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

Maryland spoils Tony Vitello’s coaching debut

Maryland (1-0) spoiled the start to the Tony Vitello era Friday night in Knoxville, defeating Tennessee 2-0.

A gloomy afternoon in Knoxville dampened the opening day mood, pushing first-pitch back from 3:30 p.m. to 6:05 p.m. Tennessee’s (0-1) bats also proved gloomy, collecting only six hits in the season-opener.

“You’re not going to get anything done when you’re timid,” Vitello said following the game. “We had guys who were flat out nervous.”

While the bats never got going, right-hander Zach Linginfelter took the mound for the Vols and managed to keep the game within reach.

Linginfelter put together scoreless innings in the first, second and third, but ran into trouble in the fourth.

“What we saw out of him that we didn’t see last year was the ability to mix speeds, pitch himself out of jams, and be a good defender on the mound,” Vitello said of Linginfelter. “He showed an arsenal that can give you an SEC Friday night win.”

Maryland second baseman Nick Dunn, a preseason All-American, smacked a solo shot to right to put the Terrapins on the scoreboard. Taylor Wright then hit a single to center before stealing second. With Wright on second, Will Watson lined an RBI single through the left side of the infield to extend the lead to 2-0.

Linginfelter got out of the jam and concluded his first outing of the season. The Sevier County native finished having allowed six hits, two earned runs and three walks while striking out six.

Freshman Chase Wallace entered in relief to make his impressive Big Orange debut. Wallace worked two scoreless innings to keep the Maryland lead at 2-0.

Fellow freshman Garrett Crochet also made his debut. The Mississippi native impressed in three innings of work but allowed Dunn to hit his second home run of the game to extend the Terrapins lead to 3-0 in the top of the eighth.

In the ninth, Maryland extended its lead to 4-0 on an RBI double from Marty Costes.

Tennessee could never string together a run of hits, hitting just 2-for-13 with runners on base.

The Vols threatened in the eighth after Jay Charleston reached based to start the inning on a hit by pitch. Andre Lipcius also reached on a walk, but with runners on first and third, Benito Santiago struck out to end the inning.

Wyatt Stapp shone as the lone bright spot on offense, as the Texas native continued the theme of freshmen contributing in their college debut. Stapp, the Vols new starting third baseman, was 2-for-4 on the evening.

“What I’ve always done is just try to see the ball, hit the ball,” Stapp said after the game. “That’s just kind of my mentality, so I just go with that every game.”

Tennessee and Maryland will square off in game two of the three-game series tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. ET. Sophomore right-hander Garrett Stallings will be on the bump for the Vols.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics