Tennessee came into Sunday's rubber match against Missouri ready to win, jumping on the Tigers early, but Missouri answered, overcoming two separate deficits to win 10-8.
After Missouri’s Jordan Gubelman retired the first two batters of the inning, it looked like it would be an uneventful first inning for the Vols. However, due to some defensive mistakes and clutch hitting, Tennessee exploded with four runs.
Junior Andre Lipcius got the offense going with a bloop single to center field. Al Soularie ripped the first pitch he saw down the left field line for a double giving the Vols a pair of runners in-scoring position.
It appeared Missouri would get out of a jam as Evan Russell grounded one to third, but Paul Gomez’s throw went into right field allowing Lipcius and Soularie to score.
Freshman Jake Rucker doubled, his third of the series, and junior Pete Derkay singled, scoring two more runs as Tennessee hung a four spot on the Tigers.
“They came out and did what they needed to do to have a great start,” head coach Tony Vitello said. “I certainly think the dugout and the position players were in the game all nine innings, but we didn’t finish.”
Missouri went to the bullpen, putting its Friday night starter, Jacob Cantleberry, as Tennessee added to its lead in the second inning. Ricky Martinez led off the inning with a double, and Justin Ammons walked giving Tennessee some baserunners. Lipcius did the rest blasting a 0-1 pitch over the left field wall for his 12th homer of the season.
Missouri came roaring back into the game in the top half of the third, batting 10 and scoring seven runs. Linginfelter walked the first two batters of the inning and Connor Brumfield continued his strong weekend tripling down the right-field line giving the Tigers their first two runs of the day.
Linginfelter forced Thomas Broyles to pop out for the first out of the inning, but Chris Cornelius sac fly to left field cut Tennessee’s lead to 7-3.
Linginfelter walked the next batter and Peter Zimmermann singled, giving the Tigers runners on the corner. Zimmerman stole second and Chad McDaniel’s fifth hit of the weekend scored both baserunner’s and knocked Linginfelter out of the game.
Camden Sewell came in in relief and Paul Gomez took the second pitch he saw over the left field wall evening the game at seven.
“Maybe people got too comfortable,” Lipcius said. “Maybe people got too relaxed, but I’m not sure. A couple hits from them and us not staying focused maybe, but we’ll be back”
Linginfelter’s start marked the third time in SEC play that he hasn’t made it through the third inning.
“Started thinking his way through everything,” Vitello said. “The tempo was brutal. I said in the dugout ‘I’m going to go take a nap, come get me when we’re on offense’ and maybe that was bad karma by me because that’s when they had no runs on the board.”
The games frantic start slowed down after the third as both team’s bullpen got into a rhythm.
Tennessee got a runner on second with one-out in the sixth, but Charleston popped out for out number two and after Lipcius walked, Soularie went down swinging to end the threat.
With Missouri’s ace TJ Sikkema warming up in the bullpen, the failure to reclaim the lead looked like a huge missed opportunity.
Tennessee threatened again in the seventh as Konnor Ash walked two batters and hit another, all with two-outs. The Tigers then went to the bullpen bringing in Sikkema for a lefty-lefty matchup versus Ammons. Ammons worked the count full and laid off a low breaking ball, picking up a RBI walk.
Sikkema got Charleston to ground out ending the threat, but the Vols took the lead without a single hit.
The Vols newfound lead didn't last long as Gomez went deep for the second time on the afternoon taking a 1-0 pitch deep for a two-run homer and giving Missouri its first lead of the game.
After walking the next batter Sewell’s day was done. It was a good performance by Sewell, but two bad pitches spoiled his day and gave him his first career loss.
“If I had the powers of a time machine I’d probably make a switch (earlier),” Vitello said. “We left Lingo in there too long and we left Camden in there too long and that’s my job.”
Missouri tallied one more run in the eighth on a Connor Brumfield sac fly and the damage was done. Tennessee didn’t have any fight left in them as Sikkema retired the final six batters in order.
Tennessee will look to bounce back from the disappointing series loss as they return to action Tuesday night against Austin Peay before they travel to Gainesville for a pivotal SEC series.