The Tennessee baseball team opened up its home campaign with a violent onslaught of runs in a short, two game midweek series against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Tennessee’s baseball team played its first home game of the season. The 16th ranked club didn’t disappoint the 918 fans in attendance. It was 65 degrees and sunny and Tennessee looked poised to score that many runs.
Jason Rackers started the game on the mound, and he would ultimately pitch two innings, allowing one run – the only run Pine Bluff would get in a 21-1 thumping. The Volunteers would feature six pitchers on the evening, with Will Heflin (1-0) pitching 3.1 innings and picking up the win, allowing one hit, walking one, and striking out eight.
Pine Bluff, on the other hand, would feature seven pitchers, all of whom gave up at least one run except for Rocky King, who only pitched 0.1 innings. The starter, Joel Barker, pitched three innings and allowed three runs; he would ultimately be tagged with the loss.
Tennessee opened its scoring in the first inning off of a throwing error, allowing Max Ferguson to score. Pine Bluff answered in the top of the second inning off of a solo home run, knotting the game 1-1.
The Vols plated a pair in the third, thanks to a Ferguson home run, eventually followed by a Jordan Beck triple, scoring Liam Spence, extending Tennessee’s lead, 3-1. Five runs came in the fourth, further extending the lead to 8-1. One run crossed in the fifth on a Ferguson sacrifice fly, 9-1.
It was the eighth inning, though, which saw Tennessee really put it on Pine-Bluff. Plating 11 runs in the inning, thanks to a two-run homer and four doubles, the lead ballooned to 21-1, where it would remain without threat over the course of the next half inning, pushing Tennessee to 4-0 on the young year.
Another 4:30 start was on the docket for Wednesday’s affair. Tennessee came in looking for the shortened, two game sweep. Mark McLaughlin was on the bump for the Vols, tossing three innings, only giving up one hit, no runs, no walks, and six strikeouts. His reliever, Drew Gilbert (1-0), would pitch two innings and earn the win, allowing a hit, no runs, no walks, and recording three strikeouts.
The majority of Tennessee’s damage was done in the first inning, when the squad plated eight runs, running Pine Bluff starter Jordan Jones out of the game before recording a second out. When Jake Rucker tripled, Christian Scott and Liam Spence scored, giving Tennessee the early 2-0 edge. Luc Lipcius hit a two-run homer to right, his first, extending the lead to 4-0. A Kyle Booker single scored a run, 5-0. A Spence single and subsequent error plated two more, 7-0. Finally, a Scott sacrifice fly plated the eighth run of the inning.
Tennessee would go on to score six more, including a big, three-run home run by Evan Russell (1), making the lead 11-0. Three more would come to cross for the Vols, getting the lead up to as much as 14-0 in the fifth inning.
Pine Bluff would fare better offensively in this one, but it wasn’t enough to make it a game. Their three-run eighth made the lead single digits; add another in the ninth and the final score was 14-6.
Tennessee improved to 5-0 on the season, while Pine Bluff fell to 0-2. The Volunteers are back in action late Friday afternoon with a 4:30 first pitch at Lindsey Nelson Stadium against the Indiana State Sycamores. That’ll be a four game set, which will feature a Saturday doubleheader, with the first game set to begin at 12:30. Game four of the series will get off the ground Sunday at 1:00.