Vols take series over No. 14 Texas A&M

In a weekend all about Tennessee football, the Volunteers baseball team (25-17, 8-10 SEC) hosted the No. 14 ranked Texas A&M Aggies for a three-game series. After winning two of the three games, Tennessee secured the series win. Sunday’s victory marked the Vols first series win over a ranked opponent since clinching a series against Florida more than one year ago.

Tennessee freshman Sean Hunley performed dominantly in game one. In five innings of work, Hunley allowed just three runs on seven hits while also striking out five batters. Freshman pitcher Chase Wallace replaced Hunley in the sixth inning and went on to strikeout four batters, only allowing one run on two hits. The Sevierville native captured his first win of the season Friday night.

“Honestly it’s just focusing. Just focus on that next pitch,” Wallace said about the changes he made during the season to find his recent success. “Coach always says your focus isn’t there when you’re off and I really took that deeply.”

The Vols heated up their bats early, as they scored three runs in the first inning. Sophomore Pete Derkay hit an RBI single scoring sophomore Jay Charleston. Sophomore infielder Andre Lipcius homered to right center field to bring in Derkay.

After the Aggies tied the game in the fifth inning, Tennessee took the lead back in the sixth inning off a sacrifice fly from freshman Evan Russell.

Senior Brodie Leftridge homered in the seventh inning, pushing the Volunteers lead to 5-3. Derkay and sophomore Will Heflin both scored in the eighth inning, giving Tennessee a 7-4 lead, which would remain the final score.

The orange-and-white dropped game two. The Aggies scored five runs in the first inning and never looked back. Tennessee didn’t get on the scoreboard until the eighth inning, and the Vols’ chances of coming back dwindled away. Texas A&M went on to win the game 8-3.

In the final game of the weekend, Tennessee fell behind early after the Aggies scored two runs in the first inning. However, the Vols got back on track in the third inning after scoring three runs to take a one-run lead. The Aggies scored two more runs in the seventh inning, but their runs did not secure the win. Tennessee scored in the sixth and seventh inning to win the game 6-4 and clinch the series win.

Junior pitcher Will Neely pitched 5.2 innings. Freshman Garrett Crochet replaced Neely on the mound. After tossing for 2.2 innings and striking out four batters, Crochet came away with the win. Wallace replaced Crochet in the ninth inning to earn his third save of the season.

Vols Head Coach Tony Vitello commended his team on avoiding errors in the wins.
“For this team in particular, and the numbers prove it, it’s so important for us to just play catch,” Vitello said. “That’s an Omaha team that we beat.”

Tennessee’s next game will be against No. 25 Tennessee Tech on Tuesday and can be watched on SEC Network+.

Written by Cole McCormick

Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics 

 

Tennessee earns shutout win versus Skyhawks

With an in-state opponent invading Knoxville, the Volunteers looked to dispel their sister university Tuesday night. The Volunteers shut out the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks 9-0 in the first game of a two-game midweek series.

The Volunteers thrived on the mound. Freshman pitcher Sean Hunley started for Tennessee, dominating in the eighth start of his young career. Hunley finished the game with a career-high 11 strikeouts and only allowed four hits on the night. With the win, he keeps his perfect 6-0 record alive this season.

“My first couple of innings were a little slower. My fastball command wasn’t there the first two innings,” Hunley said. “I feel like my slider was working, so I used that most of the time.”

Work they did. Hunley’s 11 strikeouts marked the most by a Tennessee pitcher since 2015.

The Vols had five players with a multi-hit game against the Skyhawks. The Vols garnered 14 total hits as a team. Tennessee’s offense came to life after a mediocre series against Florida last weekend.

Sophomore outfielder Justin Ammons led the way for the Vols in hitting, going 3-of-5 on the night. Ammons scored one run on the night and drove an RBI. Freshman Evan Russell continued his hot streak and scored three runs for Tennessee, which led the team.

Stellar pitching and a relentless defense helped the Volunteers to defeat UT-Martin. Senior outfielder Brodie Leftridge dove for an incredible catch early in the game to stop a run from scoring. Combined with a stellar appearance by Hunley, Tennessee remained focused and ready to take home a win from the start.

Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello commented about Leftridge’s catch, which set the tone for the rest of the game.

“It really does (set the tone). He and some of the other guys really got after it well in pregame and I think it was carryover,” Vitello said. “I’m kind of a firm believer in how you prepare is kind of reflected in the game.”

Leftridge added, “I kind of took a bad route to it but I made up for it and got to it.”

Eight of the Vols’ nine runs came in innings four through seven, as sophomore Andre Lipcius topped off Tennessee’s big day with an RBI double in the seventh inning. Catcher Benito Santiago tallied a pair of doubles in the win on Tuesday, boosting his batting average to a team-high .390 in non-conference matchups this season.

Game two of the series is set for 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday afternoon and will be televised on the SEC network.

