The Tennessee baseball team was able to pick up two late home runs in the eighth inning to notch a comeback win, 4-2, in Lexington against the Kentucky Wildcats on Thursday night.
“This puts you in the position to win the series a little bit better. This is a game of percentages we are playing, and your percentages definitely increase when you win game one,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said. “Unfortunately, it does not guarantee a series win because you still have games two and three coming and we will just focus on game two tomorrow.”
Tennessee scored three runs in the top of the eighth to erase a one-run deficit, both of which came off home runs. Al Soularie put the Vols on top, 3-2, with a two-run shot. Later in the inning, Pete Derkay added an insurance run with a home run of his own.
Thursday’s game marked the ninth time this season that Tennessee has hit two or more home runs. The Vols are 8-1 when doing so.
“For Pete to do it off the bench to give us a little insurance with the home run to right field was great,” Vitello said. “He is a guy who be in there every day for us, but we have been going for defense a little bit with our lineup but maybe he will get another chance throughout the weekend and can take some confidence from that.”
Once Tennessee was able to take the lead, relievers Andrew Schultz and Redmond Walsh combined to secure the road win for the Vols. Garrett Crochet got the start for Tennnessee on the mound, his second start of the year.
The only runs that he gave up on the night were two solo home runs in the sixth that gave Kentucky a 2-1 lead. Overall, Crochet threw 6.2 innings, allowing six hits.
On the other side, Kentucky starter Jimmy Ramsey was equally efficient, allowing just one run on three hits while striking out seven batters. However, the start was not what Ramsey was hoping for, as he fell behind early.
The first batter of the game, Jay Charleston, led-off with a triple. Charleston was brought in by a Max Ferguson single to give the Vols a 1-0 lead. After Ramsey gave up those two hits, the Vols would not pick up another hit until the sixth inning. Tennessee was only able to tally five hits on the night, but two of them were home runs.
“Our offense was a little disappointing, but you have to tip your cap to the way Ramsey certainly did not start the game off well, but he really kept his composure and made our guys look foolish at time,” Vitello said. “We had a string of uncompetitive at-bats there and for a while, but then for us to have an inning where we can put some juice into the ball was a real positive takeaway on the offense.”
In the sixth for the Wildcats, Ryan Shinn and T.J. Collett hit solo home runs to give Kentucky its only two runs of the night, but it did give Kentucky the lead. The Vols would not be outdone by the two home runs by the Wildcats, when they hit two of their own in the eighth.
Soularie’s home run was his tenth long ball of the season, which leads the team. Ferguson drew a walk before Soularie’s two run blast, which gave the Vols a one-run lead.
“When he (Soularie) is focused, he is as good of a player as we have, and maybe as good as in the conference,” Vitello said. “He has a competitive spirit so when he doesn’t do well, it almost increases the chances that later he will. He finds a way to contribute to the club.”
Tennessee and Kentucky will face off again on Friday night in game two of the three-game series. First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m.