The Tennessee bats just didn’t have quite enough pop Sunday to make use of a masterful pitching performance from freshman Blade Tidwell.
The Vols mustered just two runs in the rubber match against the Hogs after scoring 13 times in the first two games of the series. Each game in the series was decided by just one run with the losing team having a chance to steal a win in its final at bat.
Though Tennessee lost Sunday and thereby lost the series, Tidwell’s outing was outstanding and extremely encouraging for the future of Tennessee’s pitching staff. He allowed just two hits and two runs through seven innings while striking out eight and hitting the mid-to-high 90s with his fastball. He struggled a bit with control, passing out four walks to the SEC’s leading offense, but he kept the Vols in the game with the offense sputtering a bit against the Razorback pitchers.
To put it bluntly — the top of Tennessee’s lineup just didn’t get it done in Sunday’s series tie-breaker. Liam Spence, Max Ferguson, Jake Rucker and Drew Gilbert, Tennessee’s one-through-four hitters, combined to go 1-16 with just one run batted in. Those guys combined to hit 12-36 with seven RBIs in the other two games this weekend.
One can’t be too hard one those guys, with as well as they played in the other two games and with how well Arkansas’ staff pitched. Starter Lael Lockhart matched Tidwell and threw a gem of his own with seven Ks in 4.1 innings. He surrendered just one walk, one run and threw strikes on 50 of his 76 total pitches.
Razorback senior Kevin Kopps is credited for wins in both of the Hogs’ victories against Tennessee. He combined for 6.2 innings pitched and gave up three hits, one run and two walks while striking out six Vols using mostly his slider that will eventually be fooling MLB batters like it did Tennessee batters this weekend.
These kinda outings are nothing new for Kopps — his season ERA is a ridiculously low .80. He’s 24 and a reliever, so he doesn’t get the hype that pitchers like Vandy’s Rocker/ Leiter get, but he’s absolutely one of the best college pitchers in the country.
Defensively, Tennessee started the game off strong with two FANTASTIC plays:
First — Jordan Beck throwing out the Arkansas runner at home to end the first inning.
And second — Evan Russell testing the durability of the foul-territory wall in leftfield to end the second inning.
Evan Russell out here trying to go full Goldberg into the wall pic.twitter.com/H2J1u0oHo8— Trey Wallace (@TreyWallace_) May 16, 2021
But the Vols also made two errors on the day, and the one in the 7th inning proved to be costly as the Razorbacks scored a run on a sacrifice-fly in the next at bat. Defensive miscues ended up a theme for Tennessee this weekend as mistakes cost the Vols bases and runs in two of the three games of the series.
Overall, Tennessee played the best team in the country, didn’t get swept with each loss coming by a single run and sold-out all three games. All those are net-positives.
The Vols gave up first place in the SEC with two losses this weekend but remain just one game behind Vanderbilt for the SEC-East lead. Tennessee welcomes Belmont to Lindsey Nelson Tuesday before traveling to South Carolina for a weekend series against the Gamecocks in the final league-series of the season.