Written by Cole McCormick

Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics 

South Carolina sweeps the Vols

After the Tennessee softball team faced a shutout by South Carolina last weekend, the Vols baseball team sought a chance for vengeance. However, they met the same fate as the Lady Vols. The Gamecocks swept the Vols by a combined score of 18-6 in the weekend series.

Errors plagued the Vols in game one on Thursday.

“I thought having four mistakes in the first inning that were pretty obvious to see cost us,” Tennessee Head Coach Tony Vitello said. “From there it’s hard to come back.”

On Thursday, the Vols lost by the score of 6-1 at Founders Park in Columbia, South Carolina. Freshman Garrett Crochet started for Tennessee on the bump, pitching four innings and allowing six runs on seven hits. South Carolina sounded on the scoreboard early, after ringing in three runs in the first inning.

The Volunteers first run of the game didn’t come until the eighth inning off a single from infielder Brandon Chinea. Gamecocks pitcher Adam Hill threw a no-hitter through five innings and notched four strikeouts in the win.

Game two resulted in a similar fashion for the orange-and-white, as they fell 6-2 on Friday. The Vols struggled to get their bats going again. They tallied seven hits on the day but didn’t bring in their first run until the sixth inning. Tennessee had runners in scoring position in the first and third inning but failed to capitalize.

Sophomore Garrett Stallings took the mound for the Volunteers and allowed eight hits and four runs in six innings of work. Sophomore outfielder Justin Ammons recorded each of Tennessee’s two runs on the evening. South Carolina once again found a solid foundation in pitching, as Cody Morris dealt six innings for five strikeouts and one earned run in the win.

“We didn’t really capture the momentum, I think that we captured the essence of what we’re trying to do which is play hard,” Vitello said after the loss on Friday. “That’s all we can ask from them, to show up and compete the way they did.”

The Volunteers looked to bounce back in game three, but the Gamecocks got the best of them once again on Saturday. In the 6-3 loss, Vols junior pitcher Will Neely allowed two runs on seven hits in his five innings on the mound.

Tennessee found all its runs in the fourth inning, as sophomore infielder Andre Lipcius and freshman designated hitter Evan Russell combined for three RBI’s.

In the seventh inning, Tennessee had the bases loaded with two outs to give the Vols a convincing lead but struck out to end the frame. Ammons shined as the one bright spot for Tennessee in the tough series against the Gamecocks, as he went 3-for-9 from the plate over the weekend and scored three runs. Ammons also reached base nine times and drew four walks.

The Volunteers’ four-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt. Tennessee will look to end its losing streak against Belmont on April 3. After their midweek game against the Bruins, the Vols will host the Florida Gators for a three-game weekend series in Knoxville. First pitch for the game against Belmont is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Written by Cole McCormick

Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

 

Tennessee falls to ETSU in midweek contest

After the opening weekend of SEC play, Tennessee returned home to Lindsey Nelson Stadium to take on the ETSU Buccaneers (11-6). The Volunteers (13-9) lost their second matchup with the Bucs by a score of 9-6 on Tuesday night. The orange-and-white lost the first contest against ETSU March 3 by a score of 10-9.

After a strong start by freshman Sean Hunley on the mound, Tennessee got its bats going early, driving in four runs in the bottom of the first inning. Sophomore shortstop Andre Lipcius drove in second baseman Jay Charleston for the first score of the game. Freshman left fielder Brandon Trammell rounded out the first inning with a three-run homerun to give the Vols a comfortable 4-0 lead.

Despite a strong first inning, the Volunteers struggled for the rest of the game. Charleston drove in the two final runs for Tennessee in the fourth and sixth innings, scoring senior Brodie Leftridge. Charleston finished the game with two RBI’s on 4-of-5 hitting from the plate.

Volunteers head coach Tony Vitello hesitates to use the word “revenge” when competing against a team for a second time following a loss.

“We don’t use that word at all,” Vitello said. “We needed to come here and play better and get Sunday’s loss out of our mind.”

Hunley pitched four innings and struck out five batters. He allowed seven hits and three runs on the night. His streak of more than 22 scoreless innings pitched snapped in the third inning with a three-run homerun from the Bucs.

Sophomore Will Heflin replaced Hunley for the Vols in the fourth inning. Heflin gave up five runs in just two innings of work. He ultimately picked up the loss in Tuesday’s game.

Vitello raved about Trammell after he logged three RBI’s in two hits.

“He was great, and I think he was great in pregame,” Vitello said. “I thought he had a little extra bounce in his step and was walking with his chest out instead of being hesitant.”

Tennessee gave up four runs in the seventh inning after multiple errors. ETSU scored three unearned runs without tallying a hit in the inning.

Jay Charleston attributed the errors to fatigue.

“I think we might have come out a little tired from the weekend,” Charleston said about the defensive miscues and lack of focus.

Tennessee opens its SEC home schedule with Alabama this weekend. The three-game series is set to start at 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday night.

