With a pair of pitchers that entered the game with ERAs under three, most were expecting a pitcher’s duel in Tennessee’s series opener against Arkansas - but both team’s lineups had big nights as Arkansas took the series opener 11-9.
Andre Lipcius started the back-and-forth scoring affair taking a 1-1 fastball deep in the top half of the first inning for a solo homer.
It didn’t take Arkansas long to answer before the Vols could pick up an out, thanks to a Matt Goodheart single that evened the game up at one. Arkansas still had runners on first and second with nobody out - but thanks to a pair of strikeouts and a groundout, Tennessee LHP Garrett Crochet limited any more damage.
Landon Gray led off the third inning with a single, but Isaiah Campbell retired the next two Volunteer batters. Tennessee got a two out rally going as Lipcius singled and Al Soularie walked, loading the bases.
Evan Russell gave Tennessee the lead again, singling to left-field scoring Gray and Lipcius. An error on the throw back into the infield allowed Soulaire to reach home and Tennessee to take a 4-1 lead.
Arkansas answered in the bottom half of the third inning, scoring three runs and evening the game back up to four.
Casey Martin got things started for the Razorbacks with an infield single and Arkansas picked up a few more baserunners before Dominic Fletcher’s single cut the Vols’ lead to two. Jacob Nesbit pulled Arkansas within one with a sacrifice fly before Casey Opitz’s two-out single evened things up at four.
Justin Ammons was the Vols’ first base-runner in the fifth inning as he reached on an error by the Razorbacks’ shortstop. After Lipcius walked, Tennessee had two on with one out for Soulaire. Soularie ripped one into the gap, but a spectacular catch by Fletcher robbed him of an extra-base hit.
Evan Russell hit one sky high into shallow center field on a play that looked like it would end the fifth inning, but Fletcher lost the ball in the air and both Ammons and Lipcius scored.
Pete Derkay knocked Campbell out of the game the next at-bat as he ripped a single to right field scoring Russell.
Campbell ended the game with 4.2 innings pitched giving up six hits and seven runs, only three of which were earned.
It appeared that Tennessee had an inning ending double play in the bottom half of the fifth, but Jake Rucker mishandled a grounder allowing the runner to reach base safely. Nesbit made Tennessee pay quickly lining a three run homer over the left field wall evening the game at seven.
Crochet would get the next batter out, but the sophomore’s day was done after that. It was Crochet’s worst start of the year as he threw 4.2 innings allowing nine hits, seven runs, six earned run and four walks while striking out seven.
Tennessee looked like it would reclaim the lead in the sixth as the Vols put runners on the corners with one out, but Nesbit caught the SEC stolen base leader, Jay Charleston, stealing second and Ammons struck out to end the inning.
Arkansas’ lineup exploded off Andrew Schultz in the bottom half of the inning. Trevor Ezell led off the inning with a solo homer giving Arkansas its first lead of the night at 8-7. The biggest play of the game occured with runners on first and second and two-outs as Kenley singled to left field. Soularie fired one to home and appeared to get the runner, but the home plate umpire ruled him safe.
After review, the call on the field was upheld and Arkansas took a 9-7 lead. Nesbit chased Schultz from the game - on his next at-bat he doubled down the left field line, giving Arkansas an 11-7 lead.
Soularie double to right center in the top half of the seventh inning gave the Vols a one out baserunner. Derkay picked up his second RBI of the night, singling up the middle with two outs scoring Soularie and cutting the Razorbacks’ lead to 11-8.
The two-out rally continued as Martinez singled up the middle, giving Tennessee runners on first and second. Jake Rucker doubled for the second time, scoring Derkay and giving the Vols runners on second and third before Connor Pavolony struck out to end the inning.
Jacob Kostyshock and Matt Cronin combined for 2.1 scoreless innings and four strikeouts to end the game and secure the game one win for Arkansas.
First pitch for game two of the series is set for 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday night in Fayetteville.