Baseball v Auburn

No. 44 Ben Joyce pitches against Auburn University at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Sunday, May 1, 2022.

After clinching the series Friday against Georgia, No. 1 Tennessee dropped the final game of the series 8-3 Saturday afternoon.

The Vols and Bulldogs were back and forth for most of the game, but a big seventh inning from Georgia was enough to get past Tennessee.

Tennessee took an early 2-0 lead on a Drew Gilbert RBI-single and a Luc Lipcius solo-homer, but Georgia answered in the fourth with a pair of back-to-back homers to take the lead. Tennessee tied it up in the bottom of the fourth with after a walk with bases loaded.

The one run was the only thing Tennessee managed to get out of the bases loaded situation in the fourth. Failing to capitalize on those big moments was a big theme in Saturday’s game.

In the top of the seventh with Drew Beam on the mound, Georgia managed to load up the bases with a few singles.Redmond Walsh, the Vols’ go-to closer, came on to try to get Tennessee out of the jam.

A sac bunt got one run in, and a single from Cole Tate drove in the other two. On the next play, Tate’s brother Conner Tate hit a home run to left field to add salt to the wound.

Tennessee couldn’t get anything going after Georgia’s big inning, going hit-less in the final three innings.

Ben Joyce got his first career start at Tennessee Saturday after coming out of the bullpen all season. The redshirt junior had a solid showing in his first start, nabbing six strikeouts in his four innings.

Joyce was solid through most of his showing, keeping Georgia hit-less until the fourth inning.

Joyce has been a bullpen staple for most of the season, but head coach Tony Vitello saw Saturday’s contest as the perfect opportunity to give him the start.

“I think it’s all summed up by the fact that he’s earned it, so we gave it to him,” Vitello said. “We got better because he was able to get out there and pitch a little bit.”

With Joyce now getting a start behind his belt, he just adds to the long list of Tennessee pitchers that can start on the mound.

“It’s good to see that we have five to six starters now,” pitcher Kirby Connell said. “It’s going to really help us in the long run and the playoffs.”

Connell, Tennessee’s lefty reliever, was firing in the fifth and sixth innings, retiring all six batters he faced on five strikeouts.

The duo of Joyce on Connell proved to be successful, as Joyce’s heaters were balanced well with Connell’s off-speed pitches.

“It really helped coming in after Ben,” Connell said. “They were hunting the heater against Ben and he’d throw them the slider and with Ben throwing so hard and me not throwing so hard, it kind of keeps them off balance a little bit. That was just on account of throwing strikes and if they hit it I’d let my defense play behind me.”

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