In a game that consisted of each offense taking a shot at the opposing pitching staff, Mississippi State was able to eventually land the knockout blow. The Bulldogs were able to defeat the Tennessee baseball team 7-5 to take the rubber match and win the series Sunday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
“We are able to beat teams like that, we are able to beat teams like Vanderbilt, and Georgia comes here,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said. “When it gets tough out there, you have to be tougher. You have to own up to the situation, and attack it.”
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Offense, Offense, Offense
After a game on Saturday that featured a combined three runs on eight hits by both teams, the offenses showed up in a big way on Sunday.
Tennessee got the scoring started in the first, putting up two runs. This was the eighth time in the past nine games that the Vols have scored in the first inning. After Ammons singled and stole a base, Andre Lipcius doubled to give Tennessee a 1-0 lead. Pete Derkay was able to add another run in the inning on an RBI groundout to push the lead to 2-0.
Mississippi State responded in the third when Rowdey Jordan hammered a ball over the right field wall to put the Bulldogs on the board, trailing 2-1. The Vols would respond in the bottom of the inning to get the run back. After back-to-back hit batters, Al Soularie singled to extend the lead to 3-1.
“(Al) was kind of doing some things our coaching staff had talked to him about,” Vitello said. “He had kind of been out of his swing for a couple of weeks, but he is such a talented kid. He was not driving the ball, not using the whole park, but he put in some extra work and to me really got back to doing what he is doing.”
Once again, the powerful Bulldog offense responded. After back-to-back singles to start the inning, Elijah MacNamee singled to center to bring the Bulldogs back to within one run, 3-2.
Later in the inning, a bases loaded walk tied the game at three. The Bulldog power showed itself again in the fifth, giving the Bulldogs their first lead of the game on a solo home run by Tanner Allen.
In the sixth, Bulldog senior Jake Magnum had his biggest hit of the series, a double to left that gave Mississippi State a 6-3 lead. The Vols would battle back once more, however. With a man on base, Zach Daniels hit his first home run of the season to bring the Vols back to within a run, 6-5.
“I know the team that we are,” Soularie said. “We are here to compete, I just feel like we have left it by one error or mistake that just does not go our way, but we have got to bounce back and do what we do.”
However, Mississippi State added another run in the eighth to go up 7-5 and the Vols just ran out of time.
Ginn gets the start, but doesn’t last
After being scratched from Saturday’s start due to soreness, the Bulldog pitcher was listed as the starting pitcher for Sunday’s finale.
JT Ginn, who was a first-round draft pick coming out of high school, decided to try to fight through the ailment to give it a go for Mississippi State. He entered the game on Sunday with a record of 6-1 with a 3.32 ERA. Tennessee was able to capitalize on Ginn not being at 100 percent, putting two runs on the board in the first.
After escaping the first inning by striking out Ricky Martinez, he did not come back into the game in the second, which forced Mississippi State to go to the bullpen earlier than they might have wanted to.
The Bulldog bullpen gave up a total of three runs over the final eight innings of the game. It will be interesting to watch the status of Ginn moving forward in the season.
On the other side, Tennessee started Will Neely, who gave up three runs on seven hits in 3.2 innings pitched. Neely was forced to exit the game after we was hit with a comebacker that plunked him in the ankle.
“He was on pace to do what he does for us, give us a quality start,” Vitello said. “I think he will be back sooner than later, it’s simply a bruise but probably a bad one.”
Big Day for Soularie
The Tennessee cleanup hitter had a big day at the plate, going 4-for-4 with an RBI in the game. The four hits for Soularie was a new career-high for the sophomore. He has had three hits on three separate occasions this season, coming against South Carolina, Fresno State, and Middle Tennessee State.
Soularie’s biggest hit of the game came in the third, when he singled to left to bring home the Vols’ third run of the game. This run was big to give Tennessee back the momentum, after Mississippi State had pulled within one run in the top of the inning.
“I was seeing the ball well,” Soularie said. “I was able to rely on my hand speed, reacting to the fast ball.”
Tennessee will be back in action Tuesday night against Liberty before welcoming yet another ranked opponent to Lindsey Nelson Stadium, when the Vols take on the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs next week.
First pitch for the game against Liberty is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday night.