Coming into a weekend against Tennessee, Ole Miss ranked among the top five in the SEC in seven different offensive categories, including batting average and runs scored.
Thursday evening, however, Garrett Stallings had his way with the Rebel lineup, pitching a complete game while only allowing four hits. Thursday’s game was his fourth career complete game, to go along with his second career complete game shutout.
“He is always attacking and always competing,” head coach Tony Vitello said. “Tonight, his mistakes were down or off the plate. Every pitch was a winning pitch, even on the balls that were hit hard.”
The pitching performance was a nice bounce back for Tennessee, who has allowed a total of 31 runs in the past four games.
“When they are going to swing early, and I knew that coming in, I put that in my plan and played off of that,” Stallings said. “The last few starts haven’t been my best, just getting back to that last pitch, last inning mentality I think shows.”
With Stallings staying dominant on the mound, Tennessee did not need much offense, but were able to take advantage of the opportunities they were given.
“I feel like we have kind of found that deal we had at the beginning of the year where one through nine everybody was chipping in in some form or fashion,” Vitello said. “Whatever happens tomorrow or the day after, our kids are going to come hook it up and get after it and that’s what you have to do.”
Tennessee did not waste any time getting on the board, putting up a run in the bottom of the first inning. Justin Ammons got the inning started with a double down the right field line. After Jay Charleston sacrificed him over to third, Andre Lipcius singled to get Tennessee on the board against Ole Miss ace Will Ethridge.
“I was trying to get the job done early in the count,” Ricky Martinez said. “Everything that he (Ethridge) is doing is not by accident, he has really worked for it.”
The Vols went through a rough stretch after the first against Ethridge but broke through in a big way in the fifth inning, thanks to the bottom of the order. Jake Rucker got the inning started with an infield single. After Pete Derkay followed with a single of his own, Martinez doubled to left to extend Tennessee’s lead to 3-0. Ricky Martinez tied his career-high in hits with four on the evening.
“I am not thinking about mechanics, not thinking about the swing, just going up there and seeing if I can get a pitch to hit,” Martinez said. “Thankfully my teammates and the coaches have been given me the opportunity to come here and do what I can do.”
Connor Pavolony kept the inning going with a single to left field to extend the Vols lead to four. The fourth run of the inning for Tennessee came on an infield single by Lipcius that scored Pavolony. Lipcius had a big day at the plate, as he hit a home run to left field in the eighth inning to score Tennessee’s sixth run of the evening. On the night, Lipcius went 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
To continue the momentum, Al Soularie got an infield hit. He was drove in on an RBI single by Rucker. On the night, Tennessee scored its seven runs on thirteen hits. Ethridge pitched seven innings for the Rebels allowing five earned runs on ten hits.
The Vols will look to carry the success from the first game of the series to tomorrow evening for the second of three against Ole Miss. First pitch for Friday game is set for 6:30 p.m. at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.