UT baseball

Blake Burke (25) is on deck in game three against the University of Kentucky at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Sunday, May 14, 2023

The road hasn’t been kind to Tennessee baseball. It’s the one season long issue that reminds those of its struggles early on in the season.

The No. 18 Vols (36-17, 14-13 SEC) have won all three of their last home series with two sweeps and have been red-hot since a shocking loss to Tennessee Tech in mid-April.

Since Tennessee turned its season around, they have played in just one road series against Georgia with mixed results. Head coach Tony Vitello seemed pleased with the team’s performance, but they didn’t get the series win. 

The Vols routed the Bulldogs in the Friday game, but they couldn’t find the run support for a strong performance out of Chase Dollander while Drew Beam struggled to close the series.  

With the impending matchup with No. 13 South Carolina (37-15, 15-11), Tennessee will hope to finally get that first road series win.

“I think there’s no beating around the bush, we need to go on the road and play better overall,” Vitello said. “Or if you really want to look at it, I think we need to pick up where we left off with our trip down to Georgia and kind of replicate that same mentality and same effort and see where it gets us.”

As the Vols have been coming into their own, the Gamecocks have been in the midst of a slump. They have lost their last three SEC series and nine of their last 12 games. 

It seems to be the perfect storm for Tennessee to change its fortune on the road. It is true that the Vols have turned their season around, but simply seeing that they can grind out wins away from Knoxville will be crucial as they advance to the postseason.

South Carolina is still a good team that ranked as high as No. 3 in the country. Pair that with the fact that they are at home where they had lost just one game before their recent slump.

“They’re at home. It’s a tough place to play,” Vitello said. “I’m sure they expect to hold court or hold serve there. I don’t know where our guys’ mentality is besides they’re glad they won for their seniors tonight and they’re able to get out of here and packed up for tomorrow.”

As the Vols are looking to put questions about their road performance to death, the Gamecocks will be trying to put the same questions surrounding their late season performance as well.

It’s an SEC series which means the past game or the past series is nearly irrelevant. What matters is who wants each game in its present state. Though the Gamecocks are slumping, fortunes change with the snap of a finger.

“Every SEC game is weighted the same and you’d like to make progress as the year goes on and I can’t speak for where they’re at with everything,” Vitello said. “They’ve had some really good wins. They go into Fayetteville and win a game which we were not able to.”

With a series win, the Vols would hoist themselves in serious contention to host a regional if paired with a solid run at Hoover. A sweep would only boost their odds but a series loss would render it nearly hopeless.

Still, no matter what is at stake, Tennessee must take care of business and officially show that it can produce away from Knoxville for their own piece of mind at the very least. 

The Vols will start their search for road success on Thursday with a 7 p.m. EST first pitch.

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