The Tennessee Volunteers had a rough week last week going 2-2 in non-conference games. They dropped a weekend series to Wright State as they lost game one 4-5 and game three 3-6 for the first series loss of the season for the Big Orange.
Here’s how they graded out for the week:
The Vols broke the record for most runs scored under current head coach Tony Vitello when they racked up 28 runs on Tuesday against Longwood, but they struggled to carry that into the weekend series as they put up five, three and three runs respectively in the three game series. On the week, the team hit a combined .295 going 43 for 146.
The week was headlined by Max Ferguson who went 4 of 12 while starting all three games of the weekend, but missed Tuesday’s route as he was recovering from an injury suffered earlier in the season when an opposing player landed on his hand during a play at third. The sophomore scored two runs, drew a walk, and drove in three runs while also stealing two bases which tied him for the lead in SEC with nine.
Liam Spence was a surprise burst out for the Volunteers as he hit .417 on the week going 5/12 with four runs and nine total bases. Spence picked up his first home run of his career home run during Saturday’s win.
The offense struggled all around as they struck out 28 times last week and only scored 10 runs over the three game series against Wright State even though they went into the series averaging 11.2 runs per game. The team just struggled to square balls up through the series and could not muster up solid at bats as they chased a lot of balls out of the zone.
Tennessee’s offense will look to get back into it’s groove as the nation’s top offense seemed to lack over the series loss as it failed to produce runs early in the game which has been a staple in UT’s offense thus far.
The starting pitching for the Vols struggled over the weekend giving up 16 hits and seven runs over 13.2 innings for a combined ERA of 4.77. The starters kept walks to a minimum, only allowing two all week, but could not keep the opposing offenses off the bases.
Garrett Crochet stood out in his first start of the year as he came back from arm soreness that sidelined him for the beginning of the year. The junior struck out six and gave up just two hits without allowing a run over his 3.1 innings of work. He reached up to 98 mph on the radar gun and mixed the lively fastball with hard breaking balls that kept Wright State off balance all afternoon.
Chad Dallas struggled in his start on Friday as he allowed seven hits and three runs over 4.1 innings. Dallas kept the ball in the zone, maybe a little too much, as he had a 66% strike rate which is normally great, but when a pitcher’s breaking balls are not breaking, then it can lead to a lot of hard hit balls like it did for Dallas. Tennessee will look for Dallas to bounce back this weekend against South Carolina as the Vols begin SEC with a road trip to Columbia.
Tennessee’s bullpen was outstanding over the week giving up only six runs over 22.1 innings pitched for a combined ERA of 2.42. If you exclude the four runs that Drew Gilbert gave up on Sunday, the pen’s ERA goes down to an insane 0.87.
It’s hard to pinpoint who stood out over the week when Tennessee used 10 different arms out of the pen. Kirby Connell made two appearances combining for 3.1 innings giving up no runs and no hits while striking out four batters.
Jackson Leath made an appearance in long relief on Sunday going 4.2 innings allowing just one run on four hits while striking out two. It was basically a short start for Leath as he is accustomed to the starting role, but head coach Tony Vitello may need him to transition to a long reliever role as more arms come back from the injured list.
Overall, the bullpen pitched extremely well as they were able to limit the offense that the starters could not. They racked up 25 strikeouts and allowed only six walks over four games while picking up a majority of the innings.
There were some mistakes that head coach Tony Vitello admitted to such as he believed he may have left Chase Wallace in the game too long on Sunday letting him working into trouble in the fifth. Wallace might have lost his spot in the rotation as both Garrett Crochet and Camden Sewell have returned from the injured list along with Wallace being fairly unimpressive through his first few starts to the season. Personally, I would have given the spot to a young guy to get a chance to prove himself against a hungry team like Wright State which also could have been used as motivation to Wallace that his spot is not secure.
The team struggled in the weekend series against Wright State as they went 1-2 picking up its first two losses of the year and taking quite the hit in the polls. The starting pitching didn’t pick up many innings at all yet accounted for the majority of the runs given up.
The bullpen was outstanding outside of one bad outing by a freshman. The Raiders must’ve found the key to slowing down the strong Vols offense as they limited Tennessee to 10 runs all weekend and kept the teams average below .300 for the first series all year.
Tennessee will look to improve as the schedule will get exponentially harder once SEC play starts this weekend
Tennessee will head to Columbia, South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks in a three-game series to open SEC play. Game one will be on Friday at 7 p.m. ET and can be streamed on SEC Network+.