Coming into Thursday night’s showdown against the 15th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels, the 23rd-ranked Tennessee Volunteer pitching staff hadn't performed well as of late.
To be exact, they had a 7.75 ERA in the past four games, including two 10-run contests against the Florida Gators and Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles.
Tony Vitello and his crew knew that had to change if they wanted to beat the 15th-ranked Rebels.
And boy, did it change.
Garrett Stallings led the way for the Vols, pitching an insanely good game that saw him finish with seven strikeouts, four hits, and no runs in nine innings pitched.
That’s right, not only was it a complete game, it was also a shutout.
Andre Lipcius was the offensive key to the game. He ended up going 3-of-4 with a home run and three RBIs.
Stallings got the start for Tennessee and wasted no time, dispatching the first three batters in the top of the first inning.
Justin Ammons got things off to a quick start, reaching second base on the first at-bat of the game. A sac bunt from Jay Charleston advanced Ammons to third and Lipcius was able to bring him home off a RBI single to give the Vols the 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
The Rebels were able to get out of a tight jam, executing a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
The top of the second didn’t fare so well for the Rebels, either. They couldn't do anything outside of a single from Cole Zabowski in the top of the second.
Another 6-4-3 double play ended the bottom of the second for Vols, but it was another 1-2-3 inning for Stalling as he continued his dominant play.
Tennessee couldn’t get much done in the bottom of the third and neither team reached base in the fourth. At this point, both teams had combined for just four hits and one run.
Stallings continued to dominate into the fifth, but the Vols finally found their offensive footing in the bottom of the inning.
The Vols were able to score four runs off of five hits. Ricky Martinez got the scoring going with right field double that drove in both Pete Dekay and Jake Rucker. The Vols were then able to take advantage of some mistakes by the Rebels and Martinez was able to get home and push the lead to 4-0.
Lipcius came through with another RBI single, but this time he was able to get Connor Pavolony home for the score and the 5-0 lead.
Ole Miss couldn’t crack the Stallings code in the top of the sixth and things were beginning to look dire for the Rebel offense. It was yet another 1-2-3 inning for the Rebels and Stallings was showing no signs of slowing down.
The Vols didn’t fare much better in the bottom of the sixth, but at least they still held a 5-0 lead.
Lipcius was able to add another run to the score and Rucker was able to get a RBI single to ice the game, 7-0.
Tennessee now boasts a (37-17, 13-15) record on the season and has a very good chance to make the NCAA Tournament. If the Vols can pull of the win Friday night, then it’s all but guaranteed that they will make the big dance.
The Rebels are now (32-22, 15-13) on the season.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:30PM EST. You can stream it on the SEC Network + / Watch ESPNapp.