Written by Cole McCormick

Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Vols drop weekend series to No. 8 Ole Miss

The young Tennessee baseball team continues to experience growing pains. After a monumental 8-6 win over eighth-ranked Ole Miss in the first series game on Friday, the Vols dropped the next two games to lose the weekend series in Oxford, Mississippi.

Despite recording the biggest win in the Tony Vitello era to start off the weekend, Tennessee (13-6) struggled to find success in the final two games of the series. Vitello knows his team faces an uphill battle, especially with the Vols excess of youth on the roster.

“Whether we’re happy with one or two (wins) or disappointed or whatever at this point, it’s moot I guess,” Vitello said. “The series is over, and we’ve got a game against a team on Tuesday that beat us on our home field … We need to be focused on that.”

Recording 10 hits in the first game against the Rebels, the orange-and-white only logged a combined nine hits in the next two games. Inconsistent bats remain one of the Vols’ biggest consistencies this season.

In the first game, the bats got hot late in the game for Tennessee. The Vols tallied six runs in the seventh inning alone.

Sophomore Andre Lipcius recorded a two-run double in the seventh inning and broke open the 2-2 tie. Senior outfielder Brodie Leftridge then launched a three-run triple with the bases loaded to bring in three more runs to end the inning.

Lipcius and Leftridge combined for five RBI’s on 5-of-9 hitting and three runs in the game. Freshman Garrett Crochet pitched 6.2 innings in the game and earned his second straight win on the season. The Vols’ win tallied their first over not only a ranked team, but also a top-10 team since April of last season, when they defeated seventh-ranked Florida.

In the second game on Saturday, Tennessee dealt with cold bats in a 7-1 loss in the Magnolia State. The Volunteers only mustered five hits. Ole Miss pitcher Brady Feigl hit a groove, as he allowed just one run and struck out nine batters in just six innings. Feigl improved to 5-0 on the mound this season after the performance.

With bases loaded and no outs in the sixth inning, Tennessee missed a big opportunity to sway the game’s momentum. Justin Ammons’ solo home run remained the Vols’ only run of the evening. Garrett Stallings notched his second loss of the season on the mound, as Tennessee fell 3-1.

On Sunday, the Volunteers once again struggled from the batter’s box. They tallied just four hits in the 5-0 loss. Will Neely took the mound for Tennessee and dropped to 2-1 on the season after allowing six hits in six innings pitched.

Neely performed solidly, but Rebels pitcher James McArthur, who allowed only two hits in six innings and allowed no runs, out-dueled the Vol.

“Will, after the first hitter hits a home run, (he) really settled down,” Vitello said. “We didn’t play good enough defense behind him … Other than two pitches, he was outstanding for us.”

The Vols will return to action when they host ETSU on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. ET in Knoxville. Tennessee lost its last game with the Buccaneers by a score of 10-9 on March 2.

Written by Cole McCormick

Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Hunley leads Vols past Western Carolina

Freshman pitcher Sean Hunley threw a complete game in Tennessee’s mid-week matchup against Western Carolina on Wednesday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The Vols won 5-0 behind Hunley’s three strikeouts in Knoxville to win their fourth-straight game.

The true freshman now sits with 3-0 record on the season after his impressive shutout performance. Hunley pitched over 21 straight shutout innings for the orange-and-white.

Tennessee got its bats going early when they scored three runs in the first inning. Senior catcher Benito Santiago got the scoring started for the Volunteers with an RBI single to center field.

Sophomore Justin Ammons also earned himself an RBI after driving in a bases loaded walk, while outfielder Brodie Leftridge rounded out the first inning scoring for Tennessee with a sacrifice fly to bring a run home.

Vols freshmen Zach Daniels, Brandon Chinea and sophomore Andre Lipcius also drove in runs. Lipcius notched two hits on the day and also drove in a pair of runs. In the sixth inning, Chinea hit an RBI infield single while Daniels brought in the Chinea for the final run of the game in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Tennessee Head Coach Tony Vitello highly praised his freshman pitcher’s dominating performance.

“It’s massive, you put him out there and he gives you a sense of calm. That improves the quality of play and decision making of everyone,” Vitello said. “It certainly helps you when you can go into the weekend with a fresh bullpen.”

Hunley commented on what his team needs to do to keep their four-game winning streak going.

“We’ve got to keep the bats hot,” Hunley said. “Continue being aggressive at the plate and keep the same defense we’ve been playing with.”

Tennessee will travel to Oxford for a three-game series against Ole Miss to open its SEC schedule. Game one of the series is set for 8 p.m. ET on Friday. The Vols look to stay hot against the No. 8 ranked Rebels and keep their four-game winning streak alive.

Santiago looks to stay focused into conference play.

“I tell them to stay focused and don’t give into what other people are saying,” Santiago said. “The game doesn’t change and that’s one thing I let them know. It’s roundball still, but with more fans. You’re playing the game of baseball.”

Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics