The No. 5 Tennessee baseball team was unable to find much success on the mound, as they trotted out five pitchers in their 10-4 loss against No. 2 Vanderbilt inside of Lindsey Nelson Stadium. After losing their first SEC series of the season, the Vols drop to 29-8 overall and 10-5 in the SEC, while the Commodores rise to 28-6 through the year with an 11-4 SEC record.
“The weekend was incredibly valuable,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said. “I literally can’t put it into words. I’d like to think we don’t bow down to any other program in our league, but if you look at the College World Series, it’s automatic that there will be a minimum of two SEC teams there. Since coach Delmonico’s departure, we haven’t been in any of those spots. You need to be in a weekend that’s hyped up.”
The Vols recorded just five hits in Sunday’s rubber match, but four of them were home runs. Max Ferguson, Jake Rucker, Evan Russell and Jackson Greer all blasted solo shots this afternoon. Luc Lipcius tallied the fifth Tennessee hit.
Vandy enjoyed a big day offensively thanks to the top of their lineup. Carter Young led the group with a 2-for-4, three RBI and three-run day. Jack Bulger recorded three hits and drove in two. Dominic Keegan also drove in two runs while recording two hits. Enrique Bradfield Jr. set everyone up at the top of the lineup, finishing with two hits, two walks, three runs scored and four stolen bases.
The Vols fell behind early after Tennessee starter Blade Tidwell surrendered a solo shot to Keegan in the top of the first for Vandy to get a quick 1-0 lead. That lead didn’t last long as Tennessee crushed back-to-back home runs in the next half inning, setting up a high-scoring affair on Sunday afternoon.
In the middle innings, the Vols pitching crumbled, and the Commodores took full advantage. Vandy scored nine runs in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings, including home runs from Young in the fourth and Noland in the fifth.
“I think some pitches that kind of got floated or the opposite of throwing with conviction,” Vitello said. “We talk about the ball doing what you tell it to do, and if you don’t throw it with conviction, you usually are going to pay the piper. When you’re facing a talented team, the odds of that happening go up.”
Tennessee had opportunities early in the ballgame to narrow the gap. In the bottom of the third, Vandy walked Greer and Liam Spence to put runners at first and second with nobody out. Ferguson put the bunt down to advance both runners to allow Rucker to regain the lead for Tennessee. Rucker lined a missile right back into the pitcher’s glove, quieting the crowd at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Jordan Beck was the next man on deck and he went down swinging on four pitches.
“I got a good swing in that first at-bat,” Rucker said. “I was just trying to do what I needed to do to help my team and help them win. As you said, those couple of balls that I hit pretty well today just didn’t go my way.”
The Vols were able to muscle some balls out of the park in the later innings. Russell continued his impressive weekend with his fourth home run in two days in the bottom of the fourth. Greer, who got the start for the injured Connor Pavolony, scored the final run of the game in the seventh inning.
The pitching for Tennessee struggled for most of the day. Tidwell served up four runs and six hits over 3.0 innings of work. Kirby Connell and Camden Sewell entered out of the bullpen and combined to go 2.2 innings, while surrendering six runs and six hits, including two walks.
Patrick Reilly started on the mound for Vandy. In his second start of the season, the righty gave up just two runs while striking out five over 3.0 innings. Chris McElvain relieved Reilly and gave the Commodores 4.0 innings of two-run, three-hit ball and earned his second win of the season.
Up next for Tennessee is a midweek, in-state matchup against Tennessee Tech on Tuesday at 6:30 inside of Lindsey Nelson Stadium.