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Tennessee’s Pitching Staff Must Improve For NCAA Tournament

The recent struggles have put the Vols in a tough spot.

Caleb Jones/Tennessee Athletics, utsports.com

How a team finishes out a season can sometimes be a good barometer of how that team may play in the postseason.

Let’s hope for the sake of the Tennessee Volunteers’ pitching staff that isn’t true.

The Vols’ staff struggled over the month of May and that isn’t good for a team trying to make the NCAA Tournament.

Tennessee’s ERA currently sits at 24th in the country, allowing just 3.6 runs per game, but they’ve allowed around 4.83 runs per game in May, which would have them tied for 136th.

If they held that average throughout the year, it would have them in the same grouping as Evansville, USC Upstate, and Florida Atlantic - three teams that certainly won’t be in Omaha.

The 71 total runs scored in 12 games easily eclipses the 61 runs scored in 16 games back in April, a month that featured matchups against the then-ranked No. 2 Georgia Bulldogs and No. 5 Mississippi State Bulldogs.

The Vols allowed a total of 21 runs in those six games and won the series against Georgia.

Strikeouts have been lacking, as well. Tennessee finished the regular season as the 41st-ranked team with 9.1 strikeouts every nine innings. The Vols ended up with 7.6 strikeouts per game in May.

Almost a third of the 92 total strikeouts came in three games and Tennessee would be the 196th-ranked team in the country if the 7.6 number was a season-long evaluation. The Vols would rival schools such as the College of Charleston and Bethune-Cookman for the 196th spot.

The numbers continues to dwindle, evidenced by just one shutout in May compared to the nine shutouts - three came in April alone - recorded up until the final month of the season.

The strikeout-to-walk ratio plummeted. The Vols finished May with a 1.96 ratio, which was lightyears away from the 3.02 ratio - good for 8th in the nation - over the course of the season. They would have been the 122nd-ranked team in 2019 if that were the season-long mark.

I can’t explain why the numbers have fallen off over the last month of the season. Maybe it’s wear and tear, maybe it’s the comedown of playing well so early in the year, maybe it’s anticipating the NCAA Tournament - whatever.

Hopefully the Vols will get Garrett Crochet back in time for the tournament. Crochet was injured during the Ole Miss series a few days ago. He was sent to the hospital after taking a line drive to the head and had to have surgery the following morning to realign a broken jawbone.

All I know is that the pitching staff must improve if this team wants to win in the tournament. Fortunately for the Vols, Tony Vitello and his staff have shown that they can make the necessary improvements needed to win games.

And that needs to start now.