Tennessee’s weekend trip to Fayetteville wasn’t a successful one as the Vols were swept for just the second time this season. Tennessee’s starting pitching struggled at Arkansas as the Vols dropped a series of wild games.
Given the level of competition, Friday night’s performance may have been one of the Tennessee lineup's best performances of the season. The Vols got after Arkansas’ ace Isaiah Campbell early and often, knocking him out of the game in the fifth inning.
In total, Tennessee tallied nine runs in the two run loss and kept coming at Arkansas, even after the Vols forfeited the lead in the sixth.
The next two games of the weekend didn’t see the same level of success as Tennessee tallied six combined runs in the two losses.
Credit to the Vols lineup on Sunday - they couldn’t touch Arkansas’ starter Connor Noland, but were persistent at the plate and had success against Razorbacks’ relievers scoring two runs with two-outs in the eighth inning to take the lead.
Jake Rucker turned in one of his best weekends at the plate going 5-for-9 with a RBI, two walks, and a pair of doubles.
It wasn’t the best weekend for the Vols’ starting pitching as Tennessee gave up 17 runs from its starters.
None of Tennessee’s starting pitchers made it through five innings as they struggled to find outs against Arkansas’ elite lineup.
LHP Garrett Crochet was up and down on Friday night giving up seven runs, six of which were earned, in his 4.2 innings pitched. The sophomore struck-out seven batters and defensive errors hurt him, but his performance still didn't shine when compared to his best.
Garrett Stallings turned in his worst start of 2019 on Saturday, giving up 10 hits and eight runs in 3.2 innings pitched. The junior has been the Vols’ most consistent pitcher this season but couldn’t pick up outs against the Razorbacks’ explosive offense.
Zach Linginfelter did some things really well in his nine strikeout performance on Sunday allowing just two runs, but only throwing 4.1 innings. With a fresh bullpen the performance would probably look better, but due to a bullpen that had been heavily used on the weekend, the Vols need more from Linginfelter.
Like Tennessee’s starting pitching, it wasn’t the finest weekend for the Vols’ stout bullpen. Tennessee’s relievers were heavily relied on and gave up 13 runs in 15 innings.
The numbers are slightly skewed as Vitello used younger arms as Arkansas ran away with Saturday’s 15-3 game, but it was still a disappointing performance.
Andrew Schultz came into Friday night’s game with the score tied at seven and the hard throwing couldn’t collect the final out of the sixth inning as Arkansas gained some separation, scoring four runs.
The best reliever for the Vols this weekend was sophomore Redmond Walsh who after coming into the game in the fifth inning with the bases loaded only allowed one of his inherited runs to score, and threw the next three innings scoreless allowing Tennessee to take a 3-2 lead.
It didn’t end great for Walsh though, as he gave up a game tying homer in the ninth inning and a two-out walkoff single in the tenth as Arkansas finished off the series sweep.
Tennessee’s bullpen was relied on heavily this weekend, but it couldn’t live up to the task struggling against the dynamic offense it faced.
Tony Vitello couldn’t seem to find the right buttons to press this weekend while working with his pitchers.
The leash was too long for Crochet on Friday, who seemed to be in a jam every inning before getting pulled. You can’t blame Vitello for what happened after that. He went to one of his best guys, Schultz, and he still couldn’t get it done.
Making the amount of changes he did to his lineup following a nine run performance Friday seemed strange, as he moved his struggling one and two hitters to the eight-nine spot.
That experiment didn’t last long as he moved Charleston back to the leadoff spot on Sunday.
Vitello decided to ride things out with Walsh in extra innings on Sunday and the move was questionable and backfired. With Camden Sewell not having pitched on the weekend and Walsh already at his career high in innings pitched it seemed like the time to make a change but Vitello stuck with his hot hand.
It wasn’t Vitello’s best performance in his return trip to Fayetteville, but there were much bigger issues than his coaching decisions.
It wasn’t a productive weekend for Tennessee as they failed on a chance to bolster its NCAA Tournament chances. Instead the Vols are back on the bubble as they head down the final stretch of the year.
The sweep isn’t a catastrophic result, especially considering Tennessee swept Kentucky last weekend, but it’s still hard to come out of the weekend with a lot of positives.
It’s the third SEC series Arkansas has swept this season and while it doesn’t ruin the Vols postseason chances it makes the next two weekends very high pressure for the Vols.