Tennessee and Vanderbilt are meeting in Knoxville this weekend in a massive series, with each looking to take control of the SEC East. The Volunteers are the surprise of the season, sitting at 28-6 on the year and now inside of the top five in the polls. Vandy is still Vandy though, boasting a 26-5 record entering the weekend and holding the No. 2 ranking.
The first of three games took place on Friday night at Lindsey Nelson, with Chad Dallas getting the start for Tennessee on the mound.
Vanderbilt kicked off the scoring in the top of the 2nd, capitalizing on an error to take an early lead. Parker Noland cashed in a two-out double as Isaiah Thomas sent a rocket to shortstop. Logan Steenstra was unable to make the play, and the ball bounced off of him and into the outfield.
Jason Gonzalez extended that lead to kick off the 3rd inning, going opposite field for a solo homerun.
Vanderbilt starter Kumar Rocker danced out of trouble in the bottom of the inning after hitting a batter and walking another. The Volunteers left two men on base, coming up empty on a big early opportunity.
Dallas settled in over the next couple of innings, breezing through the 4th and 5th without any issues. Trouble came in the form of Carter Young in the top of the 6th, however. The Vanderbilt center fielder took Dallas deep for another solo shot, his 8th homerun of the season.
Tennessee needed to find some offense, but Rocker was making that difficult. The Volunteers registered just one hit through six innings as the future top pick settled into a groove on the mound. A two-out double and a wild pitch in the 7th made Rocker sweat a little, but a warning-track lineout would end the threat, keeping the score at 3-0 heading into the 8th.
Enrique Bradfield kept the pressure on for the Commodores, forcing a couple of Tennessee errors. An infield single and a wild pickoff attempt had him in scoring position with no outs to start the 8th. Bradfield then attempted to steal 3rd, and Connor Pavolony’s throw went into left field.
C.J. Rodriguez pushed in another run as the Tennessee bullpen struggled. The Vandy lead was now 5-0, and it was becoming apparent that this just wasn’t Tennessee’s night.
Vanderbilt went on to close this one out with ease. Final score: Vanderbilt 5, Tennessee 0.
Game No. 2 of the series is scheduled for Saturday at 4 p.m. ET. SEC Network will carry the action.