The Tennessee baseball team is coming off one of its most impressive games offensively, as it hit a total of seven home runs Tuesday night in an 11-2 win over Lipscomb. Tennessee had hit just one home run in its previous five games before putting up seven on the Bisons.
“I think we are a really good hitting team, as long as we all stick to our approach,” Zach Daniels said. “Going into this series with a good pitching staff is going to be tough, but I believe we can do it.”
The Vols will have to carry that ability to score runs into their next series against the No. 2 Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia will bring to Knoxville a pitching staff that is second in the SEC with a 2.83 team ERA. The Bulldogs lead the SEC with an opposing batting average of .186.
“We are playing a good pitching staff, and also an incredible defense,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said. “I think we have two of the best defenses in the conference, so it will be interesting to see how offenses do because you are probably going to have to create or do some damage on your own without getting a whole lot of help from the other team.”
For the past two weekends, Tennessee has had to rely on its pitching staff to keep a couple of powerful offenses off the board, but this time around it will be the offense who will be trying to score against a couple of powerful Bulldog pitchers. One of those Georgia pitchers, Emerson Hancock, leads the SEC in ERA with a 1.02 through his eight appearances on the season.
In Hancock’s last game against Vanderbilt, he pitched seven innings, only allowing four hits and one run against a talented Vanderbilt lineup.
That series against Vanderbilt was big for the Bulldogs, as they took the last two games after losing the opener last Friday night. The wins against the Commodores put the Bulldogs at a record of 9-3 in SEC play, and moved them to first place in the SEC east standings.
Georgia added another win last night against No. 22 Georgia Tech, 12-2, before heading to Knoxville for the series that will run Thursday through Saturday.
While Georgia will be coming to Knoxville on a high note, the Vols will be looking to carry the momentum they got from being competitive all weekend against a top five team in Mississippi State, on top of the offensive show they put on Tuesday night.
“It’s important to always have confidence no matter what game you are in,” Andre Lipcius said. “If you saw how relaxed we were today, we just need to bring that mentality into Georgia.”
Tennessee relied heavily on the middle of the order to produce runs against Liberty, and they will look for the same result this weekend. The combination of Andre Lipcius and Al Soularie went 5-for-8 from the plate against Lipscomb, hitting four home runs and picking up five RBIs. In addition, Soularie is second in the SEC in batting average, posting a .406 average so far this season. He is also tied for third in the league in home runs with nine.
Tennessee showed last weekend that it was able to compete with a top 5 program in the SEC, when the Vols took one of three from the visiting Bulldogs. Even in the two games that it did not come out on top, they were games that Tennessee feels like it could have won.
The opener of the series on Friday went into extra innings, with Tennessee leading going into the eighth, but Mississippi State prevailed in extras. After picking up the win on Saturday, Tennessee was in a game Sunday where both teams were taking turns scoring, but again the Bulldogs got the final punch to win the series.
While Tennessee has shown the ability to hang in with the best of the SEC, that is not the standard that Vitello and the rest of the team is wanting to live up to. They feel like they have to team that can not only be competitive, but be able to win these series against top teams.
“We need to find a way to get it done, there is no medals being handed out to these guys for second place or close place or anything like that,” Vitello said. “Last year, we kind of would have been back in the coach’s locker room and said good job we got our win, but that’s not where we are at now. We are able to beat teams like Vanderbilt, and Georgia comes here. We have to find a way to get it done.”
There is no question that the road never gets any easier in the SEC, but if Tennessee is able to win the series this weekend against the No. 2 Bulldogs, it will send a statement to the rest of the SEC that Tennessee is ready to take the next step towards being who they want to be.