Vols drop weekend series at No. 20 Georgia

In a three-game weekend series, the Tennessee Volunteers baseball team (25-21, 8-13 SEC) traveled to Athens to take on the No. 20 ranked Georgia Bulldogs (30-14, 12-9 SEC). The Bulldogs got the best of the Vols in the first two games of the series, but Tennessee took home a win in the series finale on Sunday.

Game one of the series, Sean Hunley got the nod for the Volunteers on the mound. In 3.2 innings of work, Hunley gave up three runs on five hits while striking out two batters. Hot bats from the Bulldogs ultimately ended Hunley’s day early. Andrew Shultz, Redmond Walsh and Donovan Benoit replaced Hunley on the mound for the remainder of the game. Shultz ultimately picked up the loss for Tennessee, as Georgia went on to win game one 8-6.

Saturday’s game held the same outcome for the Vols, with Georgia taking game two and the series with a 12-4 thumping of the orange-and-white. Garrett Stallings got the start in game two for Tennessee, after he pitched four innings and allowing eight runs on 10 hits. Stallings also struck out one batter in his performance.

Much like game one, hot bats for the Bulldogs were too much for the Volunteers to overcome. With 14 hits in the game and scoring four runs in the second and fourth innings, Georgia put the game too far out of reach for Tennessee to overcome. The Vols would get their revenge in game three at Foley Field.

In Sunday’s extra inning classic, Tennessee went on to defeat the Bulldogs 6-5. Junior Will Neely would get the start on Sunday for the Vols, as he pitched 5.2 innings while allowing three runs on six hits. Freshman Garrett Crochet would replace Neely and pick up the win for Tennessee. Crochet pitched 4.1 innings and retired four batters in the win against the Bulldogs.

The Volunteers dominated the first four innings of game three, as they scored five runs in the first four innings. However, Georgia came back and tied it up in the bottom of the ninth inning at 5-5 and sent the game into extra innings. A Justin Ammons single to right field would bring home Jay Charleston to give Tennessee a 6-5 lead and ultimately win the matchup with the Bulldogs.

“Standard procedure for Will (Neely). We just got done telling the team that he’s a warrior,” said Volunteers head coach Vitello about Neely. “You wouldn’t know it if you weren’t watching the game, but he’s a competitor and that’s the type of effort you get from him every time.”

The next test for Tennessee will be at home on May 1 against the Morehead State Eagles. First pitch for Tuesday’s game is set for 6:30 p.m. ET inside Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville.

Written by Cole McCormick 

Edited by Seth Raborn

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee gets revenge over ETSU

After dropping the first two meetings of the season, the Tennessee baseball team got revenge over ETSU Tuesday night. With the 6-2 victory at Thomas Field in Johnson City, the Vols improved to 22-17 on the season.

Sophomore slinger Will Heflin gave another strong performance on the mound, as he pitched six innings while only allowing four hits and no earned runs. Heflin improved his record to 4-1 after the midweek win. The Morristown-born pitcher has only given up six hits and dealt over 11 scoreless innings for Tennessee in his two starts this season.

“We knew he was going to be a guy we could count on in some capacity,” Volunteers head coach Tony Vitello said. “We’re still searching for some roles to be pinned down by some pitchers.”

Senior catcher Benito Santiago also had a big night, driving in three runners against the Buccaneers. Santiago also had two hits and scored one run. Eight separate Vols had at least one hit in the win. After his dominant performance on Tuesday, Santiago leads Tennessee in with a .407 batting average and 23 RBIs in non-conference games this season.

Sophomore outfielder Justin Ammons scored three runs on two hits. With his strong performance, Ammons has now reached base in his last 15 games. The Vols hopped out to an early 1-0 lead after Ammons drove in sophomore Pete Derkay in the first inning.

Tennessee tallied two more runs in the next inning. Freshman Wyatt Stapp drove in a run, and Brandon Trammell scored to put the Vols in a 3-0 lead in the second inning. The Volunteers threatened ETSU with the bases loaded but only came away with one run after Santiago walked to make it 4-0.

Santiago and Tennessee finished strong by driving in two runs in the ninth inning. The Buccaneers scored just two runs in the game. Excellent pitching by Heflin and solid defense by the orange-and-white never gave ETSU time to climb back into the game.

ETSU starting pitcher Daniel Sweeney had a tough night on the mound. He gave up four earned runs and nine hits in just over three innings of work. The Bucs’ other five pitchers that took to the mound on Tuesday gave up just one hit and two earned runs combined.

The next test for Tennessee will come against the Texas A&M Aggies starting Friday night. The weekend series will be played in Knoxville at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The first pitch of game one is set for 6:30 p.m. ET.

