After scoring a combined 29 runs in the first four games of the SEC Tournament, Tennessee just didn’t quite have the pop to keep up with Arkansas. The Vols lost 7-2.
UT actually out-hit the Razorbacks, totaling nine hits to Arkansas’ eight, but couldn’t manage to get those baserunners home. Heck, Tennessee even hit nearly .400 with two outs, 5-13, while the Hogs managed just one two-out hit in eight chances.
While Tennessee was making contact, it just wasn’t making solid enough contact to get the ball out of the ballpark or into the outfield gaps. DH Pete Derkay hit the Vols’ only homerun of the day, a lead-off shot to rightfield off Arkansas’ vaunted reliever Kevin Kopps, and Jake Rucker popped a double in the first inning off Hog starter Jaxon Wiggins as the Vols only other extra-base hit.
All in all, Tennessee went two-for-three with runners in scoring position, which is a good percentage but just not enough opportunities. The Vols were just 2-10 with runners on base, while Arkansas tallied five hits in 13 chances. Tennessee didn’t manage a single runner on third base with less than two outs all game and stranded eight runners on base. That’s just not good enough.
Vol starter Will Heflin, who started Tennessee’s opening game of the SEC Tournament against Alabama, worked through the first four innings without much incident. But in the fifth, he gave up a lead-off walk, three-straight base hit and two earned runs. Reliever Mark McLaughin came in and got the Vols out of the jam but allowed another run in the process.
Arkansas shortstop Jalen Battles did a little bit of everything for the Hogs Sunday, with outstanding defense in the middle of the field and three total hits, one home run and three RBIs from the eight-spot in the batting order.
The solo shot Derkay hit off Kopps in the seventh was the only run surrendered by the SEC Pitcher of the Year. He closed the door on any hopes of a Volunteer comeback with three innings and three strikeouts while throwing 30 of his 39 total pitches for strikes.
Overall, it was a pretty successful trip to Hoover for the Vols even if they didn’t bring home the trophy. They broke their seven-game SEC Tournament losing streak, run-ruled not one but two teams and beat Florida (that is literally always a good thing). But, of course, there are no moral victories, and I would’ve liked for this team to win the tournament. Still — the main prize remains in the cereal box: a trip to Omaha and the College World Series Championship.
The 64-team field will be announced on Memorial Day Monday, also known as tomorrow, so tune in to ESPN2 at noon (eastern) to see how the field shakes out.