The Tennessee baseball team was able to carry the momentum from a sweep last weekend against Kentucky to the new week. The Vols were able to defeat the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs 5-0 Tuesday evening at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
“You want as many wins as possible in these midweek games, but the biggest benefit is when you win, it’s easier to move some guys around,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said. “It’s huge for a bunch of guys, like Christian Scott to be able to get into these games.”
Tennessee did not get the offensive performance it wanted, only picking up five hits in the game against the Bulldogs. However, it was able to get the key hit when it mattered, and then do what it has done all season- lean on a very good pitching staff.
The first time through the order, Gardner-Webb starting pitcher Noah Davis did not allow a single Vol to reach base. In total, Davis pitched four innings, only allowing two hits and picking up two strikeouts. As the game turned out, it was the two hits that he gave up that determined the game.
“I think people were just giving away at-bats,” Andre Lipcius said. “You sometimes walk into these types of games and just expect to win instead of giving everything you got so I think some people were just giving away those at-bats.”
The first scoring in the game came in the bottom of the fourth. Jay Charleston led off the inning for Tennessee with a single to left field. With Pete Derkay at the plate, Charleston stole second base, his 29th stolen base of the year. Later in the at-bat, Derkay grounded out to the right side to advance Charleston to third with one out.
That is when Lipcius stepped up to the plate and got the biggest hit of the game, a two-run home run to left field to put Tennessee up 2-0. Lipcius would add another RBI single in the eighth inning to finish off the scoring for the Vols.
“I didn’t feel that great this weekend,” Andre Lipcius said. “When you are struggling you have got to find something that you have always done to get you back on track, and we did that today and got my confidence back up.”
Tennessee added two insurance runs in the seventh inning to extend the lead to 4-0. The first run of the inning game off of an RBI single by Ricky Martinez. Later in the inning, Tennessee took advantage of the Bulldogs’ infield error by adding another run on a delayed steal.
With runners on the corners, Martinez stole second. When the throw was made to second, Soularie took advantage and came home to add a run.
With how the Tennessee pitching staff has performed, the offense has not had to do too much, which continued on Tuesday. The Tennessee pitching staff combined to throw another shutout, the team’s ninth of the year. Camden Sewell got the start on the mound for Tennessee, his third start of the year. Sewell pitched a total of 4.1 innings, only allowing three Bulldog hits while striking out four.
“The slider was really sharp, he threw strikes. When you throw strikes you are going to give up some hits and I would rather see that than him walk some guys,” Vitello said. “He hasn’t given up a lot of hits, but they walk too many guys.”
The Bulldogs’ best chance to score a run came in the fifth inning. After Eric Jones led off the inning with a groundout, Chris Clary got the inning started for Gardner-Webb. Clary was able to hit a ball right up the middle for a single, and then proceeded to steal second and third base.
After Mitch McGlendon walked, the Bulldogs tried to pull off the double steal to get on the board. When McGlendon broke for second, the throw was made. As soon as the catcher let go of the ball, Clary broke for home, but was thrown out at the plate.
The first man out of the bullpen for Tennessee was Chase Wallace, who pitched for the first time since March 19th at ETSU. Wallace has been sidelined ever since with an injury. In his first game pitching in over a month, he threw 0.2 innings, giving up a hit and a walk.
“The infielder’s greeted him with a glad to see you back, I didn’t say anything I just wanted him to take the ball and do his thing,” Vitello said. “The bottom line is, the last pitch of the outing for him was his best one. That’s what he should take confidence in.”
Tennessee closed the night off using six pitchers, who combined to only give up three hits.
“If we don’t get Elijah in that game, who knows when he pitches again,” Vitello said. “We don’t have a Tuesday night game next week and we are not going to throw him in the fire in the seventh inning of an SEC game if he hasn’t pitched in a while.”
With Tennessee now on a four-game winning streak, they will head back on the road for a three-game series that will begin Friday night against the No.7 Arkansas Razorbacks. First pitch for Friday’s game in Fayetteville is set for 7:30 p.m.