Written by Cole McCormick

Edited by Seth Raborn

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 

Tennessee takes final series game against No. 1 Florida

In a chilly three game series, the Tennessee baseball team (19-14, 5-7 SEC) welcomed the top-ranked Florida Gators to Knoxville for a weekend matchup. The series marked the Volunteers’ first home series since their sweep of Alabama in March.

Game one of the series faced cancellation due to inclement weather. The first matchup took place Saturday. Florida took an early lead after scoring five runs in the second inning.

Tennessee never cut the Gators’ lead enough to mount a comeback. Florida went on to score seven runs in both the fifth and sixth innings and ultimately beat the Volunteers by a score of 22-6. Freshman Garrett Crochet got the start on the mound for Tennessee in game one but had little success. Crochet tossed for 4.1 innings while allowing 10 runs on eight hits.

“I just touched on kind of a mentality thing,” Vols head coach Tony Vitello said about his speech to his team after the game. “I think there is such a thing as too much respect for your opponent and I think that played into some things tonight.”

Sunday featured a double header in which Tennessee looked to bounce back. The orange-and-white took an early lead, scoring three runs in the first four innings, but Florida scored two runs in the fifth inning. The Gators took the lead in the top the of seventh inning.

The teams readied themselves to end the game in seven innings, so the Volunteers looked solid heading into the bottom of the seventh inning. Tennessee tied the game at 4-4 going into the eighth inning, but the Vols gave up two runs off a sac-fly and an error. The Vols got one man on base but failed to match Florida, as the Gators retired the next three batters to win 6-4.

Game three of the weekend boded well for Tennessee, as the Vols finally knocked off the Gators 6-4. Junior Will Neely pitched all seven innings for Tennessee and gave up four runs and notched five strikeouts in the win over No. 1 ranked Florida.

“It felt good. I knew we needed the team to be focused on this one after the loss on Saturday and then the first loss today,” Neely said about the much-needed win for the Volunteers. “If we didn’t have that focused, it wouldn’t have turned out as well as it did.”

The last time Tennessee tallied a win over a top-ranked team also featured the Gators two years ago. Vols sophomore outfielder Justin Ammons tied his career-high in hits with four and also drove in the game-tying run on Sunday.

Tennessee’s next matchup will be against the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks for a two-game midweek series. First pitch of game one is set for 6:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday night.

Written by Cole McCormick 

Edited by Seth Raborn

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 blasts Western Carolina 17-3

Coming off  a series sweep against SEC foe Alabama, Tennessee (17-9) stretched its winning streak to four wins with a dominant performance over Western Carolina. The Vols traveled to Cullowhee, North Carolina for a Tuesday night matchup with the Catamounts, logging 16 hits to coast to a 17-3 win.

The Volunteers won the previous matchup against Western Carolina, beating them 5-0 March 14. Tennessee now leads the series 22-7 against the Catamounts all time.

Tennessee started off hot, as the Vols scored four runs in the first inning, three runs in the second and three more runs in the third inning. The Vols ultimately scored 10 runs before the Catamounts tallied their first run. Sitting at a comfortable lead early in the game, the orange-and-white shifted to cruise control for the rest of the game.

A combined four homeruns fueled Tennessee in its best offensive game of the season. Right fielder Justin Ammons, second baseman Jay Charleston, catcher Nico Mascia and outfielder Zach Daniels all hit home runs in Tuesday’s game.

Charleston drove the scoring, hitting a homerun in the first inning that brought Ammons home. Ammons followed with a homerun in the third inning, while Daniels and Mascia homered in the fourth and fifth innings.

The last time that team notched over four home runs, the Vols face ETSU in 2015. The win also marked the largest win margin for the orange-and-white since 2015 when they defeated Grand Canyon 25-8.

Freshman starting pitcher Sean Hunley gave the Volunteers a crisp five innings of work. Hunley finished the day the win and four strikeouts, while giving up eight hits and only one earned run.

Mascia tied the school record for runs in a single game with five on the night. The redshirt sophomore and Knoxville native finished the day with four hits and three RBI’s, along with his five runs and solo homerun.

“It went well. We just listen to the coaches and what the coaches had a plan for us,” Mascia said about his historic performance. “It was good to come out and get the bats going, and hopefully we can carry that into this weekend.”

The next test for Tennessee comes against South Carolina for a three-game series. The Vols will travel to Columbia this weekend in hopes to keep their win streak alive. Game one of the series is set for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcasted on ESPNU. The final two games of the series will be shown on the SEC Network.

Written by Cole McCormick

Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics