In a bid to keep the good times rolling, the 17th ranked Tennessee baseball team entered play Friday evening with an 8-2 record and a three-game series against the Georgia State Panthers on the horizon.
Game one put Will Heflin (2-0) on the mound for the Volunteers. He pitched seven innings for his team’s cause, allowing six hits, one run, didn’t give up a walk, and struck out eight batters to earn his second win of the season. He ended up facing 26 batters and it took him just south of 100 pitches (99) to get there. Kirby Connell closed out the final two innings, allowing six hits, no runs, no walks, and three strikeouts.
Tennessee kicked off the evening with its first score in the opening frame, when Liam Spence scored on, of all things, a balk (there were five Panther balks on the weekend), pushing the Volunteers to a 1-0 advantage. Jordan Beck contributed to the cause with a sacrifice fly, scoring Pete Derkay, giving Tennessee the 2-0 lead heading into the second inning. In the second inning, Max Ferguson scored the third run of the game on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Spence. 3-0, Vols.
Tennessee was able to plate three in the sixth inning, when Spence singled in Luc Lipcius, before Derkay grounded out, scoring Ferguson for the second time. Jake Rucker added the final Tennessee tally with a sacrifice fly before the conclusion of the inning, scoring Christian Scott.
On a home run in the seventh, the Panthers scored their lone tally of the game. At the end of nine, the Vols had secured their ninth win of the season by a 6-1 score.
Saturday’s game started just after 3:00 with Blade Tidwell (1-1) drawing the opening nod. He would contribute six innings, giving up four hits, no runs, two walks, and seven strikeouts. His work was good enough to earn him his first win of the season. Sean Hunley contributed an inning, allowing a run during his time. Redmond Walsh secured his second save of the season after posting two scoreless innings and striking out a pair.
The score remained knotted at zero prior to the fifth inning. It wasn’t until then when Spence tripled in Scott and Rucker doubled in Spence, giving Tennessee a 2-0 lead. Georgia State responded in the seventh with a run of its own, but that’s all they’d get. In the bottom of the eighth, Lipcius (2) launched a three-run homer, pushing the Volunteers’ lead to 5-1 and keeping the Panthers at arm’s length. After a fairly brisk two hours and 52 minutes, Tennessee had secured its 10th win of the year.
Game three was a Sunday matinee affair which saw Mark McLaughlin get the starting nod, ultimately working 3.2 innings, allowing two hits, three walks, and three strikeouts. Spoiler alert: no Tennessee pitcher allowed a run in the final game of the series. Elijah Pleasants worked 2.1 innings, giving up one hit, and striking out a trio, ultimately earning him the victory.
The Volunteers opened the scoring in the first, when Rucker singled, scoring Spence, making it a 1-0 ballgame. Later in the third inning, Rucker launched a two-run home run (1), pushing Tennessee ahead 3-0. In that same inning, Drew Gilbert hit another two-run bomb (3), further extending the lead to 5-0. The final two Volunteer runs were scored in the sixth inning, when Beck grounded into a double play, but yielded a run, then when Rucker drew a bases loaded walk.
Tennessee was able to close out the series sweep with a 7-0 victory over Georgia State. The Volunteers improve to 11-2 falls to 4-9. Tennessee will be back in action Tuesday night with a one game matchup in Charlotte against the UNC-Charlotte 49ers before battling the UNC-Greensboro Spartans at home over the weekend. Those three games are scheduled for 6:30, 6:00, and 1:00 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.