In a rubber match game that felt as if Tennessee was well in control at the start, Missouri responded in a big way, taking game three of the series 10-8 Sunday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
The win for the Tigers will extend their lead over the Vols for third place in the SEC East standings to 2.5 games, giving them a little cushion with only two weekends left in the regular season.
Here are three takeaways from Sunday's game.
Tennessee jumps out early
The Vols did not waste any time getting out to an early lead against Missouri, scoring seven runs in the first two innings of the game.
“They were great coming out. They came out and did what they need to do to start,” head coach Tony Vitello said. “The dugout and the position players were all in the game all nine innings, but we didn’t finish.”
After not coming out with conviction after a rain delay Saturday, Vitello wanted to see a fast start from his team, and he got one. After Missouri starter Jordan Gubelman retired the first two batters, things got ugly. After back-to-back hits from junior Andre Lipcius and sophomore Alerick Soularie, sophomore Evan Russell hit a ground ball to third that should have ended the inning.
However, Tiger third baseman Paul Gomez lofted a ball wide of the bag that went into right field to score the first two runs of the game for Tennessee. The Vols were able to take advantage of the extra out as freshman Jake Rucker and junior Pete Derkay both got base hits to extend the lead to 4-0 for Tennessee.
The Vols were able to keep their foot on the gas pedal in the second inning, adding three more runs to extend the lead to 7-0. Junior Ricky Martinez led off the inning with a double to center field and he advanced to third on a passed ball. After a junior Justin Ammons walk, Lipcius hit a home run to left field to put the Vols up seven and made it feel like the game was well under control.
“I hit the ball well once, I saw the ball well,” Lipcius said. “I talked to Elander the first two days and kind of got my head on straight, and I took a lot better at-bats today.”
With Tennessee up by seven runs and starter junior Zach Linginfelter having a pretty easy first two innings, it felt like Tennessee was on its way to a much-needed series win against the Tigers.
However, the Missouri offense exploded for seven runs in the third to even the game.
“He started thinking through everything, and overthought it,” Vitello said. “The adjustment that
he needs to make is to be able to pitch quicker. Keeping things simple and picking up the tempo
is what needs to happen in my opinion for him to improve.”
It all started when Linginfelter walked the first two batters of the inning, Tony Ortiz and Mark Vierling. The next batter, Connor Brumfield, tripled down the right field line to score the first two runs of the game for Missouri. Brumfield would come in to score on a sacrifice fly by Chris Cornelius to cut the deficit to four. After Kameron Misner and Peter Zimmerman reached base, Chad McDaniel singled to bring them in to trim Tennessee’s lead even further to 7-5. McDaniel has had a great series, totaling seven RBIs on the weekend.
Missouri would end the third inning rally with a two-run home run by Paul Gomez to even the game at seven. And unfortunately for the Vols, that was not the last time he would make a big impact on the game.
“We came out well, but we needed to keep that focus the whole game,” Lipcius said. “We leveled off a little bit and our team has been done that in the past. We need to get better at just keeping on the gas pedal.”
Gomez homers Missouri to victory
After Tennessee had just reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the seventh on a bases loaded walk by Ammons, the Tigers did not waste any time coming back to take their first lead of the game.
Zimmerman had reached base on a single to left and Gomez hit another two-run home run to left, his second of the game. The latter won put the Tigers ahead for good, 9-8. Missouri would add another insurance run in the inning on a sacrifice fly for the final score of 10-8.
Coming into Sunday’s rubber match, Gomez had not had a great weekend, going 1-for-9 in the series, he made up for it on Sunday, hitting both the game tying home run and the go ahead shot. On the day, Gomez’s line was 2-for-4 with two home runs and four RBIs.
Tennessee will try to respond from a disappointing loss on Tuesday when the Vols take on Austin Peay at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. After that game, Tennessee will travel to Gainesville, Florida to take on a Gators team who will be fighting for their post season life after being swept by Georgia this weekend. First pitch for the game on Tuesday against the Governors is set for 6 p.m.