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 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 

Vols tally first SEC sweep since 2015 against Alabama

Until Sunday afternoon, Tennessee had yet to accomplish a series sweep over an opponent this season. However, the Vols (15-9) changed that by notching their first in-conference sweep since 2015 over Alabama.

After losing three straight games prior to their series with the Crimson Tide, the series sweep sets Tennessee back on track.

“I’m still kind of elated at the fact that we won a series, which is our goal, and then you throw another win in there,” Volunteers Head Coach Tony Vitello said. “It’s like having two desserts after one meal.”

Tennessee kicked off their SEC home opener in front of a crowd anxious for a Vols win. The orange-and-white got on the scoreboard early after senior outfielder Brodie Leftridge hit an RBI single to center field to bring home sophomore infielder Andre Lipcius in the first inning.

Next, Tennessee freshman Evan Russell drove an RBI single to left field in the fourth inning to score Leftridge. Russell finished with two hits and two RBI’s on the day. Alabama scored the next three runs of the game, taking a 3-2 lead heading into the top of the fifth inning.

The teams faced a tie score in the bottom of the ninth inning at 4-4. The Vols had the bases loaded with Russell at the plate. Russell drew a game-winning walk, which brought home senior catcher Benito Santiago to lift Tennessee a 5-4 win in the first game of the series.

“I was expecting to be in that certain situation,” Russell said of his patience at the plate. “I was excited about it. I knew he was going to have to come to me and he never came to me.”

Game two was originally set for Saturday night, but inclement weather pushed the game back to Sunday at noon. Sunday saw a double-header of two seven-inning games that Volunteers fans won’t soon forget.

In game two, both Tennessee and the Crimson Tide’s bats went cold. Although there were 10 total hits in the game, the teams combined for just three runs. Alabama struck first in the top of fifth inning, but the Vols got the last laugh.

Sophomore outfielder Justin Ammons scored on an error, and Russell once again drew another bases-loaded walk to score Lipcius in the sixth inning. Tennessee came out with a 2-1 victory and the series win, but they weren’t finished.

Sophomore Garrett Stallings pitched all seven innings in game two for the orange-and-white, giving up six hits and only one run. Stallings also struck out five batters in his start and moved to 4-1 on the season.

“It’s definitely a big change in the game, but every time I go out I want to pitch the whole game,” Stallings said about the unique seven-inning format. “It made it a little bit easier to do that, but I was happy we got away with the win.”

The two opponents got right back into action just one hour later for the final game of the series. Like Stallings in game two, junior Will Neely pitched a full game for Tennessee in game three. Neely struck out four batters and gave up five hits in Sunday’s win, as the stout Vols defense gave up no runs.

Tennessee scored all three runs in the game, as Santiago hit a single to center field in the first inning to bring home Lipcius. Sophomore outfielder Jay Charleston trotted in on an Alabama fielding error.

The final run came from an Ammons single, as Russell made it to home plate in the bottom of the third inning. Nothing much happened after the Vols big inning, as they won 3-0 and swept the series over Alabama.

Up next, Tennessee will face Western Carolina on the road on Tuesday. The Volunteers won their previous matchup with the Catamounts this season by a score of 5-0.

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

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

Tennessee baseball drops series finale to UNC-Greensboro

Tony Vitello’s young Tennessee baseball team couldn’t complete its first sweep of the season on Sunday afternoon, as the Vols (4-3) fell to UNC-Greensboro, 3-2.

Despite the loss, the Vols were still able to pick up their first series win under Vitello this weekend thanks to victories over the Spartans (4-3) on Friday and Saturday.

“You had two evenly matched teams,” Vitello said following the loss. “It pains me to say it because I want to be better than our opponents, but it’s a well-coached team. They have different strengths than we do. Their defense in my opinion is what kept them in the game and early in the series.”

With the bats cold for both teams on a dreary Sunday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium, junior Will Neely turned in an impressive performance against the Spartans. A week following his first outing of the season in which he allowed five runs against Maryland, the Knoxville native only allowed one run in five innings of work.

The lone run Neely allowed came in the top of the first inning on an Andrew Moritz sac fly that allowed Austin Embler to score who reached on a lead-off double. Neely settled in after the run scored, striking out four in his second appearance of the year.

“The game slowed down for him,” Vitello said of Neely’s performance. “He’s a guy that’s got experience for us and he will continue to log innings for us.”

Freshman Garrett Crochet relieved Neely to start the sixth. Despite allowing two home runs that proved to be the difference in the game, Crochet turned in another impressive performance. The southpaw struck out three in four innings of work but picked up his first loss of the season.

In the top of the third inning, Tennessee shortstop Andre Lipcius lined out to left, driving in Zach Daniels to tie the game at 1-1.

Neither team was able to break the tie in the fourth or the fifth. That is until UNCG left fielder Dillon Stewart took over the game. In the top of the sixth, Stewart hit a home run to right to give the Spartans a 2-1 lead.

In his next at-bat, Stewart extended the Spartans lead to 3-1 on a solo homer to center field. The redshirt-senior finished 2-for-4 on the day with a pair of homers and RBIs.

“It’s about the pitches we are making,” Vitello said when asked about giving up multiple home runs to Stewart. “One of the at bats today was 10 pitches and the more a guy sees off you, the better he’s going to hit you. The really strong players will make you pay if you make bad pitches.”

Daniels was the lone bright spot for a Vols offense that was 0-for-10 at the plate with runners in scoring position on Sunday. The freshman finished the day 2-for-4 with a solo home run in the ninth that cut the Spartans the lead to 3-2.

After starting the season 0-for-11, Daniels is now batting .357 with a team-high three home runs.

Tennessee is back in action on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon for a pair of midweek games. The Vols will face Middle Tennessee State on Tuesday before turning around and facing Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Wednesday. Both games are slated to begin at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics