 p.m. ET and will be aired on ESPN.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

No. 2 seed Tennessee outlasts Mississippi state in SEC Tournament quarterfinals

Seventh-seeded Mississippi State’s (22-11, 9-9 SEC) surge came too late to upset No. 2 seed and 13th-ranked Tennessee on Friday, falling 62-59 to the in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. Defense kept Tennessee on its feet late in the game. The orange-and-white shot just 33 percent from the field in the win.

Rebounding made the difference for the Volunteers. Tennessee outrebounded the Bulldogs by an impressive 50-33 margin and snagged 22 offensive rebounds in the contest. The Volunteers’ 50 rebounds tied a season-high record. They tallied 22 second-chance points in the win.

“We know that our biggest Achilles heel all year has been rebounding,” Volunteers Head Coach Rick Barnes said. “We talked about it a lot, not so much offensively where we want to go get it but trying to do it on the defensive end.”

Sophomore guard and SEC Co-Sixth Man of the Year Lamonte Turner led Tennessee with 15 points and eight rebounds. Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield were the only other Vols in double-digit points. They combined for 23 points and 19 rebounds. Williams, who was recently named SEC Player of the Year, notched his first double-double of the season Friday.

Tennessee controlled the lead for the majority of the game until guard Lamar Peters led Mississippi State on a 9-2 run. The Bulldogs cut the deficit to just 51-49 with over six minutes left. However, Turner turned up clutch again for the Vols, making three consecutive shots to hold off the Bulldogs.

Mississippi State failed to capitalize with under a minute left. Guard Xavier Stapleton missed an open attempt from beyond-the-arc that would have given the Bulldogs a lead. The next possession, Tennessee guard Jordan Bone was intentionally fouled and hit both free throws at the charity stripe to put the Vols up 62-59.

The Bulldogs found a chance to send the game into overtime at the final buzzer but were unable to get a shot off. Peters and junior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon led Mississippi State with a combined 49 of the team’s 59 points on the loss.

Nick Weatherspoon, freshman guard and younger brother of Quinndary, suffered a scary injury and left the floor on a stretcher after Vols center Kyle Alexander collided with him underneath the rim. News released later Friday night confirmed Weatherspoon was conscious and fully operational at the hospital.

“You pray for then and you have a moment where you have to take a step back, but it’s still a game,” Williams said of Weatherspoon’s injury. “You still have to compete. That’s what you have to understand. You have to talk to your team and let them know we’ve got a 20-minute game left.”

The win boosted Tennessee’s streak to 6-0 against teams in rematch games this season. Barnes and the Volunteers get back in action against Arkansas in the Scottrade Center at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

No. 13 Tennessee faces Mississippi State in SEC Tournament quarterfinals

After beating LSU, No.7 seed Mississippi State (22-10, 9-9 SEC) takes on second-seeded Tennessee SEC Tournament quarterfinals. The Volunteers secured a double-bye to start the tournament. The Vols take on the Bulldogs as their first tournament contest Friday at 7 p.m. ET. St. Louis’ Scottrade Center hosts the tournament for the first time in SEC Tournament history. The SEC Network and ESPN feature the matchups.

In the last meeting between the teams Feb. 27, the Vols edged out the Bulldogs in Starkville by a score of 76-54 in the Humphrey Coliseum. Tennessee forward Admiral Schofield led the team with his second consecutive 24-point game. He also added seven rebounds in the win. The Vols dominated Mississippi State on the boards by a 44-34 margin and forced the Bulldogs to shoot just 20 percent from beyond-the-arc.

Thursday night, Mississippi State squeaked out an 80-77 win over 10th-seeded LSU (17-14, 8-10 SEC). Sophomore guard Lamar Peters notched a season-high 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field in the win. Brothers Quinndary and Nick Weatherspoon combined for 30 points, as the Bulldogs shot a hot 58 percent from the field.

LSU outrebounded Mississippi State 31-28. The Bulldogs tallied 16 turnovers on the night, but nearly 60 percent shooting from the field and 10-of-17 shooting from 3-point range led them to the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. The Weatherspoon brothers (25 points per game) and junior forward Aric Holman all lead the team with over an average of over 10 points per game.

Head coach Rick Barnes and the Volunteers look for their fifth-straight win on Friday. Barnes is a career 6-1 against the Bulldogs. A win keeps Tennessee’s perfect record (5-0) when they play teams more than once this season.

The orange-and-white haven’t hit the floor since beating Georgia 66-61 to be named Co-SEC Champions nearly a week ago.

“We are ready to play,” sophomore forward Grant Williams said. “That’s how we are, when we have a stretch without a game, we want to play.”

Admiral Schofield added he would rather be playing instead of waiting through the double-bye.

The dominant Schofield and Williams duo combined for 45 points, as Tennessee earned the SEC Champions title for the first time in a decade. Playing clean basketball led the Vols to glory. They committed just four turnovers against Georgia despite being outrebounded.

Tennessee will play its first game since Barnes and two of his players earned postseason SEC awards. Barnes earned SEC Head Coach of the Year, while Williams earned SEC Player of the Year honors. Sophomore guard Lamonte Turner got in on the action after being nominated as SEC Co-Sixth Man of the Year.

“I just want our guys to go out and do what we’ve done and build on what we’ve done,” Barnes said. “Your goal is to play three days in a row… I do think we’ve got to get going a little bit.”

The Vols seek a win to make it to the SEC Tournament semifinals for the first time since 2014 under head coach Donnie Tyndall. If Tennessee wins, they will take on the winner of No. 6 seed Arkansas and third-seeded Florida Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.

Edited by Ben McKee/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics