The No. 4 Tennessee baseball team took game one of its weekend series finale against No. 21 South Carolina, as solid pitching and multiple home runs gave Tennessee a 10-4 victory at Founders Park. The Vols are now 41-13 overall and 19-9 in the SEc after their win. The Gamecocks fall to 32-19 this season with a 15-13 conference record.
“I’m looking at the guys now and there is the potential for a little bit more,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said. “I think we are starting to get in our groove a little bit where these guys are more comfortable and are starting to shine through who they truly are. It’s a dynamic offense, again there’s it as well, so it makes for a good matchup.
Tennessee was paced by Max Ferguson and Luc Lipcius in Friday night’s matchup. Ferguson finished the game 2-for-4 and three RBIs, including a two-run homer. Lipcius hit a two-run bomb as well while adding another hit and three RBIs.
South Carolina had a multi-homer game of its own. Andrew Eyster and Wes Clarke both hit two-run homers. David Mendham finished the day at the plate with two hits and a walk.
The Vols scored first in the top of the third inning with a sac-fly from Ferguson. Tennessee poured it on in the next inning with a six-run fourth. Lipcius belted a two-run homer to right field to push the Vols’ lead to three. Pete Derkay doubled up the line and Connor Pavolony singled to drive in runs. Ferguson capped off the big inning with a big blast over the right-field wall to bring home two more and give Tennessee a commanding 7-0 edge.
“I think our guys just started having conversations in the dugout about what they needed to do because we weren’t really close to Jordan,” Vitello said. “Now he walked a few guys early on, so it gave us a couple extra looks or he wasn’t completely dominating us, but he was certainly in control. Whatever it was, our guys kind of solved that Rubix Cube a little bit. He’s put up great numbers for a reason, he has great stuff and he’s a good competitor.”
The Gamecocks would score four unanswered runs through the eighth inning. South Carolina received a two-run jack from Clarke in the bottom of the fourth and another two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth by Eyster to close the gap to just three runs.
Tennessee didn’t feel the pressure and immediately scored three insurance runs in the top of the ninth. Drew Gilbert tripled on the first pitch to bring home Jake Rucker. Russell doubled home Gilbert on his first pitch of the at-bat. Lipcius singled to right field to plate the 10th run for the Vols, helping them capture the 10-4 victory.
Chad Dallas earned the start on the bump for Tennessee. The senior pitched a stellar 7.2 innings, allowing just five hits, four runs and punched out eight. After today’s win, Dallas improved to 9-1 on the year. Sean Hunley entered in relief and threw 1.1 shutout innings.
“Chad was outstanding,” Vitello said. “As always, the team likes and the coaching staff likes him leading us into battle. I think he has a little bit of extra determination in him tonight. Last week didn’t quite go the way he wanted, even though he did what he always does by grinding it out and giving us a chance to win. Tonight he was a little extra special and got a little help from the infielders as well.”
South Carolina countered with Brannon Jordan who lasted just 3.2 innings after giving up seven runs on six hits. John Gilreath entered and surrendered just two runs over 5.0 innings of work. Andrew Peters closed out the game for the Gamecocks and allowed a run in just 0.1 innings.
Game two of the final regular-season series will be on Friday at 7 p.m. inside of Founder Park in Columbia, South Carolina.