In advance of their colossal weekend series against the first-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks, the fourth-ranked Tennessee Volunteers (37-11, 17-7) played host to the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles Tuesday evening. That game, the penultimate matchup of its kind, started just a shade after 6:30 pm with Mark McLaughlin throwing the first pitch.
Throughout the game, the Vols would use a slew of different pitchers in what ended up being a high-scoring affair, one that went from a blowout to a tightly squeezed victory. McLaughlin would turn in three innings of one hit ball, keeping Tennessee Tech off the scoreboard and nearly off the bases, as he didn’t surrender a walk.
Zander Sechrist earned his second win when he pitched a scoreless fifth inning. Jake Fitzgibbons 0.2 innings saw five runs come across, all of which were unearned. Kirby Connell finished the game on the mound, allowing two runs to cross the plate. In an oddity, all of Tech’s eight runs were unearned in the scorebook.
Tennessee’s offensive night started in the first inning Jake Rucker when singled in Liam Spence. Drew Gilbert’s subsequent groundout would net a second run when Max Ferguson touched home; Rucker would be brought home by Evan Russell before Jordan Beck’s single scored Russell. At the end of one, it was 4-0 Tennessee.
Continuing to steadily do damage, the Vols would plate another run in the bottom of the second inning when a Gilbert single brought in Spence, with the latter scoring his second run of the game.
The Spence/Beck tandem would plate another run in the following inning off a Spence single, further extending the Volunteer cause, 6-0.
A sacrifice fly in the fourth and a play in which Jackson Greer was caught stealing but Christian Scott scored in the fifth made it was 8-0 Tennessee. By the time Joel Ortega hit his first home run of the year, making it 9-0 Vols, the game looked to be in hand. But thanks to a couple errors, some wild pitches, and perhaps some luck, Tennessee Tech was able to make a game of it in the late innings.
In the eighth inning, a John Dyer pinch-hit double scored the first run of the game for the Golden Eagles. A Brett Roberts groundout would plate the second run of the inning before a Gavin Johns double scored two more. Two subsequent wild pitches allowed two runs to score, with Tennessee Tech closing the gap to 9-6.
A Beck single in the bottom of the eighth plated an insurance run for the Vols. Though the game was seemingly in hand through the middle innings, it quickly became evident that Tennessee might need to put more run on the board. Heading into the ninth inning, the Vols were nursing a 10-6 lead.
After an Owen Kiess single, which scored two, the Tennessee Tech rally would ultimately fall short, netting a win for the Volunteers by a 10-8 final tally.
After struggling defensively against Tennessee Tech, the Vols were able to escape with the win, the team’s 38th of the year, and will now turn their attention to Arkansas. The Razorbacks (37-9, 17-7) currently share the top record in conference play with Tennessee (38-11, 17-7), with the two clubs vying for the top spot in the league. Vanderbilt (35-10, 16-7) and Mississippi State (35-11, 16-8) sit not far behind.
At the conclusion of the Arkansas series, Tennessee has four games remaining: one against in-state opponent Belmont before finishing up the year on the road at South Carolina. Arkansas will finish the year at home against Florida.
With restrictions eased at Lindsey Nelson Stadium for the weekend series against the Razorbacks, we should expect a full and lively crowd for arguably the biggest series of the season.