Tennessee baseball vs. Belmont (copy)

Connor Pavolony during Tuesday's game against Belmont. 

The Tennessee baseball team hosted No. 5 Mississippi State in Knoxville, where the Bulldogs took the series, winning two out of three.

Here’s how the team performed:

Hitting

Tennessee’s offense only mustered 10 runs this weekend in the three-game series against Mississippi State. It was the second fewest runs that the Vols’ lineup has scored in a weekend series.

Tennessee’s offense was also drastically helped by an odd error committed by Mississippi State’s pitcher Saturday that allowed them to score two runs without an RBI.

Playing against a team with as good of a lineup as Mississippi State’s, the Vols needed more offensive fireworks to win the series. Tennessee only tallied eight extra-base hits and one homer this weekend, forcing Tony Vitello to play a lot of small ball with his team.

Al Soularie and Andre Lipcius led the Volunteers on offense, as they both picked up five hits on the weekend. Soularie picked up two RBIs while Lipcius tallied one.

Grade: C

Starting Pitching

Mississippi State came into the weekend ranking first or second in nearly every offensive poll in the SEC, but the Vols’ veteran pitchers threw gems, allowing Tennessee to stay in all three games.

Garrett Stallings was on cruise control for much of Friday’s game, getting five 1-2-3 innings and striking out seven batters in his 7.2 innings of work. The Bulldogs would tally two earned runs off him, which would be enough to get the game in extra innings, but it was a masterful pitching performance.

Zach Linginfelter bounced back from his worst start of the season at Vanderbilt to throw one of his best games against Mississippi State. The junior tossed 6.2 innings, giving up only five hits and one run. The performance proved even more impressive due to the fact that Linginfelter only struck out three batters and didn’t have his best stuff.

Will Neely got knocked out of the game in the fourth inning when a Rowdey Jordan line drive hit him in the ankle. Before that, Neely was on the way to another solid start. The senior left the game in the fourth inning, giving up a run but leaving the bases loaded. The performance wasn’t stellar, but it was solid.

Grade: A+

Bullpen

Tennessee’s bullpen was short-handed this weekend with Camden Sewell and Chase Wallace injured. The Vols asked a lot out of their bullpen with an extra-innings game and Neely getting knocked out early.

Tennessee’s best reliever, Garrett Crochet, wasn’t great on Friday night, allowing one of his inherited runs to score and giving up four runs in the eleventh inning, an amount that the Vols offense couldn’t match.

Redmond Walsh was brilliant Saturday, not allowing a single Mississippi State baserunner in 2.1 innings of work. Walsh struck out three, including Jake Mangum who will soon be the SEC’s all-time hit leader.

The bullpen threw 5.1 innings on Sunday and they weren’t great, giving up four earned runs in their time.

Overall, the bullpen wasn’t bad but left a little bit to be desired on the bookends of the weekend.

Grade: B-

Coaching

Tony Vitello probably pulled Stallings a batter too late on Friday, throwing Crochet in the game with the bases loaded. Crochet walked the first batter, allowing the game-tying run before getting the next batter out.

His decision to pull Linginfelter when he did Saturday night was perfect. Walsh came in and got his first batter out and left him in for the ninth inning.

The go-on-contact play with a runner on third backfired twice on Sunday when a grounder to the pitcher got a Tennessee base runner caught in a rundown. Both plays were probably more bad luck than bad coaching, but it could have possibly cost the Vols a chance to win the series.

His decision to pinch-hit Zach Daniels was beneficial, as the sophomore’s two-run homer pulled the game back within one.

Grade: B

Overall

Tennessee needed to avoid getting swept against one of the nation’s best teams — and they were successful in that — but it’s hard not to think Tennessee could have picked up another win.

Both losses came in close games and Friday’s extra-innings’ loss seems to be one that the Vols could be kicking themselves for later in the season due to the 2-1 lead in the eighth.

The Vols didn’t hurt their postseason chances this weekend, but they could have done a ton to help them if they could have picked up a second win.

Grade: B-

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