Tennessee took the series over No. 2 Georgia this weekend, but the Bulldogs proved why they’re the No. 2 team in the country, blowing out the Vols 7-1 and salvaging the series on Saturday.
Here are three takeaways:
Tennessee’s hard-throwing righty, Zach Linginfelter, got the start for the Vols on Saturday and turned in his second poor start in three games. The junior has been inconsistent this season, but came into Saturday’s game with a 3.45 ERA.
He gave a struggling Bulldogs lineup a lifeline to open the game, walking the first two batters on a combined nine pitches. After Aaron Schunk blooped one over Jake Rucker’s head, Georgia had bases loaded and nobody out.
Linginfelter was able to pick up an out on an RBI-groundout from LJ Talley, but John Cable lined one up the middle, scoring two more runs.
The second inning didn’t go much better for Linginfelter, as he gave up a solo homer from Chaney Rogers and another run thanks to a Tucker Maxwell double.
“There certainly wasn’t a lot of command,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said. “When he did throw it in the zone it wasn’t necessarily where he wanted it… It wasn’t very sharp.”
Linginfelter’s day ended after two innings, allowing five runs on four hits and two walks. The junior’s ERA skyrocketed up to 4.27 after his 10th start of the season.
Early missed opportunities
As much as Linginfelter struggled early in the game, it seemed like Tennessee might be able to keep up. Georgia’s pitcher, Tony Locey, struggled early, mostly due to poor command.
Tennessee got runners on first and second with one-out in the first inning before Andre Lipcius got thrown out at second on a passed ball. Al Soularie would walk to put runners on the corners, but Justin Ammons struck out to end the inning.
A pair of walks for the Vols loaded the bases with two outs for Max Ferguson, but the freshman’s check swing made contact on what would've been ball three and the ball rolled to Locey for the final out of the inning.
Lipcius led off the third with a double down the left-field line, but the Bulldogs stranded him at third thanks to a nice leaping catch by Cam Shepherd.
“You see that they’re not missing those chances,” Evan Russell said. “It’s one sided on who’s getting the job done and who’s not. To beat a team like that, especially three times, you can’t miss your opportunities.”
After leaving only eight base runners stranded in the first two games of the series, the Vols left six in the first three innings on Saturday, including four in scoring position.
“You got to get him,” Vitello said. “If there is a window of opportunity against a guy like that you have to get him.”
Locey found a groove after his rough start and retired the last 12 batters he faced, ending the day with a win on six innings pitched, allowing only three hits but walking four.
Ins and outs
Will Neely returned to action for the first time since getting injured last Sunday against Mississippi State. The senior’s return was spoiled by Aaron Schunk, who took him deep to left-center field for a two-run homer.
Neely ended the day with two innings pitched, allowing two runs and three hits.
Ricky Martinez’s struggles at the plate continued Sunday, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. The performance moved him to 4-for-25 in the last seven games.
Freshman Camden Sewell continues to impress for the Vols. The Cleveland, Tennessee, native returned from injury Tuesday, but pitched in a league game for the first time since March 23 against South Carolina.
Sewell turned in a solid performance, escaping a jam in the fifth inning before turning in one of Tennessee’s two clean inning in the sixth as he struck out a pair of Bulldog batters.
Lipcius was the only Volunteer batter to show life Sunday, going 2-for-4 at the plate.
Russell made the most of his one at-bat this weekend, homering to left field to lead off the ninth inning, helping the Vols avoid the shutout.
Georgia’s pitchers retired 21 of the last 23 batters they faced Saturday afternoon.
Tennessee hosts Morehead State on Tuesday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. First pitch is set for 6:00 p.m.