Tennessee baseball defeated Vanderbilt 4-3 Friday night behind a walk-off home run from Griffin Merritt to take game one of the series in extra innings.
Junior right-handed pitcher Andrew Lindsey had a commanding presence on the mound for most of the night, but Tennessee's offense couldn't offer support for most of the game.
After a solo home run in the second inning from Zane Denton, the Vols' offense went stagnant until the ninth inning. Vanderbilt starting pitcher Carter Holton gave up just two hits in six innings.
Vanderbilt's offense managed to do just enough against Lindsey to get the upper hand. The Commodores drove in a pair of runs in the second to take the lead and added some insurance in the fifth on an RBI groundout.
Lindsey managed to get out of a bases-loaded situation in the fifth, picking up a strikeout to get out of the inning with minimal damage. The transfer pitcher picked up 10 strikeouts on the day.
Camden Sewell came in during the seventh inning and kept Tennessee's pitching strong, giving up just one hit in 2.1 innings.
Tennessee had a golden opportunity in the eighth inning, getting a runner on with one out and the heart of the Vols' lineup on deck, but Blake Burke and Christian Moore couldn't make anything happen.
In the bottom of the ninth, Kavares Tears drilled a home run to center field to give Tennessee some life with no outs, and Dylan Dreiling tied things up two at bats later with a home run of his own to send the game into extra innings.
“It’s nice when kids get rewarded when they’re determined to put in hours when no one is watching,” head coach Tony Vitello said.
Tennessee's newest bullpen weapon Chase Burns came on the mound in the tenth inning for the Vols and downed the Commodores with three strikeouts.
Jared Dickey hit a leadoff double to start the bottom of the tenth, but Tennessee couldn't get anything else going on offense. Luckily for Tennessee, Burns held up on the mound and kept Vanderbilt off the board again in the 11th inning.
Burns picked up another pair of strikeouts in the 12th inning to keep Vanderbilt from getting anything done.
“Both teams, you could see guys just grinding away,” Vitello said. “Those last two pitchers were going to go out on their shield no matter what it felt like. Tremendous defensive plays on both sides.”
In the first at bat of the bottom of the 12th inning, Merritt drilled a home run to right-center to take the game.
Merritt was out of the starting lineup Friday night, but that didn’t matter to him. He made the most of his time as pinch hitter.
“He’s got a great mindset. It’s even-keeled, but also, he’s kind of leaning forward a little bit,” Vitello said. “He wants to be aggressive towards what he wants to do whether it’s be a good teammate, be a good leader, be a defender, be a good hitter.”
The heroes of Tennessee’s win Friday came mostly off the bench. Merritt came off the bench and hit a walk-off home run, and Burns came in late and gave the Vols exactly what they needed.
“(Burns’) outing was impressive enough I don’t have words for it, and yet, I’ll stop myself and say he’s capable of that,” Vitello said. “And about everybody that has seen him throw this year knows that.”
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.