The No.11 Tennessee Volunteers came into Friday night as one of the top offenses in the country, but the cold weather seemed to cool off the Big Orange offense as the Vols fell to Wright State 5-4.
Here are a few takeaways from the team’s first loss of the season:
Offense struggled to piece together hits
The No. 1 run scoring offense in the nation could not manage to string hits together as Tennessee batted .200 in the game as a whole and left nine men stranded on base.
Connor Pavolony launched a missile in the second inning for the Vols’ only home run of the game, and Tennessee did not score again until the fifth when Max Ferguson worked a walk, stole second and third, then came in to score on a ground out.
The Vols have been extremely effective this season in manufacturing runs through stolen bases to get runners into scoring position and through piecing together hits to keep the inning going, but they struggled to do so on Friday. Ferguson’s two stolen bases in the fifth were the only stolen bases the Vols attempted all night.
“Their guy came out throwing strikes, doing his job, and we just struggled to get it going against him,” sophomore Jake Rucker said postgame. “We had to change our approach late in the game, we were trying not to have selfish at bats in order to scratch up some runs.”
They also struggled to come through in big situations as they were 2-8 with runners in scoring position. Tennessee also brought in Austin Knight as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the eighth to lay down a sacrifice bunt, but after watching two strikes and working the count full, Knight swung at a pitch that was over his head and in the other batters box to record the first out of the inning with men on first and second instead of taking a walk to load the bases for Pete Derkay.
Overall, the Vols’ offense just struggled to produce as Wright State’s staff had the team on its toes all night long.
Pitchers got into trouble early
The Vols had three different pitchers trot out to the mound during the loss, each one got into trouble early on in their outing beginning with starter Chad Dallas who gave up three hits in the third, two of which were doubles, to tie the game up at one. Dallas also got into trouble in his last inning as he gave up three hits and a walk while only recording one out and giving up two runs before being relieved by Sean Hunley.
“(Dallas) was falling off the mound to his glove side a lot tonight, his direction wasn’t great,” head coach Tony Vitello said following the loss. “That team just came hungry, they wanted to win an SEC game and they did just that.”
Hunley entered the game and recorded two quick outs to get Tennessee out of the inning without allowing anymore runs to score. In the sixth the Raiders got the inning going with two quick singles, putting men on first and third with no outs in the inning. Hunley focused in under pressure and got three straight outs to keep Wright State scoreless in the inning, but still faced trouble as the inning easily could have gotten out of hand. The Raiders again got off to a quick start in the seventh as Julian Greenwell led the inning off with a double and later came around to score on a ground out to extend Wright State’s lead to 4-2.
Redmond Walsh emerged from the bullpen in the top of the ninth with hopes of putting the Raiders away quickly, but could not manage to do so as Gehrig Anglin singled to start the inning and made it up to second after Trey Lipscomb made an amazing play at second to steal an extra base hit away, but overthrew Lipcius at first for a throwing error. Anglin came in to score what would be the winning run on a single up the middle from Alex Alders.
The Vols’ pitching staff, which entered the game ranked third in team ERA, struggled to keep runs off the board allowing five runs, four of which were earned, and 13 hits in the loss.
Tennessee will continue its series against Wright State tomorrow, March 6, at 2 p.m. ET as they look to rebound from Friday’s loss and get momentum going heading towards SEC play.